July 9, 2012

How to Avoid Homeschool Burnout

J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President


J. Michael Smith is president of HSLDA. He has been an advocate for homeschooling for more than 30 years. Read more >>

We spent some time with several veteran homeschool speakers this weekend, and there is a troubling trend they are seeing—moms who are just burned out on homeschooling. You’re saying, Well, that’s nothing new. But they are seeing this burnout in moms who have not been homeschooling that long. The most common connection between these homeschooling moms appears to be a highly structured homeschool curriculum or program.

First, let me say I don’t favor any method of homeschooling over another, but my bias is to try to develop a program that fosters a love for learning. Greg Harris, who is one of the leading pioneers and speakers in the homeschool community, has a term for the kind of education I’m talking about—he calls it “delight-directed education.” This style of homeschooling is directed at getting students interested in learning.

Not only will students involved in delight-directed education learn more, but there will also be less pressure on mom. She won’t have to badger her children to learn and will spend less time in direct instruction because the children will be learning more on their own. Every family should figure out what’s best for them and how much structure is best.

I’m concerned that we are seeing moms give up because they can’t see how they can continue year after year with the time and energy they are devoting to teaching. When I recognize this problem, my advice is, Take an approach that doesn’t look like a school.

The people who introduced my wife Elizabeth and me to homeschooling were Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. They emphasized not bringing the classroom into the home. Learning was to be much more informal. We found this approach very helpful in our homeschool.

I also remind moms that we need to recognize that our ultimate goal is not to prepare a child for Harvard but for heaven. Character over academics.

In summary, I’m not saying that you should avoid a rigorous academic program with your students. Just don’t pursue it to the point of jeopardizing your ultimate goals. And keep those goals clearly in sight—graduating your children with far more than merely an accumulation of knowledge, encouraging them to grow into adults with a love for learning, a love for God, and a love for others.

If you’re feeling burned out, change course, relax, and make learning fun for all—including you!