Homeschool Essentials

Whether unschooled or highly structured, religious or secular, all homeschools encounter the same challenges. All successful homeschools exhibit the same essential qualities. This weblog will help you understand and apply those qualities, minimize frustration, and enjoy more success sooner.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Second Layer of Burnout-2

As I said the other day, one of the two major reasons for burnout is the failure to nurture. And, sadly, nurture is less common than we would hope. But there is a complementary reason. If we imagine nurture as water, and the child as a cup, there are at least two reasons why the cup is dry, and why the child is not nurtured. We've covered the first one, failure to supply enough water(nurture).

But, a cracked or broken cup can't retain water, no matter how much is poured in. All the nurture in the world can't help a home where parents don't enforce healthy boundaries.

March is burnout month.

Lots of Homeschoolers experience burnout this time of year.

You'll find some of the symptons (and their cures) on my Homeschool Essentials Website

Now, back to our irregularly scheduled blog. . .

Yes, I'm essentially an unschooler. But as someone said some time ago, "Unschooling isn't unparenting." Children need strong, clear boundaries to make them feel safe, to give them discipline, and to receive nurture. That's right. Boundaries are the sides of the cup. Without them, nuture is wasted.

A lack of nurture makes children despondent, resentful, frustrated and depressed. A lack of boundaries can add defiance and anger to the mix. These problems can be disguised and easily overlooked when there are other distractions, like the holidays.

But we go through a series of days without distraction, and enforced confinement often aggravated by inclement weather, we find these problems difficult or impossible to ignore. In a basically functional home, they reveal themselves in burnout, frustration, discouragement. In a dysfunctional home, it shows up as abusive behavior. That's why my experience with the two seriously failed homeschools clarified the issues for me.

It was clear and unmistakeable in those homes. And seeing it so clearly there, in its most extreme form, I recognized it in my own home. And then the pattern repeated and revealed itself in other homes.

There's a bonus to understanding burnout. It not only improves our homeschools, it improves our homes. Not a small thing, that.

Next, I'll deal with the innermost layer of the onion we experience as burnout.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Second Layer of Homeschool Burnout

Big deal, Ed. You've described burnout. That's like going to the Doctor, who, after a thorough examination says, "You're sick." "Thanks a lot. I knew that when I came in."

What do I do about it!! Well, like a lot of other chronic diseases, there is no quick fix. It will require a lifestyle change. But then, who wants to keep burning out? Before we can make those significant changes, we need to understand what causes burnout.

Burnout is like an onion with three layers. The first one is the burnout itself, the descent into chaos. Under that layer, we find two complementary causes.

Now, this isn't easy for me to say, and it won't be easy to hear. But I have to tell you the truth. And part of that truth is that these things exist in every homeschool--yes, in mine, too. Even worse, I came to see these hard truths through exposure to two seriously failed--and borderline abusive--homeschools. Yes, I know we're never supposed to mention such things. It confirms a distorted stereotype some have of us. But we're a mature movement by now. And, the larger the movement becomes, the more closely it mirrors the larger society. Besides, these two homes out of more than 600 I have met with on a regular basis, comprise less than 1/2 of one percent.

What I observed in these seriously failed homeschools, writ large, I began to
recognize in my own home, and in every home I visited.

March is burnout month.

Lots of Homeschoolers experience burnout this time of year.

You'll find some of the symptons (and their cures) on my Homeschool Essentials Website

Now, back to our irregularly scheduled blog. . .

First, is an inability to nurture. This led me to develop of a workshop on Nurture. I don't have time to go into all of that here, but it comes down to this: Children who perceive that they are loved, no matter what they do, will learn, and learn readily. It is too easy for us to "Manage by Exception," to only mention things that go wrong.

Children who only receive correction, and there are more than I once imagined, soon feel that everything they do, and everything they are is wrong. This leads to resentment, or worse, despair. It is a frightening thing to see a child depressed, and in despair. But I see more and more of this. Conscientious parents, wishing only the best for their children, but offering abundant correction and scant praise. And children depressed, despairing that they will ever please anyone.

The resentment or despondency generated in the children turns to resistance, apathy, and rebellion. The simplest tasks become the occasion for dramatic struggles. By March, even the most determined mother has had enough. Thus the burnout.

Tomorrow (or the next day?), I'll talk about the complementary cause, the reason that even some nurturing homes experience burnout time and again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Who? Me? Homeschool Burnout?

A thousand apologies. As I said in the previous post, this just proves I'm still a real homeschooler. Even now that my youngest is 21! Only now, instead of running her to swimming lessons, I'm picking up her fiance at the airport.

You think as your children grow older and learn to drive, that you'll once again have time to pursue your own interets once more. But through some inexplicable process, you end up driving more, not less, as you children have their own wheels. It is a total mystery to me.

But Homeschool Burnout I know too well. Mom reaches her wits end, which journey takes less and less time each winter morning. The kids are restless, resentful, bored, and quarrelsome. You come to wonder if the whole enterprise is worthwhile at all.

One source of frustration for parents can be remedied by recognizing it for what it is. Parental Expectations.

In the fall, the new "school year" stretches out like a golden landscape. This year, Mom thinks, finally this year we'll get all those marvelous things done. For a while, Mom's full of energy and enthusiasm.

Before long, the Holiday season comes along, with all of the interruptions that brings. Not nearly as much "schooling" gets done as had been hoped, but the year's young and optimism reigns

After New Year's Day, a vast stretch of time extends well into spring, without interruption of major holidays.

By the time March arrives, all illusions of grand achievements have to be abandoned. Mom either cracks down on the kids or gives up in despair. But the end is not yet. Languishing in the debris of lost hopes and lost opportunities, everybody burns out, and people become so contentious they can't stand one another. So I get the desparate phone call.

March is burnout month.

Lots of Homeschoolers experience burnout this time of year.

You'll find some of the symptons (and their cures) on my Homeschool Essentials Website

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Proof that I'm still a Homeschooler

March is Homeschool burnout month.

Lots of Homeschoolers experience burnout this time of year.

You'll find some of the symptons (and their cures) on my Homeschool Essentials Website

O.K., O.K. Several days ago I said something about coming back "tomorrow," and I didn't make it. Well, I'm still homeschooling, even though my youngest is 21 years old and a junior in college.

My youngest is majoring in Political Science and Public Relations, but is attending on multiple scholarships in music. While that's unusual for schooled kids, it's not all that strange for homeschooled kids. It always amuses me that school proponents --and too many homeschool parents--worry about homeschooling producing children who are not fully prepared. What a laugh. Unschooling, natural learning at home as I prefer to call it, engages the learner in all the richness of reality. Far from being narrow, lacking exposure to some things, they get experience-- e-x-p-e-r-i-e-n-c-e -- real-life experience in a broad range of things. Expose them to learning opportunities, and they latch on and go far beyond anything a teacher could imagine to assign for them.

So when they show up for college, they have multiple skills and opportunities. And with real-life experience, they have a better idea of what they want to do than the average kid, kept in the artificial school environment.

She left on a choir tour last Thursday for Chicago and New York City. Well, as homeschool parents get used to, there were some last minute complications, some help only we could provide, and the first domino of what turned out to be a hectic weekend. It's almost enough to cause burnout-- well, no, not really. The frustration that builds into burnout has deeper roots and lasts longer.

So, I didn't make it in time to start talking about homeschool burnout. And it's all I can do to check in late today. But tomorrow--really, I think I can make it tomorrow. we'll get a real good start.

In the meantime, I'll finish my recovery and get back to you. You know how homeschooling can be. Oh, yeah, and then there's the grandkids. Whew!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Homeschool Essentials --Understanding Burnout

March is burnout month.

Lots of Homeschoolers experience burnout this time of year.

You'll find some of the symptons (and their cures) on my Homeschool Essentials Website

Several years ago, I got this message dated March 1!

I am ready to quit homeschooling and stick my kids in school!!

They seem to think that life is made up of playing all day, and really grumble when we try to get them to do chores of any kind. . .

I just don't seem to be able to make [homeschooling] work in our family. So, I am ready to either put them in school, or switch to workbooks and textbooks!! Help! Help! Help!!

I had been working with homeschool families for more than twenty years, and had heard this sort of thing nearly every March during that time. Some years are worse than others, but rare is the late winter/early spring when I don't talk to tearful, frustrated, angry, or simply desperate mothers.

Why does this happen so often? And why always in March? Does it have anything to do with a lack of sunlight? Well, the causes are several. The occurrences in March relate to the amount of time elapsed since the start of school. In the Southern Hemisphere, it takes place at a different time. The lack of sunlight in winter contributes in some cases, but it's not a major cause.

For today, let's just say a couple of simple things. 1) It has a lot to do with the failure to detox fully, and 2) It has a lot to do with failed expectations. Frustrating as it is, it is only the surface symptom of some deeper issues which will continue to arise in your home until they are fully remedied.

And don't think this has only to do with homeschools. Why do you think spring break comes in March? Teachers and children in school go through this, too.

So, if you've ever felt like the mother in the e-mail above, come back tomorrow and let me start explaining just what's going on.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What A Boy Needs to Know

But first. . .

March is burnout month.

Lots of Homeschoolers experience burnout this time of year.

You'll find some of the symptons (and their cures) on my Homeschool Essentials Website

What a boy needs to know to become a man. That's the informal title of a talk that Hub McCann gives to teenage and young adult boys.

If you've seen the film "Secondhand Lions," you know what I'm talking about. This is another DVD that demonstrates important values for homeschoolers. Walter, an adolescent boy, is dumped by his irresponsible mother on her two uncles, Hub and Garth McCann for the summer. On the way she tells Walter that the old men have been gone for forty years, and have mysteriously returned, rumored to have great wealth. She hints rather broadly that Walter might want to find out where they hid it.

The old men, played in cantankerous deadpan by Oscar winners Michael Caine and Robert Duvall, don't care much for relatives, and know little or nothing about children. They make few accommodations for Walter.

The two uncles are stranger than garlic ice cream, scaring away traveling salesmen (except for one notable one) by firing their shotguns, importing a giraffe and a geriatric lion, planting a complete garden of all corn, and telling Walter tales of adventure which include Africa and the Foreign Legion. Hub sleepwalks and fights past battles in his sleep.

Other people claim the men are either bank robbers, or paid assassins, and even try to get Walter to reveal the whereabouts of their supposed stache. In the process, Walter learns what it means to be a man, and what it means to really live. We only hear a part of Hub's "What a boy needs to know to be a man" speech, but it's worth the price of admission. Oh, and all the loose ends are neatly tied up. A real winner for families.