Spring meadow white and pink daisies

Spring Planning: Preempt Winter Burnout

The phrase “homeschool spring planning” is like a pair of newlyweds. Could anything be lovelier than the marriage of spring and planning? Spring is so pretty. The trees start budding, the grass turns green again, and the birds herald their triumphant return with bursts of song. Planning is so practical. You have purchased your Homeschool Connections courses – with the early bird discount of course; you have your planner book all filled out; you feel prepared for anything!

Life as a junk drawer

Not to intrude on the honeymoon here, but there is something you must not forget. Your spring semester begins in the dead of winter. I don’t know what that looks like for you but where I live it is cold, the days are short, and snow comes and goes regardless of whether you have a road trip or a ski trip planned. This situation persists for three months, during which time Lent also rears its ashen head.

Your spring semester is when you have to be your most patient – with your kids, with homeschooling, and with yourself. How? By planning for it. St. Francis DeSales said that you should always try to consider what could go wrong so you can preempt it. Either you can prevent it or you can apply the remedy.

Plan to prevent or remedy these symptoms of winter burnout.

1) The feeling of not getting anything done.

That is because you do not have the same level of energy that you had in September when you were all refreshed from your summer vacay. Nobody does. Focus on your core curriculum. Make sure your planner book covers all of your basic subjects. Then, if there is room, you can add to it. Do not overload! We homeschoolers are like kids in a candy shop. We want to sample it all! But how often have you started some enrichment program only to find that it eats all your time? Focusing on your core gives you peace of mind because you know you are doing what you are supposed to. While you are at it, get a sign and hang it on your fridge: Think progress, not perfection. (Here’s a free coloring page the kids can do.) I assure you when you get to the end of the spring semester, and thus the entire school year, you will see that you made more progress than you thought. The birds will be singing your praises.

2) Not clicking with the course or material.

Make adjustments if needed. Are you one of those people who thinks the household will fall down like a stack of Jenga blocks if you have to pull a book or a course? I am. Once I took my kid out of a cyber program that was positively killing us and I still cried all day. Not tears of relief. Tears of: No! We worked so hard to make this work and we failed! Silly. It is normal to have to tweak your program or method if something is not working. Think of it as a wrong turn – regrettable but why would you keep going the wrong way? Just turn around. This is where homeschooling is your friend. You are the boss of it. You get to make necessary corrections.

3) Being stuck in the house.

Ah yes, cabin fever. I know it well. It has two symptoms: either everybody is sluggish or everybody is fighting. A quick and simple remedy is to go outside every day. Years ago when I had four little kids, and my husband had our one car all day at work, and he often came home late, what saved us was going outside every day. I would bundle the kids up no matter how long it took, whatever the weather, even if we could not stay out longer than twenty minutes. If this is not possible for you, then invite people over. Have a rowdy game night at your house to get all the evil out.

4) Going out too much.

As the kids grow, you leave the stuck-at-home phase and enter the running-around stage. Lessons, events, acts of service, and even church can distract you from homeschooling. Assess each one. Maybe it is too far away; maybe it meets too often; maybe it takes too long. If so, cut it back, drop it, or rearrange it. For example, our family used to attend a church where my husband remarked that the average age was dead. What to do about all those weekday funerals? We did not cut them completely because we wanted to honor and bury the dead. Our solution was to go just to the calling hours the night before. We would pray for the departed, greet the family, do a corporal work of mercy with our children, and still save our school day.

Preempt winter burnout by planning your homeschooling Tabor Vision

Finally, whenever you are tempted to lose patience with the kids, with homeschooling, and with yourself, go back to a thought, a memory, a vision you had about homeschooling. Dr. Alice von Hildebrand talks of how married couples need a “Tabor Vision” of each other to call to mind when they are not feeling the love. This can also serve homeschooling. What is one thing that you love about it?

Here is mine. It goes back to when I was little and attending school myself. I can still see my mother in the warm, lamp-lit living room on a dark winter morning. I am at the front door bundled head to toe, about to march into the frigid darkness up to the bus stop. Even then, I remember thinking – Why do I have to do this instead of staying home with Mom?

Sometimes I think what kept me homeschooling these 27 years is getting to play hooky from that. My kids are with me and I am with them and that alone is a triumph over the darkness.

What is your Tabor Vision? Plan to keep it before your eyes. Happy honeymoon.

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