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    Preventing Homeschool Burnout: Learn Something

    February 4, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    If sleep is the oxygen, our own learning is the spark. Even though oxygen is a necessary condition for a fire, sparks are also instrumental. Sometimes, one spark is enough. Other times, especially if you build fires as incompetently as I do, it might take a few tries before it really gets going. Sparks are especially important if the fire has already gone out. But sparks can also help a dull and dying fire, especially if you also add more kindling and fuel (which we’ll get to next week).

    Preventing Homeschool Burnout: Learn Something

    We’ve talked about Mother Culture before, but let’s do a brief review. To define it in a single sentence, I’ll say:

    Mother culture is thirty minutes a day spent reading, thinking, or remembering.

    This is taken from the Parents’ Review article called Mother Culture, the article that is the reason we use the term in the first place. Of course, I also love to use the word scholé because it contains the idea that learning and growing are the proper use of our leisure time.

    The two are, in many ways, the same thing. Perhaps we could say that mother culture — that thirty minutes per day — is the bare minimum?

    If you have the time, I suggest you read the whole article. It confronts the way we mothers tend to lose ourselves in our children, to the point where all learning and growing cease. This is so tempting when there are babies, babies everywhere, and they have so many needs and there is only one of us to go around.

    And yet.

    The article warns us that those babies grow up and become school aged and later teen aged, and if we haven’t learned and grown, we don’t have much to give them. We’ve used ourselves up.

    So what does all of this have to do with preventing homeschool burnout?

    Well, while it is true that learning and growing help us have something to offer to what our babies will be someday — to become what they need us to be when they are older and looking for more than a diaper change and a cuddle — I think mother culture has a lot more power than that.

    It is really hard to burn out when we are learning and growing. Learning and growing are signs of life while burnout is the sign that the fire is dying or dead. Do you see the difference?

    Just as a spark gives life to a fire, our study gives life to us. It’s called enlivening.

    We all say we “want our children to love to learn” but do we love to learn? Find something to love learning about. It’s not only the best example you could set for your children, but it’ll make your life a lot more interesting and give you some perspective on household challenges.

    Because sometimes, our worlds have simply gotten too small.

    I love learning in winter because the cold makes me want to snuggle up with a book anyhow. It’s not like summer where there are swimming pools and beaches calling to us. What is not to love about a blanket, some coffee or tea, and a book in winter?

    The question for some of us is finding — or rather, making —the time. The article says:

    Mother must have time to herself. And we must not say “I cannot.” Can any of us say till we have tried, not for one week, but for one whole year, day after day, that we “cannot” get one half-hour out of the twenty-four for “Mother Culture?” — one half-hour in which we can read, think, or “remember.”

    The key is to look at our calendars and figure out where it best fits. It’s hard at first. But I can tell you that it’s a very powerful habit to have.

    I think the power comes from taking an interest in something. It’s the interest which sparks the growth, and the growth is almost assumed once the interest takes hold. You see, mothers are born persons, too, and so what we know works with our children — learning and growing via paying attention — works with us as well.

    The amazing thing is that our growth doesn’t just benefit us. In fact, if you’re uncomfortable with this idea, then let’s return to the article. The article isn’t suggesting growth for growth’s sake. Rather, it’s growth for the sake of the family. Because the family needs the mother to grow up and become more than she currently is.


    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 How I Find Time to Read | Afterthoughts December 7, 2019 at 11:22 am

    […] But, ultimately, I have to plan to read if I really want to make progress. And it’s not just about making progress — reading is an important part of preventing that dreaded disease, Homeschool Burnout. […]

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

    […] Learn something. […]

  • Reply Preventing Homeschool Burnout: Get Some Sleep | Afterthoughts September 3, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    […] Learn something. […]

  • Reply Tori March 1, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Thank you for writing about this. I have sensed my own need to keep learning. I love this and have been following your “schole” movement for a few months. I feel so much more alive now that I’m rediscovering some old things I loved and exploring things I’ve never known. I’m now reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time, inviting a friend to read and discuss Consider This with me, studying history with my Year 3 student, and writing pen pals around the world. Now, I’m just waffling about beginning an actual Schole Sisters group in my area.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 1, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      Do it!! Not to put any pressure on you 😉 …but…I cannot tell you how much my group means to me. Seriously. Learning, trouble-shooting, growing, and commiserating with these women has been a lifeline for me. If you are able to start a group — even a super informal one — I cannot recommend it enough. 🙂

  • Reply Brittney McGann February 10, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I usually do take the time for Mother Culture, but am currently in the middle of a move. A few days ago it occurred to me that I should listen to books on Librivox for myself. It is great! I make notes by chapter if I want to go back and write something in my commonplace book. I have been able to listen a few books farther down on my reading list. Packing, folding laundry or doing dishes doesn’t feel like such a drain on my time.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 10, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      What a great way to do it, Brittney! I always forget about Librivox…

  • Reply Amber February 7, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Now this is one I’m good at! Right now I’m learning about intelligent design, diving into the Odyssey (again – I could just read this book over and over again. It speaks deeply to me) and I’m just about finished with Consider This. Oh, and I’ll brag a bit too – I just reached my 200th sequential day on Duolingo!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 8, 2015 at 12:59 pm

      Oh! Duolingo! I was doing so good on that over the summer, and then I’ve neglected it for a number of months now. I really should get back to it…you remind me!

      You *are* good at this one! 🙂

      • Reply Amber February 17, 2015 at 10:15 am

        I’ve enjoyed my time on Duolingo and I’ve found it helpful… but I also feel like I’m plateauing on it a bit – at least with the 15 min a day I’ve been giving it. I’m spending most of my time in review and not making much headway, which is somewhat frustrating.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel February 17, 2015 at 10:19 am

          Do you know any Spanish speakers? I’m wondering if that would help? My sister-in-law is making time to attend her church’s Spanish service in order to practice. I do think that, eventually, real life communication helps. We have a Spanish speaker living in our back apartment, which is my excuse for not doing Duolingo right now. 🙂

          • Amber February 17, 2015 at 6:35 pm

            Eeek!! You mean actually speaking Spanish to someone? That sounds scary. 🙂 I know that would be the best thing for me, but I have such a hard time getting over the embarrassment of it and the paralysis I feel about making mistakes. Not good, I know… but treating Spanish like Latin is so much more attractive (and comforting!)

            I don’t actually know anyone who speaks Spanish though, or at least not more than in passing. But yes, that would be good for me and for my family!

          • Brandy Vencel February 18, 2015 at 12:06 am

            Maybe go to Mexican food for dinner? 🙂

  • Reply Kortney February 5, 2015 at 6:05 am

    I’ve been thinking that THIS was the year I would actually dive into CM in a serious way. And then this series–and your tips for newbies–pops up. And *flicker* is my word for the year. Hmmm.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 5, 2015 at 10:26 am

      Flicker! That is a great word. I like it!

      We’re sucking you in, you know. 😉

    • Reply dawn February 5, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      I like the word of the year, and though I resisted full-on CM for years, it really is a relief at this point. Now to work on that carving out half an hour for studying and study (not read twaddle :-/ )

      • Reply Brandy Vencel February 5, 2015 at 8:57 pm

        It’ll be fun! Twaddle is over-rated. Besides, good books do not have to be HARD books. 🙂

  • Reply Amy Marie February 4, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Excellent post and thank you for the link to the original article. I’ve been wanting to read that! 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 4, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      Thank you and you’re welcome. 🙂

  • Reply Ann-Marie February 4, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Very thought provoking and timely words, Brandy 🙂
    I have been contemplating this myself quite a bit lately. My children are beginning to get older and I find myself always *going, doing, and being* simply in a state of momma running close to being on empty. Not that I mind all of the *going, doing and being* because I truly don’t, but, I know that I need to be more than what I am right now to continue to be more for them and then we can all continue to thrive. Most days the first thing I cross off my calendar is time for me, even if it is just 30 minutes.
    Thanks for the gentle reminder 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 4, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      I understand because I used to do that, too. It is oh so easy. May you flourish, Ann-Marie! 🙂

  • Reply Kimberly February 4, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    EXCELLENT words! I can testify to the truth – digging into study always brings me alive and I LOVE it! 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 4, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      You are a kindred spirit, Kimberly. 🙂

  • Reply Mama Squirrel February 4, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Me, I like T.S. Eliot. He gives me things to think about while I’m shovelling snow.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 4, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      Oh, you are speaking my language, Mama Squirrel! I adore Eliot, and he definitely gives the mind something to think about. 🙂

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