Homeschool burnout sucks. Perhaps the worst part is feeling so bad about something that once brought so much joy – something you felt passionately called to do.
Many homeschoolers with more experience than me have shared fabulous advice like this for overcoming burnout. But sometimes it’s not as easy as following a few tips. Sometimes we feel so stuck that although the advice sounds very sensible and could probably help “other people”, it couldn’t possibly help us because [insert our unique, insurmountable circumstances here].
What we need is something to help us get unstuck.
In my work as a coach and therapist I used many different tools to help my clients get unstuck. This process is one of my favourites. It can be used very effectively to help overcome homeschool burnout, by reconnecting you with the energy and passion that first inspired you to take on this blessed role.
How to free your thinking and overcome burnout
All you need is a piece of paper and a pen (or electronic equivalent), and twenty minutes undisturbed time. (Yes I know… Do it in the middle of the night if you have to!)
Step 1 – What do you want?
Write down in your own, positive words what you want. Not what you don’t want, or what you think you can get, but what you really want.
Example – “I want to feel inspired and energised about homeschooling.”
Step 2 – What’s stopping you having what you want?
Now write down all the things that are stopping you having what you want.
When you’ve finished, check there’s nothing else by asking, “What else is stopping me?”
Keep going until until you’ve written down every single thing that stands between you and your goal.
“Homeschooling has got so stressful. I know we ought to take a break but if we do we’ll fall behind with the curriculum. I want my kids to work more independently but they seem to need me for everything. Writing lessons are so frustrating right now, but if he doesn’t learn to write he won’t be able to take exams. I’m sick of the daily grind. I hate our curriculum but we can’t afford to change. I need some time to myself but that’s impossible.”
Step 3 – What are you assuming that is most limiting your thinking?
Look back over everything you’ve written in step 2. What is the single most important thing you’ve written down, the one that really stands in your way?
Example – “(I feel like taking a whole month off but if we take that long off) my kids will forget everything and we’ll never get back on track.”
Write it down again on a line of its own.
Step 4 – Is it true?
This is where I’m going to ask you to make a leap of faith. (It will be worth it, I promise.)
When we’re stuck in problem thinking, everything seems set in stone. But when we shine a little light on them we begin to find our reasons actually rest on assumptions we didn’t even realise we were making.
In our example – “(I feel like taking a whole month off but if we take that long off) my kids will forget everything and we’ll never get back on track.”
Will your children truly forget everything they know if you take some time off? Will you really never get back on track? (And anyway, don’t you want to find a new groove instead of returning to the same old rut?)
Some reasons might be objectively true, but on closer inspection are found to rest on their own limiting assumptions.
Example: “It’s March now – if we take a month off my daughter won’t be able to take her exams in June.”
Or: “If we take a month off, we’ll lose our place in the co-op.”
Each of those statements may be true, but what are you assuming will happen if your daughter can’t take the exam this June? Is this the only opportunity ever? Will she never get a job if she doesn’t take the exam this year? Of course not. And if you lose your place in the co-op, will the world end? Perhaps other doors will open if that one closes?
Gently examine your limiting assumption until you realise it’s not one hundred percent, provably, “true”.
Step 5 – What is a liberating alternative to the limiting assumption?
This is the cool part. Look at your limiting assumption and ask yourself, “What is the complete opposite of this?” Then close your eyes and tune into your heart.
This is not a semantic exercise. If the words you come up with bear no resemblance to your limiting assumption, that’s a good sign.
Some real examples from my own experience:
Limiting assumption: “I can’t get anything done here because I have no control over how I spend my time.”
Liberating alternative: “Right here and now, I am freer than anywhere to do all the things I want.”
Limiting assumption: “Because my blog isn’t as successful as others, I’m not good enough and may as well give up”*
Liberating alternative: “Every word I write is the perfect contribution to the world.”
* I wrote that a few years ago 😉
In our imaginary Example:
Limiting assumption: “My kids will forget everything and we’ll never get back on track.”
Liberating alternative: “A long break is exactly what the children need to get excited about learning again.”
Step 6 – The magic question
Take your liberating alternative and insert it into the following question:
“If I knew, without a shadow of doubt, [true alternative], what would I be thinking or feeling or doing differently now?”
“If I knew, without a shadow of doubt, that a long break is exactly what the children need to get excited about learning again, what would I be doing differently now? How would I be feeling different? What would I be thinking?”
Sit quietly and notice what comes to mind. You’ll be amazed at the wisdom and resourcefulness that flows in. (It’s always been there, you just couldn’t reach it from the limited thinking you were stuck inside.)
I’m so excited about sharing this tool that’s helped me get unstuck so many times in the past. If you use it, I’d love to hear from you. And if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.
For more views on the subject of overcoming homeschool burnout, visit:
Every Bed of Roses – Homeschool Burnout
One Magnificent Obsession – Avoiding Homeschool Burnout
Barefoot Hippie Girl – What to do when you run out of fuel
Highhill Homeschool – How do I keep homeschooling?
Time to Think – I first came across the process I’ve shared here in this wonderful book
This free pdf Incisive Questions is a short summary of the process (as designed to be used in a coaching session) by the same author.
I’m appreciatively linking up here: