Monday, April 5, 2010

'Tis the season -- for burnout

I think there is something about April that makes everyone feel a bit of burnout.  I remember in school I'd always be SO ready for summer vacation, and April was just miserable.  Or maybe it was that Dad was a CPA -- and a tax one at that, so April was super-duper stressful in our house, until April 16 when we would get to see him again.

As a homeschooling mom, there is definitely something about this time of year.  Even though officially, we school on a January-October school year, April still has that feeling.  You know.  The school-year is nearly over, and did we actually accomplish anything?  On windy days like today, we don't have the added stress of wanting to go outdoors (we'd blow away), but on other days, it is just too beautiful to stay in.  That adds to the frustration of doing school.

My recent blog posts have certainly hinted at burn-out.  And if I let you see the checkbook, it hints of burn-out too.  So what is burn-out?  And can homeschoolers experience it?  And what do we do about it?

Girdin, Everly, & Duskek defined burnout as "a state of mental and/or physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress."  I'd say that anyone doing anything (paid or unpaid) can certainly experience excessive stress.  What do the experts advise for burn-out?  Here's some I found, with my comments.

  • Exercise.  Duh.  Like I didn't know I needed to do this.
  • Sleep.  Lots of it.  Can you take a nap?
  • Don't bring your work home with you.  Yeah, right.  That doesn't work so well when "home" is part of your job title.
  • Find someone to listen.  Preferably someone whose knee-jerk reaction is not "put them in school and all your stress will vanish."  That kind of listener doesn't help.
  • Play.  Find something to do that is fun.  Didn't you used to have a hobby or two?  
  • Don't procrastinate.  Putting something off is often more stressful than just getting it done.  You know what is eating at you.  Do one of those things today.  Do another one tomorrow.  While you are at it, put them on a list and cross them off.  
  • Stop expecting perfection.  Or that you can do it all.  Get your expectations down to a reasonable level, so you stop beating yourself up for not getting 30 hours of things accomplished every day.
But to be more homeschool specific, what can you do when you are experiencing burn-out?  Well, some things I have done:
  • Don't start everything in the fall.  If you start a new history program in September, and a new science program in January, and try a writing seminar in March, and begin a new math text in May... well, you can spread out those feelings of finishing something, and of starting something new.  You can spread out the planning.  And it is a little easier to forget whether you finished something "on time" or not when you aren't tied to a traditional school calendar.
  • Take a break and do something completely different.  Call up your tourist center and plan a month of Friday field trips.  You know, all those places that your friends visit when they come to your town, that your kids have never seen.
  • Or take a week to do a unit study.  I'm looking at the Amelia Earheart Download & Go from The Old Schoolhouse for next week.  I think Connor really needs a down week next week, and I know I do.
  • Or take a week to clean the house.  Put the kids to work, make your kitchen shine.  Clean countertops do wonders for my stress level.
  • Or just shock your children by declaring a day off and go out and fly a kite.
  • If it isn't going to kill you financially, buy something.  New school supplies might do it.  Or books for next year.  Or a dark cherry mocha at Starbucks (oh. my.  Love those things.  Good thing I have a couple of Starbucks gift cards available.  Even better that the nearest Starbucks is about 40 miles, so I can't do this often.)  
  • And the one I want to do now, but can't.  Get away.  Or have dh get the kids away.  Get a chunk of time where nobody is asking you for anything, nobody is touching you, and nobody is describing some Lego Trojan War re-enactment.  Don't use the time to sleep.  A bubble bath?  Window shopping?  A dark cherry mocha at Starbucks, with you sitting at a table, flipping through a magazine?
The TOS Crew Blog is sponsoring a question of the week every Tuesday. Watch for what my Crew Mates have to say about burnout tomorrow!

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Heidi said...

Great thoughts, Debra! I've not had a dark cherry mocha at Starbuck's, but I can guarantee I'll be trying one this weekend now! :) Thanks for the suggestion.

Debra said...

Heidi-- I hope you like the coffee! It is my new favorite. Clearly, since I keep bringing it up!

You have a fun weekend. Wish I was going to OH too. Maybe next year. I'm going to try anyway.

Sheri said...

Oh yes, the dk Mocha Cherry did wonders for me last Wed. We walked to town (had to-my son took my car that day) and got coffee/Frapps at Starbucks, then peered out the window at the movie theater and decided, "what the heck-let's do it" so off we went to a movie, mid-school day! We dropped the chains of the expected and lived a little. Talk about refreshing and fun. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

Laura O in AK said...

I think I just might be partaking of this dark cherry mocha soon. I'm in dire need of some pick me ups!

Lori Watson said...

I finally wrote my burn out post, only a week late, and am now reading everyone else's. Great thoughts here. Especially the dark cherry mocha. I have a gift card too, may have to get myself there soon! Sounds yummers.