Burn baby burn

(image source)

Hey, I have a post up on the blog of TODAYMoms!  They’re doing a series about home school, and asked me to write a short piece on . . . burrrrrrrrrn ouuuuuut.  It starts like this:

What does it take to be a great home-schooler? Passion, energy, creativity, high ideals and whole-hearted devotion to your kids.

What does it take to spoil home-schooling? Passion, energy, creativity, high ideals and whole-hearted devotion to your kids.

OK, not always. But many home-schooling moms find themselves burned out after a few years, exhausted by the very things that made the whole enterprise possible.

Welcome, TODAYMom moms — and to my regular readers, all four of you, please come and take a look.  I can’t tell you how pleased I am that my path to fortune and glory will be paved with tales of excruciating personal failure.  Stay tuned for the rest in the series,  which will explain why I am also okay with losing the battle against carpet stains, the size of my hips, the amount of hair on my upper lip, and that funky smell coming from under the couch.


  1. Congratulations on hitting the big time! 🙂 You’re a reliably thoughtful, funny and entertaining writer– I’m glad you’re getting a bigger audience!

    (On the other hand, if any of my doubting relatives email me your article as proof that I should pack it in because my toddler has a compulsion that causes himself to color himself as blue as braveheart going into battle, I may rescind my congratulations….:P )

    • I seriously almost didn’t write this article because of this very reason! It was pretty tricky to say, “This is how horrible it was, so I quit . . . but that doesn’t make me a bad mother . . . and you should try it yourself! It’ll be great!”

  2. Congrats! That was a well-written and fun article. (Not that I’m surprised.)

    Remind me to thank Kevin for pointing out your blog to me.

  3. Another great article, Simcha! We did “away” school for a year (okay, it was our first child’s kindergarten year, but we’d been signed up for homeschooling since before I was pregnant, so it still hurt) and it was really what we needed at the time. We learned a lot from it, and we’d do it again if we felt it was right. I’m working on my 4th year now, and I can definitely see how burnout happens.

  4. I’m a homeschool grad. I liked those first lines of your article! So true. I just wrote a post on homeschooling myself, although I am still attracted to the idea of homeschooling, I just don’t know if I am up for it.

  5. Re: “hair on my upper lip”…that’s great! I was just catching a glimpse of mine the other day and just said, “Skip it!” I’m so tired these days my fashion maven went out a few years ago. I purposely bought a pair of Danskos just so I could feel a little more hip and trendy. Of course, they make me feel lazy because I can just slip them on and off.:( Oh, well! “Excruciating personal failure”…I think that’s why I like your blog…keeping it real or is it that my misery loves company? Who knows…who cares?

    • “keeping it real or is it that my misery loves company? Who knows…who cares?”

      This is how I feel too, thanks Simcha. A voice of reality in a world of plastic moms.

  6. I could write the wikipedia entry on burn-out if I weren’t — burnt out. Thanks for writing about it for us who’ve been there and done it, but couldn’t express it as well — or as entertainingly. (How are ya, btw? How’s the big time? I’m proud and pleased to see you in the bright lights. I feel like I knew you when… Sorta.)

  7. I am in awe right now. My mouth is hanging open. Did you take over my mind for a while there? Wow. PERFECTLY expressed. Thank you so much for having the courage and going out on a limb with this one. But then again, you’re no coward, from what I’ve been reading (just discovered your blog). This is a difficult subject to broach, and one which many mothers feel touchy about, in a way that they don’t about NFP or pant-wearing. 😉 Like you said, it gets more personal and at the heart of the mother. God bless!

  8. ” I can’t tell you how pleased I am that my path to fortune and glory will be paved with tales of excruciating personal failure. Stay tuned for the rest in the series, which will explain why I am also okay with losing the battle against carpet stains, the size of my hips, the amount of hair on my upper lip, and that funky smell coming from under the couch.”

    I just love you!

  9. oh, yeah. I’m blessed that one of mine is radically gifted, so we send him to school AND I’m still essentially homeschooling him, esp in the summer. So, some days it feels like I’ve doubled my mommy guilt and burnout.

  10. Great post. This one and the other. I, too, am a recently defeated homeschooling mother. You hit the nail right on the head. I felt like I could never just relax with my kids. I was always behind the 8-ball. Work to complete, work to prepare for, too much to think about. And forget creativity. It was like never leaving the office. Not to mention the additional pile of housework that comes with everyone actually LIVING in the house all day long. I’m not looking for perfection, just not piles. And even though I recently sent them off to a charter school, I’m still validating my own homeschooling success by how well they’ve been doing on assessment tests, etc. See? I’m not a failure. (Still looking for that bumper sticker — I’m a proud former homeschooling non-failure.) All that aside. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I encourage those called to that role. It’s time I’ll never ever get back, and I truly will cherish forever. My kids know and like each other in a way that would have been rather unlikely had their relationship been squeezed into the squeaks of time that surround after-school activities. I’m still doing our religious curriculum, and it gives me a little ache to do it again. And I very likely will with little ones, once the time is right. God bless you for your honest (and humorous) sharing.

  11. I don’t think I have experienced burn-out (knock on wood) after all these years of homeschooling. I’ve had guilt, worry and frustration, but I haven’t gotten to the point where I throw in the towel. I think the biggest reason I haven’t is because I don’t have any other responsible educational choices for my children – the kind that I could stand before God on judgement day and defend. And maybe I don’t because God knows how weak I am and that given the easy way out, I’d take it. Like childbirth, there’s no way out of it. I’ve got to do and so I might as well accept my limitations, the sufferings, the doubts and just do it the best I can. For me, the challenges of homeschooling build character – mine.

    • Yes, it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you have no choice (and it’s amazing how quickly you can lose your incentive to keep fighting when you suddenly realize you don’t actually have to keep fighting!). I am very grateful that we had a good alternative.

    • I’m so glad you made this point, Kate. That is the crux of the issue. When you get to the point when it is no longer building character, but tearing down, you are forced to submit and wave the flag. When it turns into *knowing* your children need something else, but it is a struggle with pride to let go of the Ideals and the Philosophies and the identification that have really become the motivation, not the well-being of the children, then you stop and consider what is legitimately open to you. THEN. And then, only for some children. When you have a large family and you have a history and love of homeschooling behind you, then you take it one year and one child at at time and evaluate each one individually. As a mother of a numerous nine, and a lifestyle increasingly built around the medical needs of 2 of my children—-but all 9 who still need and deserve attention—- I, for example, can’t make blanket decisions anymore. Life is too serious and too precarious, it is always ebbing and flowing, and we must live in the now and attend to what we have at this moment to deal with. So, for us personally, we came to the point of realizing we could only homeschool some of our children, not all as we had been doing since we began almost 17 years ago on this journey. Since we were no longer attending to the middles well…….that ended up being for us for at this juncture, the high-demand high-schoolers and babies. 😉 But even that has become difficult for me, in all honesty. It is enough. I feel my age! And I feel my life’s crosses weighing heavily upon me. YOU WILL KNOW. And if you don’t, praise be to God. But if you do…..it’s all good. 🙂 It’s okay. In fact it’s been more than okay….my family has been tremendously blessed by the schools (some colleges) my children now attend. Peace.

    • Simcha, that was a great article! Well said, and as someone else mentioned, a touchy subject well-handled.

      Kate – you took the words out of my mouth. Especially the part about building character (mine). We all have our own special crucibles, don’t we? 🙂

  12. “I can’t tell you how pleased I am that my path to fortune and glory will be paved with tales of excruciating personal failure. ”

    it worked for Woody Allen! And he’s not even a nice person.

  13. I couldn’t post a comment on the article for some reason, but I wanted you to know that I really appreciated it. I am a mom of 3 kids, all under 3.5, and we have just started venturing into homeschooling. I have hopes that we will continue for many years, maybe even thru high school, but I know that I need to be flexible to the needs of my children. You know what your kids need better than anyone, and you’re doing what’s best! Keep on keeping on, Simcha!!

  14. Thank you so much for writing this. I stumbled onto your blog while googling burn out, and you made me laugh for the first time in a few days. I’ve homeschooled for 6ish years now while my husband has worked away from our home for almost the same length of time. My kids are now entering the teen years. I feel isolated, unsupported, alone, tired…and I think I hit the end this week. I just stopped caring. Reading your article was like reading an exact conversation I had with my sister….it’s really that accurate. I don’t know where to go from here yet but its nice to know I’m not totally looney for feeling the way I do and that other people get it.

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