After the full and exciting holiday season, it can be easy to feel the effects of burnout and the winter blues as a new calendar year or school semester begins. School, organization, and planning start to slide when the opposite is what is really needed. Fortunately, there are great ways to avoid burnout and keep going strong!
How to Avoid Burnout
The first key to learning how to avoid burnout is to recognize that it’s a real thing.
Believe it or not, there are those who claim that there’s no such thing as burnout, and if you are struggling with homeschooling then you need to just adjust your attitude and all will be well.
It’s true that sometimes we’re just procrastinating, and we need to put on our big girl panties and get to work. But, there’s a huge difference between procrastination and the exhaustion of burnout, just as there’s a big difference between burnout and depression (an important topic for another time).
I’ll let you in on a little secret: burnout doesn’t leave you alone simply because you don’t believe in it. Choosing to not acknowledge burnout doesn’t make you immune to it. It simply makes it harder to avoid burnout.
Fortunately, there are some quick and easy ways to determine if we’re hitting the wall of burnout. The biggest reality is that burnout can typically be avoided or diverted by implementing a few quick a easy changes into our school year.
Let’s take a look at 7 ways we can avoid burnout, re-energize, and get the new year off to a great start.
Avoid Burnout by Giving Yourself Time
Although burnout can hit you at any point during the year, it’s a very common occurrence a few weeks into the spring semester. November and December are usually so full and busy, then we roll right back into school in January without much of a break. This exhaustion can make the new school semester feel daunting, overwhelming, and stressful for everyone!
You can guard against this and help everyone avoid burnout by giving yourself permission to not jump full force back into a schedule the week after New Year’s. Start school slowly and plan in a way that will ensure a slower pace for the first few weeks of the new year.
And just as a little hint, if you’re afraid this will put you behind for the semester, remember that burnout will put you ever further behind. You’ll probably save time by investing in a little rest and play on the front end!
Avoid Burnout by Planning to Plan
I’ve mentioned before the challenge that comes when we neglect to set aside time for planning. I’ve also mentioned that schedules and routines have an expiration date.
It might be time to revisit that routine, rhythm, and schedule! But if you do, don’t forget to schedule in a little time each week to sit down with your planner and intentionally plot the new week. Do this Saturday or Sunday night before you go to bed or first thing Monday morning as you are spending time with the Lord before the day begins.
Let your planner and schedule work for you instead of enslaving you.
Avoid Burnout by Changing It Up
Even if your schedule and routine haven’t specifically “expired,” it’s still helpful to add something fresh every now and then. This doubles a great way to avoid burnout.
Change something up for the winter, even if it is just one little thing and even if you keep the same weekly rhythm. Rearrange the school day schedule. Choose a new weekly activity to replace an old one. Introduce a new game.
It doesn’t have to be anything major. Even the smallest change can breathe new life into weary winter months.
Avoid Burnout by Incorporating Field Trips
Speaking of changing things up, but you can actually implement this trick on a regular basis simply by incorporating field trips into your natural rhythm. Field trips allow you keep progressing with your studies while enjoying a change of scenery now and then.
You may want to plan ahead each semester, choosing field trips based on your curriculum. But, there are always going to be places that you want to go that don’t exactly tie into the material you’re studying. Those trips are necessary, too! They keep the learning going while providing a natural break from the topics or themes you’re so invested in.
For these field trips, keep a wishlist of destinations in your planner. At the beginning of each month, pick two or more destinations from the list and plan your field trips dates. Try to plan them for times when you know you and your kids will need a break, helping you avoid burnout before it knocks you flat.
Avoid Burnout by Talking It Out
Burnout doesn’t just impact mom. It also hits our children. This means that it’s important to not only be on the alert for your own burnout but to also watch for indications in your children.
If you notice signs of lethargy, boredom, attention problems, or agitation in your children, consider that they might just be struggling like you are.
The best way you can work to avoid burnout in your children is by keeping the lines of communication open. Instead of fussing at them when they seem lazy or to be not paying attention, ask them what’s going on in their heads. Keep it as light, and even as funny, as possible, but try to get to the bottom of how they’re feeling.
If they seem to just be struggling with the monotony of school, discuss together what might spice up the school day to help them avoid burnout. Use some of the suggestions we’ve walked through to shake things up for them, even if you’re not feeling the need for change yourself.
Avoid Burnout by Considering a Shorter Week
There are many philosophies to the homeschool week. Some stretch school out over six or even seven days every week to ensure that their children are “always learning.”
Others, though, prefer to keep the “book learning” as limited as possible so their children can learn by doing more than by reading and completing worksheets.
The best way to ensure academic progress and avoid learning gaps while also striving to avoid burnout is to find a sweet spot somewhere in the middle, in between always being “on” with school and being overly laid back with formal learning.
One of the ways this can be done is by rearranging to fit a normal, five-day school week into four days. Yes, this can work even if your state law requires five days of school!
If you have to account for five days or a certain number of hours of structured learning, spend four days focusing on the essentials like math and language arts. Then, spend the fifth day enjoying electives, educational extracurricular activities, and field trips that count as learning.
As your student grows older, some subjects like math and science might still take five days each week. But even through high school, you can fit literature, history, and electives into four days with a little creativity. It’s amazing how just one extra day of flexibility each week can help you and your students avoid burnout.
Avoid Burnout by Evaluating Regularly
Annual evaluation is very important. But if we only evaluate in the spring or toward the end of the school year, we’re setting ourselves up for a panic as we try to rush and fill in gaps. This is an ideal recipe for burnout!
Instead of only evaluating your schedule, planner, and homeschool as the school year draws to a close, start the calendar year with the same evaluation. Go ahead and consider what is and is not working, and make tweaks and changes as needed to breathe new life into your days.
Next, remember as you’re planning to lay out 6-week benchmarks throughout the school year and use these to regularly evaluate progress. Even if you didn’t do this as the beginning of the year, you can take a day or two to add them in at any point throughout the year to help you finish well.
Regular evaluation lets you know where you are and gives you the ability to breathe instead of pushing hard to finish the school year. This is the key to giving you the freedom to implement all of the above tips to help you avoid burnout!
Some personalities love the challenge of tweaking a school schedule while others prefer to find other ways to stay motivated. Take our Planner Personality Quiz to discover what your planner personality strengths are.