Homeschool Burnout is a well-recognized problem within the homeschooling community. Many moms who start out home educating their children with joy and enthusiasm end up exhausted and defeated after a couple of years in the trenches. What happened to these moms? Did they not take enough time for themselves? Mothers who never rest and never stop working will certainly burn themselves out. But I think there are some other joy stealers that also derail homeschoolers, including comparison, worldly values, and fear of man. When we learn to recognize and defeat these enemies, we will find much more peace and joy in our labors, bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
I was incredibly insecure when I first began homeschooling, and as a result, I suffered from “acute comparison syndrome.” I was really nervous about messing up my kids. Instead of driving me to acknowledge my dependence on God, this insecurity drove me to constantly look at other homeschoolers and public schoolers to compare my kids to their kids and see if we were measuring up. Every time I heard about a family doing something extraordinary like making movies together or traveling the world together, I would get a sick feeling in my stomach and wonder how we would ever be able to match that kind of education.
Shed the Burdens
Sometimes, these insecurities can be reinforced as homeschoolers try to place artificial burdens on each other. One homeschooling mom related to me how she felt condemned by a fellow homeschooling mom because her kids did not study Latin or play musical instruments. “Prayer has helped me shed the guilt I felt from this woman trying to place her homeschool burden on me. I have to remember that I am responsible for my children’s souls more than I am responsible for their education.”
Over time, I learned to trust God with my children’s education. I learned to pray that God would give them the experiences and open up the enriching opportunities He wanted for them. Looking back over sixteen years of homeschooling, I can testify to God’s amazing faithfulness. My children have had opportunities and developed skills I never could have dreamed or imagined. The story God wrote for them is beautiful and I’m glad I did not exhaust myself trying to imitate my favorite homeschooling families. My homeschooling heroes had stories which were also beautifully written by God, but these stories were very different from the unique story He wanted to write for us.
My children have had opportunities and developed skills I never could have dreamed or imagined. The story God wrote for them is beautiful and I’m glad I did not exhaust myself trying to imitate my favorite homeschooling families.
A second false belief that will rob a homeschooling mom of joy and create burnout is having a worldly definition of success. What are we aiming for in our homeschools? What needs to happen for you to feel your investment in your children is paying the dividends for which you were hoping? Do they need to get stellar test scores on the ACT or SAT? Do they need to get accepted into a top tier school? Do they need to compete well on a national or international level in their areas of giftedness? All of these are worthy goals, but they can also be worldly goals.
What is God’s definition of success? I think this is summed up well in 3 John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” The aim of our homeschools should be to have children dedicated to following Jesus Christ. I should strive prayerfully to train up children who know how to hear His voice and follow Him. If He leads them to Harvard, may they glorify God there. If He leads them somewhere I never even imagined, may He be glorified through that, too.
Realizing that teaching my children to follow God is my main objective saves me from spending a lot of time and energy trying to achieve these other goals which may or may not be God’s plan for my children. If it’s not God’s plan for my child to go to an Ivy League school, I may find myself fighting against His providence as I seek to accomplish that goal. Striving after something God didn’t intend for my children because of a faulty definition of success will surely lead to disappointment and burnout.
The fear of man is having an unhealthy anxiety about what other people think of me or of my children or of my homeschool. I sometimes catch myself wondering what other people would think if they saw some of our family’s weaknesses. The panic that sets in as my imagination goes wild can drive me to push my children to make me look good so others will be impressed. As I seek to clean everyone up so we make a favorable impression, I am no longer serving them and God out of love but out of fear of people’s disapproval or disdain. Proverbs 29:25 states, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.”
I need to learn to set my affections on things above and seek after heavenly rewards rather than earthly applause (Colossians 3:2). I also need to learn to look for God’s smile and seek His approval even when my house is a wreck and my children misbehave or when family life is stressful and everyone is on edge. Living to impress others is exhausting and will surely lead to burnout.
God has called each Christian to a life of joyful service. Jesus gave us an example to imitate as He came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). So when homeschooling and serving your family becomes heavy and burdensome, consider if you have taken on a yoke of comparison, or a yoke of a worldly definition of success, or a yoke of desiring to impress others rather than Jesus’ easy yoke. Ask God to teach you how to cast all your homeschooling cares upon Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). And as we learn to follow Him, we will find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29).