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    Home Education

    Preventing Homeschool Burnout: Go Outside

    February 9, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    A brisk walk will help.

    Parents’ Review Magazine

    I was having trouble getting last week off the ground. It started with a Super Bowl inflicted lack of preparation. On Monday morning, the spreadsheets weren’t printed, and neither was anything else. No copy work. No grammar worksheets. Nada.

    And then Tuesday came around, and it was just plain overbooked and crazy.

    So when Q-Age-Eight came to me on Wednesday morning — and I was so groggy from my ignoring Lesson 1 in favor of Lesson 2 ahem — and reminded me that I had said we could do school at the park if the weather was nice, I hesitated before I said we’d do it.

    Part of me just wanted to stay at home.

    Preventing Homeschool Burnout: Go Outside

    Turns out I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

    In January, I made a New Year’s resolution to do lessons outside once per week during fair weather. Last week was our first week of consistently fair weather and therefore my first opportunity to follow through. I’m glad there was a little girl nagging me, or it might not have happened.

    The children all have backpacks, so each child could carry their own supplies. Phonics binder, math binders, clipboards, books — all of it went into a backpack and into the car (along with a collection of scooters and other things with wheels). E-Age-Twelve was smart and finished his Latin before it was time to leave. While I was finishing up my own packing and inspection, my two youngest ones were assigned to fill up a sports bottle with water for each of us.

    I will admit that this sort of undertaking is much easier when everyone is big enough to pack their own stuff and help get ready in general. (When I had littles, heading out to the backyard was about all I could handle.)

    After a couple hours sitting in the sun, I perked up. In fact, it was the best I’d felt so far that week, and I didn’t realize how sluggish I’d been feeling until the feeling was gone. Everyone was happier for a change of scene, and my extroverts were on a high from meeting new people on the playground.

    We didn’t do anything fancy, not even a nature walk. We just went to a plain old city park and did our lessons in the sunshine and played on toys during our breaks.

    And you know what? It was fun. It was refreshing. The whole day went well after that.

    Sometimes preventing homeschool burnout is that simple, especially if we build times like this into our weeks instead of waiting until we’ve already reached our limit.

    Winter often means we are cooped up inside. Even here, where the weather is mild.

    To return to our fire analogy, which I am destined to overextend before this series is over, going outside served as kindling for me that day. I just had a general malaise I needed to shake off. It was no one’s fault in particular. It just happens sometimes.

    And that is the power of kindling, really. It’s just a bit of something really flammable with the goal of getting the fire going.

    The thing with going outside is that we often leave our troubles behind for a while. At the park, the phone doesn’t ring and my email doesn’t ding and the laundry doesn’t buzz and the chores don’t beckon. (Word to the wise: if you have a cell phone, turn it off at the park unless there is a good reason to keep it on. You will thank me.)

    Having all the burdens off my back for a couple hours was remarkably refreshing. A little sunshine and laughter made the world seem brighter. It not only got my day going, but the momentum continued for the rest of the week.

    If you’re struggling inside and you happen to glance out the window and notice the day is a fair one, might I suggest going outside? A short walk might help if a morning at the park isn’t feasible. A little refreshment goes a long way sometimes.


    1. Get some sleep.
    2. Learn something.
    3. Go outside.
    4. Mix it up.

    Want to think more about homeschool burnout? Try this episode from Scholé Sisters:

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  • Reply Preventing Homeschool Burnout: Mix it Up | Afterthoughts September 3, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    […] Go outside. […]

  • Reply Preventing Homeschool Burnout: Learn Something | Afterthoughts September 3, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    […] Go outside. […]

  • Reply Mommy Chickadee February 12, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    So, I read this blog post the other day and then today we did it! We did school in the park! I’m a happy momma, and my kids are tired but happy. I let them play for about 40 minutes before we started. Then we did our usual routine of poetry, copywork, hymn, and AO reading. Then, I sent them off to run and play some more. Then I brought them back and we worked out a math problem together, recording it in our math journals. Then, off to play again. We didn’t get to our phonics practice because we all seemed pretty tired, so I would make sure to fit that in sooner next time. Overall, it went well! I would totally do it again!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 13, 2015 at 6:57 am

      Oh, I am SO glad to hear it, Mommy Chickadee! That’s exciting! 🙂

  • Reply Ann February 10, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Is it possible some kids just can’t do this? I’d love to have this option, but it seems that the slightest little thing (a slight breeze or a bird, for instance) and I’ve lost them. Or one of them, at least. I have 2 girls and my 12yo is just ridiculously distractable. Any suggestions?

    And, do your kiddos do a little work and then play, alternating? Or do you say, get the work done and then you can play? Sorry, this probably shouldn’t be that hard but I’ve always been a little jealous of families that get to work out in the sunshine when my own has so much trouble!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 10, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      I’m sure it’s possible! Please don’t beat yourself up!

      I will say that the first couple times we do this after a long break is often the worst. That wasn’t true of last week, but it’s been generally true over the years. So perhaps there is something to going to the same place each time and building a habit there? I don’t know. It might not be worth it. It might make more sense in your situation to just take a walk and call it a day. 🙂

      They do get a bit of play, except for my 12-year-old who basically worked the whole time except for a snack break. But the littles switch off because they have to share me. So the girls played while I did phonics with the 6yo. Then one did copywork while one did an AO reading with me. Then they switched. All that time, the 6yo (who is not yet in an AO year) just played. After that they all had a snack and played on the park toys and ran around for 15 minutes. Then the girls came back and did the rest of their lessons. After that I did math with the 6yo. And then we were done and they could play until it was time to leave.

      Do you have a backyard? I was just thinking about this. Some of this going outside is really for US. We’re trying to prevent ourselves from burning out. So if you could be in the backyard, and maybe your younger child with you, especially if you need to work with her directly. And then the 12yo could come in and out as needed. Or she could stay out as long as she can focus? I don’t know. It depends on how badly you want it because it’d probably be hard at first. 🙁

  • Reply Heather Lee February 10, 2015 at 9:53 am

    We do lessons outside a lot. Problem is that we are so easily distracted by every bird and squirrel and sometimes watching the pattern of a falling leaf will occupy our interests.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 10, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      How often do you do it, Heather?

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 9, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    By the way, I know there was a discussion on confirming subscriptions to comments, but it looks like I can’t subscribe to comments at all anymore. Is that right or am I missing it?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 9, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      Really?? Drat. And here I thought I fixed it. I will check into it. Thank you for telling me! And:sorry. 🙁

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 9, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    We found an unplanned hour at the park just today! The kids had brought some work, but we left it in the car. Except me. I sat and happily read Bleak House most of the time.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 9, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      Oh, lovely! 🙂

  • Reply Amber February 9, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Ooh, I’m pretty good at this one too! Last week we took two hikes and the week before we did a short hike to a beautiful pond and played and did schoolwork and read alouds there. I really felt like I was doing something right as I was sitting amongst the granite boulders and reading Our Island Story and Plutarch. 🙂 I’m trying very hard this year to get out and do some sort of walk/hike with the kids each week somewhere in the county. We live in a beautiful place, and I want the kids to get to know it well.

    I could definitely do better getting outside everyday. The kids do, but I don’t always. I had a great habit of doing it everyday until November of last year, but then we had all that rain and I lost the habit completely.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 9, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      Certain books are extra fun to read outside, aren’t they? 🙂 You get an A+ today. 😉

      The rain drove me inside for the most part, too. But on Saturday we ate outside in the rain. I mean, we were under an awning, but it was raining. It was awesome. Even my husband enjoyed it. 🙂

  • Reply Tricia Fowler February 9, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I am all in favor of going outside but I distinctly remember in one Charlotte’s volumes she states that taking kids outdoors for lessons is too distracting…we only go out for nature study or if the kids are reading something in which they are so engrossed they don’t know what planet they are on. Do you find they “get” their concepts just as well outside?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 9, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      As long as the park is *empty* I find their studies go equally well. But if the park fills up {which happened at the end of our visit last week}, it does get distracting, you’re right! 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 10, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      Your comment has been in the back of my mind all day! Anyhow, I happened to be going back through an old series that I wrote in 2010 and found the part you are talking about. When CM suggests in Home Education a “day in the country” for children under nine, she specifically says “no books.” So you’re right! 🙂

      • Reply Amber February 11, 2015 at 12:58 pm

        Ooh, that reminds me of a photo I saw once of the Ambleside teachers in training all arranged in neat rows at desks doing their lessons outside in a courtyard. Drat, where did I see that picture?? If I manage to remember I’ll send you a link. 🙂

        • Reply Brandy Vencel February 11, 2015 at 2:59 pm

          Yes, please! I would LOVE to see that photo!

  • Reply Virginia Lee February 9, 2015 at 7:34 am

    We live in Colorado. If God blesses us with fair weather during the months of October to April we drop EVERYTHING and go outside. Because we know that Jan, Feb, March and April will be snowy and cold. And often times depending on the winter that year, Oct, Nov and Dec will be too. (I really hate it when we don’t get fall and get winter instead, uck!)

    The nice thing about Colorado is that we almost always have sun. In fact, so much sun that the kids really like overcast days. It’s like a fascination to go out and explore.

    Normally if we get a fair weather day in those months it might be one or two days and then more snow and cold. So dropping everything and going outside sounds drastic, but it’s really just a day or two here and there. And if you don’t take those rare and beautiful fair weather days outdoors, then you know there might be months before it happens again. It’s truly a no brainer.

    And yes, it does seem as if even one or two days with the sun and the wind on your face pushes you through another few weeks of winter. It gives you hope! But then, I’ve found that God’s pretty great like that.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 9, 2015 at 9:01 am

      I love what you said here, Virgina Lee! And you’re right: in bad weather months, we have to grab fair weather when it comes.

      I find myself having the opposite issue — for the majority of the year, we have fine weather, and so it becomes commonplace to me and so I stop snatching it while I can. Then summer rolls it and it’s 110 degrees and I’m realizing those fair weather days really *were* precious and I should have taken them when I could.

      I hope to do better this year!

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