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