Friday, February 26, 2016

7 Weapons for Battling Burnout

While media can certainly be a source of stress for any homeschooling mother, I am continuously in awe of how talented individuals provide inspirational resources in such abundance. Today, I'm sharing seven weapons that can help you battle burnout in this season of blahs.

1. The free REFRESH Midwinter Virtual Conference is a gift from Homeschool Connections to all homeschooling parents. This series of webinars includes ten live sessions on a range of topics all designed to inspire you to survive until summer! I hope to be participating in the Staying Positive, Giving Thanks, and Managing Distractions webinars. Once upon a time I presented a couple of webinars, and you can still view my Homeschool Help Webinars free by logging in as a guest.

2. The Pray More Retreat is a Lenten opportunity from Pray More Novenas to anyone who wishes to deepen their prayer life. Each of the 16 video presentations is available to view at your convenience for a pay-what-you-can registration fee. You know how important I think prayer is to successful homeschooling, so I look forward to viewing these presentations in the weeks ahead!

3. It is not too late to sign up for access to the Faces of Mercy Online Catholic Conference 4 Moms with my $4.00 off coupon code (mother). I have viewed all of the English presentations, some more than once, and they are all fabulous! These ideas for living the Jubilee Year of Mercy in a practical way are a helpful addition to my list of resources for celebrating in my home.

4. This is my third year joining Elizabeth Foss's Restore Workshop. The core materials include a collection of 21 essays compiling years of hard-earned wisdom on how to avoid and crawl out of burnout, as well as daily devotionals for Lent, which focus on restoration. If you are ready to do the hard work of healing mind, body, and soul, this workshop is for you. Read about the additional bonus materials here, but please register for the workshop using my affiliate link if you would be so kind.

5. One of my all time favorite books is Seasons of a Mother's Heart: Heart to Heart Encouragement for Homeschool Moms by Sally Clarkson. (affiliate link)  Her gentle testimony of homeschooling her four children through the varied seasons of life inspires me to keep moving forward while relying on Christ for my strength. Every time I hear her speak (her podcast is excellent) or read her words, I feel like a personal mentor is holding my hand and helping me through these busy days.

6. And those who know me well know I am a champion cheerleader for Sarah Mackenzie's incredible book Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace(affiliate link)  While I was part skeptic after reading her book the first time, I can truly say that embracing the Godly advice in this book has changed my life. It has changed me and my homeschooling for the best!

7. This one is for those of you who read the other six takes and lamented that you don't have time for virtual conferences or the money to invest in another resource: Invite a friend or acquaintance, preferably a fellow Catholic homeschooling mama if you are one, for tea (or coffee if you insist). You can meet in the wee hours of the morning or late at night at a coffee shop or restaurant. You can close all the doors in your house, tidy the open space, and invite them to bring their kids to your house (or not, but there is joy in this kind of tidy). That's it. Just get together. I am constantly setting up these kinds of chats and opening my home to other mothers, because it's what I need to refresh my soul!

I hope that one thing here can help you out of your February blahs. What has helped in the past when burnout threatens you?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Do These 3 Things to Guarantee Homeschool Success!

After reading my title, you're thinking, "Riiiiight!" These types of tip posts abound on the Internet, and I can't believe I am even reading this. I will be on my knees apologizing later for being so trendy. For now, just hear me out. These tips apply to those new to homeschooling and those who have been in the trenches far longer than I have. It's not rocket science.

1. Pray about whether or not you should homeschool and then decide to homeschool. --- I am not one who thinks everyone should homeschool. In an ideal utopian world, maybe, but that doesn't exist in this world. Some families are in a situation where homeschooling is most beneficial to the family and some are not. Every family is as uniquely created by God as every uniquely-created child. Pray, with your husband, and make the decision for your family, for right now. And then, actually decide to homeschool and do it for at least a semester without waffling on that decision. On day three of homeschooling, every school year (semester? month? week?), you will want to quit. Pray some more every year and keep going if you feel homeschooling is what God is asking of you. Sarah has some fantastic advice for when she feels like quitting!

2. Pray about what style of homeschooling and curricula to use, do your research, and just pick something already. --- Almost everything out there for homeschoolers these days is fantastic. There are so many options that it is overwhelming to consider and even test each one. Choose the method that seems like it will work best for your children and you for now, and do not change fifty times in the first year. Start slowly if you feel like you can't go all hog wild. Just trust God to guide your decisions and have confidence that learning is much more about the relationship you have with your children than which math curriculum you use. Over the years you will change things up, but you will not scar your children for life or ruin their futures if you start out classical and end up unschooling, or vice versa. Pam's is my favorite post out there on methods!

3. On tough days, pray your way through. And on good days, pray your way through. --- It has taken me too many years to be committed to reading Scripture daily. God speaks to us in His Word. We need to tune our ears to His voice every day, so we can do this daily grind. We don't need to surf the Internet to solve all the problems. We don't need to turn to Facebook to only post the near-perfect days. First, we need to get on our knees and praise God for our children and the opportunity to homeschool them. We need to beg the Holy Spirit to guide our words and actions and to give us the grace and confidence to raise these precious children. And we need to trust that He will provide all that we need. Mary Ellen has fantastic ideas to pray your way through each day!

As you can tell, my definition of success, for the purposes of this list, is not to get your kids into Harvard or meet some set level of educational standards (or even to get our kids to Heaven, because that's not quite our job anyway; it's theirs, darn free will!). Success is when you do the thing God wants you to do all day every day. And to do that, you simply have to grow close enough to Him through prayer to know what that is, or at least to trust Him to work good out of whatever choices we make.

Have you done or neglected to do any of the above? What was the result?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

They Are Lying

Recently I asked a friend if she would speak about our local homeschooling conference on Catholic radio, and this was part of our text exchange:
HER: I just don't know if I'm qualified! I'm still learning the ropes! I feel weird, when I don't have my act together! I've done it before and I'm not intimidated, just not as much a veteran I would like to hear on the air. I know it's all good, I just see so many moms out there that make it look easy and I struggle all the time!
ME: Those who make it look easy are lying. There's a difference in saying it's easy and saying I have peace despite the insanity.

Homeschooling is not easy. Why in the world would anyone say that? Being an away-school parent is not easy. Heck! Being a parent is not easy!

I am going to say that again. Homeschooling. Is. Not. Easy.

If you see someone who makes it look easy, there are two possibilities. Either they are lying to themselves by sheer willpower to insist that it is easy (when it is not) or they are lying by omission to you by not sharing the reality of their daily life. And both are wrong.

Now, I am not talking about those parents who say they are homeschooling and are actually just letting their kids run wild or sit in front of screens all day. This applies only to parents who are actually doing their best to provide a well-rounded education for their children.

I am going to assume by the above quoted conversation that I might be one of those moms making it look easy. For that, I am sorry, and I repent. Truly. Sincerely.

But I do have peace, and to others, that might look like ease. I know in my heart that this is the best schooling option for our family right now. (I adamantly believe that homeschooling is not the best choice for every family in every season of life.) I know that I am putting in the effort to craft an effective education for each of my children. Mostly, I know, as Sarah says, that I am presenting my loaves and fishes and trusting God to do the rest.

Because I could (and do sometimes) sit here and worry if I am covering enough material, using the right methods, challenging my children appropriately, instilling a love of learning, and choosing the right books. My anxiety rises when I wonder if they will be ready for high school/college/careers, be men and women of faith, make meaningful contributions to the world, live virtuous lives, and still love their mama!

Instead, when nobody can find a pencil, the daily math tantrum begins, the toddler screams over every read aloud, nobody remembers what they read, they whine and complain, they dilly-dally and doodle, the kindergartner refuses to do anything, and mom can't figure out the science experiment or when that war started or who it was between...usually...I just keep going. All that worry and chaos is not what I would call easy.

Homeschooling is the choice we have made for now, and because I have it written down, I know why we do it. And when things are tough, which is daily, I just keep going. After all, Jesus said:
I have said this to you, that in my you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. John 16:33

What is the most difficult part of homeschooling for you?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why Do You Homeschool?

One of the things I turn back to this time of year, during the typical February homeschooling burnout month, is a list I made years ago of the many reasons why we decided to homeschool. A wise, seasoned homeschooling mother advised me to make a list early in homeschooling, so I could refer to it when things got tough. That sheet of paper is still in the front of my planning binder, so before I flip through all the ideas in that binder on changing curricula or rescheduling our days, I can remind myself of the big picture goals.

I highly recommend all homeschoolers make a similar list. It can be short or long (I tend to be wordy) but ideally should have input from your husband. While I still agree with everything on my original list, it definitely needs revising to reflect what I have learned about homeschooling, so far, so I will probably work on that over the upcoming planning season and try to remember to share my revisions with you.

This list can benefit you in formulating that awkward answer when the relative or neighbor alarmingly demands: "Homeschooling? Why would you do such a thing?!" In fact, on the back of my list, I have handwritten the following succinct sentence, which I wrote to try to answer the above question. It's certainly lacking in some ways, but it's a start!
We are able to put God first and family next above all other things by educating our children at home while striving to raise faithful Catholics and moral, responsible, respectful citizens.
Below, I have posted my original list and another I found that was probably sent to me by a friend, but do not copy my list! Make your own. Keep it close and update it, as needed. This is a great way to avoid giving up for the wrong reasons!

Our Original List:

A Friend's List:

What would be on your list that's missing from above?!

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Mom in Need Is a Friend Indeed!

So often I hear moms talk about wanting to serve the poor and being frustrated that they cannot practically serve with young children. There are many local organizations that do not allow children to volunteer or even be present at their facilities due to liability issues. And it can be difficult to feel that you are living the Gospel even if you do intentionally serve your family as a way to live the Good News.

But I guarantee you there are moms around you that are in need. They are just like you. They might be you. Just today I have been texting two friends who are significantly suffering emotionally this weekend, pledged to pray for a friend of a friend with a terribly difficult pregnancy situation, chatted with two moms facing the challenges of live-in mothers-in-law, shared my own struggles with uncertainties in the near future, and listened to a couple of other women share about family members whom they struggle to love.

I have had two mom friends share with me they have had a panic attack in the past two months. Two moms told me last month about the real challenges to cut back on their families' extracurricular activities to reduce their stress levels. Three mothers I know are enduring the hassle of moving across the country, as well. And two other friends bear the cross of a spouse who doesn't practice the faith.

That's eight of us today and another nine in the past two months, and those are just the ones I can remember at the moment. All these women are in need of mercy. We are, at the moment, the poor in spirit. What can we do to lift them up even if they don't ask for help?

  • Pray! I would hope this goes without saying, but I know it needs said. We say "I'll pray for you," but how often do we remember to pray for those intentions? Do you have a book of intentions or another place to record those needs? I use the Echo app to keep track of who needs my prayers, because in my life, if it's not written down, it doesn't exist!
  • Text! This a very easy way to say hello and check in on friends. Send them a Scripture verse or just a smiley to brighten their day. Checking in to see how they're doing allows them the freedom to respond or to hold things in their heart, as needed.
  • Drop off a meal/flowers/chocolate/wine! If you are at the store and see something that might lift the spirits of a fellow mom, grab it and leave it on their doorstep. Or make a meal that can be easily frozen and call to ask when would be a good time to deliver it (rather than ask if you can bring a meal).
  • Call! Make a commitment to call a friend once a week. You don't have to call the same friend every week, but nourishing friendships by making the personal connection of a phone call can dramatically impact those who are suffering. Not only do you give them the chance to vent if they wish, you make it clear that you are there when they need you.
  • Meet for coffee or a margarita! There's nothing quite like one on one face to face time to build relationship. I have been trying to make this a priority with several of my friends, and I can't tell you how beneficial the quality time is to our weary souls. Sometimes it's with kids, and sometimes it's just us. But seeing the face of a friend always fills my cup!
One essential note: If you are the one in need, please ask for and accept offers of help from others. You are actually extending grace by allowing them to serve you. You are giving them the opportunity to witness to the mercy of Christ. Both the giver and the receiver are blessed, so do not feel embarrassed or weak by asking for assistance!

Has there been a time that someone unexpectedly reached out to you when you were in need? How did that impact your suffering?