SS #01: Preventing Burnout Through Levity

February is often called “Homeschool Burnout Month” for a reason — because a lot of us are tempted to lose heart during this short but tricky month in which winter has surely overstayed its welcome. To combat the inevitable build-up of frustration and exhaustion, homeschool moms must have a sense of humor.

Levity — not taking ourselves too seriously — is a key to preventing that dreaded homeschool mom burnout. GK Chesterton, Charlotte Mason, Catherine Levison, and Carole Joy Seid will remind us that mom’s mood is a key component of any homeschool.

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Moms need a sense of humor

  • [2:32-8:25] Scholé RDA segment
  • [8:25-10:06] February is when we need to address burnout
  • [10:06-17:55] Why laughing is the antidote to burnout
  • [17:55-24:39] How to avoid homeschool burnout
  • [24:39-34:42 ] Use humor to answer burnout
  • [34:42-36:20] The ideal woman laughs
  • [36:20- ] How do you assign reading and differentiate between free reading and school reading?

Brandy Vencel
homeschools her four children, ages 14-6, laughing at her own inside jokes happening in her head.

Pam Barnhill
homeschools her three children and turns to jokes and tickling as a survival strategy.

Mystie Winckler
homeschools her five children, ages 13-4, and laughs lots and loudly.

Scholé RDA: What We’re Reading

Your recommended daily allowance of big ideas –

The Island of the World
The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being
Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation

The Great Tradition, edited by Richard Gamble

Mystie just started tackling this tome, beginning with the section by Plato about how people who will be statesmen should be educated – and why natural talent isn’t enough.

Rediscover Jesus, by Matthew Kelly

Pam’s church made this small devotional available to their parishioners, all about Jesus’ love for us that allows us to love others as we ought.

Island of the World, by Michael O’Brien

At Christmastime Brandy began this large literary novel about communist Yugoslavia when Christmas is outlawed; it didn’t help her holiday spirit, but it did help her understanding of how culture can’t be created via government control.

Episode 001: Preventing Burnout Through Levity -- Why levity is a key to preventing homeschool burnout!

Lighten up, homeschool mom – and laugh.

We must take our mission, but not ourselves, seriously.

Experienced moms who have launched adult children out into the world will tell you: Lighten up, mom of littles. Moms need to be able to laugh – at themselves and with their kids.

When we laugh with our kids, we build relationship and memories with them. Laughter brings us out of our self-centeredness and gives us perspective.

It’s easy to get down, to be negative, to think critically, to become wrapped up in getting things done. But when we laugh, we remember that being human is about more than getting things done.

Firstborn, Type A moms are often just no fun. In our homeschool we don’t need to make every lesson fun, but we do need to lighten up and be fun in our own attitude as we relate to our kids during their school day.

One settles down into a sort of selfish seriousness, but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. Seriousness is not a virtue, seriousness is a vice, it is really a natural trend or lapse into taking oneself gravely because it’s the easiest thing to do. Solemnity flows out of men naturally, but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy, hard to be light and Satan fell by the force of gravity.

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Is your life a comedy or a tragedy?

You know, we’re either going to have to laugh here or we’re going to have to cry.

Brandy’s mom

When we get so frustrated and irritated and single-minded that we can’t smile at our children and be amused by their foibles, we’re being self-important and we are on the road to burnout. The solution is to laugh.

If you can’t laugh when your children act like children, then it’s a sign you need to dig down and get help from your husband or friends to come up out of your critical mental rut. Simple looking for and laughing at the funny side of life is a way out of homeschool burnout as well.

How to avoid burnout

A precursor to burnout is not having any fun while doing what you’ve been called to do. What has happened to all your joy? If it’s not there, you either are in burnout mode or you’re about to land there.

Answering burnout with humor can be as simple as putting “smile at the kids” on your checklist. Stop in the middle of morning time and do a dance party. Be unpredictable and make your children laugh – then you laugh, too, and feel the good medicine laughter is.

Maybe all you need to lighten up is to get outside.

If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play. If she would only have courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense and just take a day or half a day out in the fields or with a favorite book or in a picture gallery, looking long and well at just two or three pictures or in bed without the children, life would go on far more happily for both children and parents. 

Charlotte Mason, School Education

Even simply changing up your environment, doing school in the park or a coffee shop, can be enough to brighten everyone’s mood.

Use Humor to Solve Burnout

It’s so easy to slip into correction mode and stay there all the time, being negative and critical as a habit. We need to find ways to break the habit of negativity, whether that’s with checklists, tech telling jokes, or spontaneous dance parties with a fun playlist.

Even when you do need to correct your children, when you do it with humor instead of sermonizing, they are more likely to listen and remember.

Well, I can’t use levity because even when I try to joke around I rarely managed to actually be funny, but apparently, that doesn’t matter. Showing levity is less about being funny and more about being able to have fun and see the humorous side of everyday situations, especially difficult situations. 

Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

Step back and observe the situation when you feel tense and uptight. If I were watching this, this could be on TV and everyone would be laughing at it, right? So I could take a step back and pretend I’m the audience and not in the middle of it and say, “Okay, this is actually kind of funny.”

The Proverbs 31 Woman Laughs without Burnout

Remember the verse “She laughs at the days to come.” Her laughter comes from more than a sense of humor. Her ability to take the days in stride without frustration and anxiety comes from her trust in God and confidence in His care.

The weight of the world, the burden of our children’s education, does not need to lie heavy on our shoulders. Christ carries us, them, and it.

Also mentioned:

School Education: Developing a Curriculum
Orthodoxy
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
A Sane Woman’s Guide To Raising A Family

Nitty Gritty Homeschool Question

How do you assign reading and differentiate between free reading and school reading?

Brandy uses Ambleside’s assignments and categories to distinguish between free reads and school reading. Her free reads category is still made of books read during school hours. During reading time, they can freely choose which books of those on a set shelf to read.

Pam does not differentiate between school reading and free reading because her readers are late, struggling readers. However, her kids listen to audio books all the time. It’s free reading, because it’s done voluntarily and on their own time, and Pam doesn’t worry about “counting.” However, none of her kids have yet been in situations where independent reading has been assigned. It will happen, but it hasn’t yet.

Mystie watches if her kids are picking up books – and which ones – on their own time by choice, and as long as they are reading in their spare time, she doesn’t worry about having “free reads” as a school category.

Want to talk about the ideas presented here? The conversation is happening inside Sistership.

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