Are you a worn out, burned out, wrung out homeschool mom? Was this year a complete flop, a disaster, mediocre, not one you want to repeat? If you are feeling stress over the past school year or terror over the upcoming school year, this post is for you – it is a lesson in breathing – a lesson in taking a break and finding your focus. It is permission (and instruction) on how to take a homeschool mom sabbatical.
When we begin homeschooling, we tend to go full-tilt. We dive into the role of homeschool teacher, almost to the exclusion of mothering our children. We push ourselves and our children to excel and prove that we can do this homeschooling thing. We stress over all of the stuff we want to accomplish, all of the things we don’t get done, our impressions of what other people think of us, and our fear of completely warping our poor children. And if we keep up that sort of pace for too long, we crash and burn…and wonder why we ever thought we could do this.
What we actually need is PERSPECTIVE.
And the only way to gain perspective is to slow our pace.
Now, I know that seems counter-intuitive, but you simply cannot see the forest for the trees when you are running at breakneck speed through them. Homeschooling can cause a kind of desperation in us that makes us rush and push and totally lose perspective. We have to purposefully slow our pace and assess our surroundings. This is one reason I wrote my ebook Homeschooling with Purpose. I wanted homeschool moms to know that when you gain perspective, everything falls into place.
Finding this perspective happens best when you are purposefully taking a homeschool mom sabbatical. This means NO homeschooling, NO schoolish stuff at all. It is you stepping back and breathing.
For me, this sabbatical often happens in the mountains of Colorado. There are no workbooks staring at me, no lesson plans taunting me, no to-do lists screaming for my attention. It is just me, my family, and a remote cabin with no wifi and crummy cell service. It is there I shed the homeschool mom and refocus my energy on just being mom. It is what carries me through the next school year. That, and several little sabbaticals throughout the school year.
But, you don’t need to run away to the mountains to find your rest. It can easily happen within the walls of your home, but you must be purposeful about NOT doing homeschool stuff during this time. Here are some ideas for giving yourself a RESTART and coming back REFRESHED…
Put away the homeschool books.
Put everything homeschool related away. If need be, hide all of the workbooks, your planner, anything that reminds you of homeschooling (don’t hide it too well or you might not be able to find it when it IS time to homeschool again). This needs to be a time when you truly push restart, and you cannot do that if you still have the Ghost of Homeschooling Past lurking in every corner.
Give yourself permission to take a break.
This is one reason I love homeschooling year round – I have the flexibility to take a sabbatical whenever I need it. I don’t struggle with needing permission because I know I have 52 weeks to get it all done, and my little sabbatical won’t set me back. Honestly, I believe it is because of homeschooling year round that I am not a stressed-out homeschool mom, but if you don’t feel you can swing year round homeschooling, please remember that giving yourself permission to take a break now will keep you from falling apart later -and you really CAN’T afford to fall apart. (Check out my Homeschooling Year Round Resource page for more information!)
Read a book (for fun!), close your eyes in the middle of the afternoon, sit outside and listen to the birds, go to bed early, get up late, take a walk, crochet – whatever it is that feels like rest to you – try to find a way to do it. But, don’t dwell on the idea that rest has to look a certain way. You can find rest in a deep breath before falling asleep at night.
Rest is an attitude, and if you breathe deep and look for rest in simple places, you will be much more satisfied than if you try to create rest. For instance, you might think rest needs to be a hot bath with candles, music and a good book, but the baby is sick, the toddler is potty-training, and candles are dangerous. Don’t try to create rest – just rest in the in-between spaces. Seize the little moments. Feed the baby to sleep, but don’t put him to bed right away – sit for just a moment and drink in the peaceful breathing of your little one, smell her hair, kiss his forehead, close your eyes and let yourself drift for a moment. When you take the toddler to the potty for the millionth time, sit on the edge of the bathtub and reminisce of days gone by, hum a lullaby, or soak your feet in the tub. Take the kids outside and let them play and just sit and watch. There are so many in-between times in your day that are easily missed – during your sabbatical, try to see them and seize them!
Mother your children.
We must be mother first, homeschool mom second. Homeschooling is an extension of our mothering, not the other way around. During your sabbatical, be mom. Hold your children, rock them, sit around the table and talk, take them one at a time out to eat or to the park or on a drive or a walk. Reconnect with them, get to know their passions, their strengths, their weaknesses – because these are the little people you are teaching. These are the little ones who made you a homeschooling mother. Don’t forget who they are.
Remember who God made you to be.
God puts families together. He melds unique talents, unique passions, unique personalities into a family. You bring a unique YOU to homeschooling. You are not someone else and you cannot compare your homeschool to someone else’s because God didn’t create you to be just like another homeschool mom, and He certainly did not create your family to look exactly like another homeschooling family. Honor who He made you to be and honor the family He put you in! During your sabbatical consider who you are, what makes you tick, your teaching style, your passions, and how they fit into your homeschool. Often we burn out because we are trying to be someone else. It’s time to remember who YOU are!
Might I suggest my ebook Home Management for the Homeschool Mom? It teaches you to take who you are and the unique family God gave you and create a home management and homeschooling schedule that works for you!
Read God’s Word.
It’s easy to pick up a book and get lost in what the author of that books thinks. But, it’s the Lord God who created you, and what’s really important is what HE thinks! During your sabbatical, be sure to set aside time to set aside the books and pick up your Bible and JUST your Bible. Read slowly, search the Scripture for perspective, ask the Holy Spirit to give insight into what the Lord wants for you and your family in the upcoming homeschooling lessons. He will meet you there.
Other ideas for taking a sabbatical that truly refreshes you:
*Spend time outside – being in God’s creation has a very soothing effect on a weary soul.
*Get some exercise – exerting yourself tends to calm nervous energy. This doesn’t have to be something major. I like Fit2B, but you could garden, take a walk, jump on the trampoline. Just do something outside your norm.
*Stay off the internet – I know it can be tempting to research all sorts of things or catch up with people on Facebook, but don’t. Rarely do you come away from the online world feeling refreshed.
*Don’t carry your phone around with you – be present in your life as you take your sabbatical. It will feel more like a break if you do this.
* Don’t make sabbatical goals – this isn’t the time for checklists. Let your day take on a natural flow and try not to expect anything from your break.