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    Preventing Homeschool Burnout: Get Some Sleep

    February 2, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    The children need your utmost freshness of mind and energy, so do not sit up late preparing lessons; what you seem to gain in preparation you lose by tiredness next day.

    Charlotte Mason

    February is Homeschool Burnout Month. You know the one: the month where we all crash and burn. The children are climbing the walls, and Mom is losing it, while also beating herself up about it because didn’t she just take two or three weeks off in December? She should be able to muscle through.

    Shouldn’t she?

    Well, maybe. A lot of these situations are very personal, in the sense that the underlying cause is particular, not general. But, with that said, it remains that muscling through requires a certain level of well-restedness. If you were up too late and long during the holidays and never had a chance to catch up, or if you’ve been up with sick kids in the middle of the night, or if you just couldn’t put down that novel (ahem), or even if you’re up prepping for the next day’s lessons, the fact remains that you just might be tired.

    Preventing Homeschool Burnout: Get Some Sleep

    If you feel yourself teetering on the edge of the Dreaded Burnout, and you know (or even suspect) you haven’t gotten enough sleep, this is step one. Also keep in mind that some of us seem to need more sleep in the winter time. I definitely fall into this category. Less sun translates into a need for more sleep for me. I hate sleeping more, but I do it anyhow.

    In our seventh grade chemistry readings, we’ve been discussing the idea of burning β€” what makes something burn? Well, there are a number of factors, but one thing required is oxygen.

    There are a lot of other things that can help, such as fuel, kindling, or a spark. But all three of those things together won’t make a fire in the absence of oxygen.

    Homeschooling is like that. Later in this series, we’ll talk about those things (fuel, kindling, and spark). All of those things can be wonderful and helpful, but without oxygen, nothing takes fire.

    Without oxygen, the candle that was initially burning goes out.

    Now, you could be feeling like you’re going to burnout and it has nothing to do with sleep, but I’m bringing it up first because it is the First Thing. I really believe that.

    A few years ago, I had a bit of a health crisis. I won’t go into it except to say that my husband was trying to help me and one of the very first things he did was say that he thought we needed to go to bed earlier. At that time, it was our habit to go to bed around 11:00 pm, and sometimes later than that. He was rising around 6:15 or 6:30 to get ready for work, and I was up even earlier to milk my goats.

    It simply wasn’t enough.

    And so we started going to bed by 10:00 pm. I cannot tell you how much this helped. It didn’t fix me. But it created a condition in which I could start healing.

    In the health world these days there is a lot of talk about sleep. You can try to do all the “right” things in terms of diet and exercise and sunlight and and and … but at the end of the day, sleep makes all the difference. Sleep can determine whether all the other good stuff is actually effective for you.

    Early in my motherhood, I read a book about sleep. The title escapes me, but I remember that the author was the man who discovered REM sleep. The book was fascinating. One thing that has always stuck with me is the idea that the sleep-deprived person is a lot like a drunk in terms of decision making ability and performance.

    So let’s think about that. Do we really think that drinking too much would help us run a better homeschool? Would waking up with a hangover destine us to a great school day?

    Being much too tired is just like that.

    People: sleep is your oxygen when it comes to preventing burnout. Absence of oxygen makes burnout a sure thing.


    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 ScholΓ© Sisters:

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  • Reply Leanne February 8, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    You are so right! Sleep is the most important factor to a healthy body and mind.

    Why we sleep? By Matthew walker
    A must read for every one! Have added to my teenagers essential reading list. Should be required reading for every student, physician, counsellor, policy maker, teacher, parent, and pastor!

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  • Reply Margaret February 4, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    I have older children and its not homeschooling that burns me out it’s all the interruptions and extra or other commitments that cause the problem. Business commitments, phone calls, proofreading reports, church commitments… Saying NO and guarding your time is essential. That advice of 30minutes of reading time is a valuable habit to work on. I have been working on that this year…one whole month:)
    Lovely advice, those younger years are very physically trying .. it does improve and a night of sleep will come.

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

      Oh, this is so true, Margaret! Over-commitment is so easy to slip into and yet so dangerous to us because it can overwhelm. Wise words!

  • Reply Ann-Marie February 3, 2015 at 11:37 am

    You could not be more right, Brandy! I am having a bit of a health concern the past year myself. I have always been an early riser (usually before 5am) and I love that peace and quiet time to pray and read and it always put a good start on my day. This past year I have not been able to do that and actually stay in bed until at least 6:00 or so and cannot tell you how much this has helped. Has not solved the issue, but, definitely has helped so much! I have always been a firm believer that I sleep much better as long as I am in bed before 10:00 too.
    Sleep is good πŸ™‚

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 3, 2015 at 11:44 am

      I recently read that sleep is more effective before midnight versus after. I wonder if that is why pushing back the bedtime helps?

      I’m sleeping in later in this winter, too. Increasing the sleep on both end. I figure I have one month until kidding when the early mornings start! πŸ™‚

      It’s hard to give up the quiet mornings, though, isn’t it? I hope this is just a season for you!

  • Reply Sheri February 3, 2015 at 3:27 am

    Amen and Amen! I totally agree. I’m in my 19th year of homeschooling and a former “burnout” victim. Getting sleep is so very important.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 3, 2015 at 11:47 am

      I bet you have a lot of tips for us if you are a former burnout! I am so glad to hear you made it through that season!

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 2, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Such good advice! I’ve been struggling with a cold and waking with uncontrollable coughing at 4:30 am every morning. Not good for my patience or my resistance to temptation and tears. Eventually it will stop.

    Children need sleep, too. After two late nights (and still early risings), my children struggled all day. If children are overly tired, parents need to have even more patience (which is even more difficult if the parent is also overly tired). It’s all a vicious circle.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 2, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Excellent point about the children needing sleep! I have had people question us on having our 12yo still having a 7:30 bedtime, but the reality is that he wakes at 6 — or even earlier — no matter what we do. He needs his sleep, so 7:30 it is (well, on a normal night — he does stay up occasionally when there is something special going on).

      I’m sorry you’ve been sick! That is so tough, I know!

  • Reply Amber February 2, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Sounds great, care to convince my 14 mo old who is STILL waking 3-5+ times a night? I’m already going to bed at 9:30 and waking at 6:30 but the night waking has left me exhausted and sometimes barely functional. I could on but I probably shouldn’t. But I know better sleep would transform my life… Too bad I can’t seem to get there (yet!)

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 2, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      Oh, that is a rough patch for sure! I’m so sorry! I will pray for you. I remember feeling traumatized by the night waking for YEARS after my youngest was sleeping through the night. Maybe you can catch a nap today. πŸ™‚

      • Reply Amber February 7, 2015 at 5:00 pm

        Thanks, Brandy! I did get to have three nights in a row where she was up only twice and that was such an improvement! Last night was tough again (I think all the wind and storm noise was waking her) but I gave myself permission to take a nap. Time to be realistic and make sleep a bigger priority!

        • Reply Brandy Vencel February 8, 2015 at 1:06 pm

          Naps can be annoying, but oh so very helpful! πŸ™‚

          • Amber February 9, 2015 at 1:22 pm

            Yes, exactly, it is so hard to convince myself that a nap really is the best use of my time – especially since it uses that precious baby and toddler napping time!

          • Brandy Vencel February 9, 2015 at 3:59 pm

            Have you ever tried cat napping? I perfected that art on my fourth child. πŸ™‚ It really did help — I’d set a timer, and sleep for about 15 minutes. It was refreshing, and kept me going the rest of the day. It was a really good compromise on those days where I was dragging, but there was too much to be done to take a full nap…

          • Amber February 11, 2015 at 11:30 am

            Catnapping is something I haven’t managed to master. For some reason I can do it when I’m pregnant, but not otherwise. I just can’t settle quite fast enough to make it work.

          • Brandy Vencel February 11, 2015 at 2:58 pm

            Oh, yes. Pregnancy would throw a wrench in that. Totally makes sense!

    • Reply Kathy February 10, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      I hear ya! None of my kids sleep through the night because of sleepwalking, night terrors, or seizures. Sleep just isn’t an option for me right now. I guess I’ll catch up when they’re all moved out πŸ˜‰

      • Reply Brandy Vencel February 10, 2015 at 2:56 pm

        Oh, Kathy! I am so sorry! That is rough. I have a friend who likes to say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” πŸ™‚

        We had long years of sleepwalking, too. Not many night terrors, though. Those are scary!

  • Reply Laurie February 2, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    I have an elderly, wise friend who always tells me that sleep is like medicine. She often referenced it when one of my children were ill. As the years have passed I have come to see sleep as a balm to my soul as well. Doesn’t everything seem better in the morning? Aren’t God’s mercies new every morning?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 2, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      Oh, that is so true! Things really *do* seem better in the morning. Thank you for that reminder, Laurie! β™₯

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