Beat the Yellow Bus Blues :: Combat Homeschooling Burnout

Ahem. I know I can’t be the only mom who has ever said, “If you can’t learn this from mama, then you are just going to have to go to school to learn it.” Please tell me I am not. It’s possible I have even said it more than once. Homeschooling is tough. It’s not for wimps or sissies, but requires strong doses of prayer, faith, and Diet Coke. And February is the toughest month of all.

What is it about February? Maybe it is SAD related — we have finally reached our limit of reduced light and vitamin D deficiency. Maybe it is the fact we have been nose to the grind stone since August. Maybe it is that we are all sick of being cooped up together as winter continues to howl around us with no spring in sight. I imagine it is a combination of those things that make February so tough. We are ready to throw in the towel — or at least throw it at that skittish chipmunk who can’t buck up and bear the sight of his own shadow so we can go to the park.

So for the days you glance longingly at the yellow bus as it passes your window, I offer you a list of ideas for beating burnout. Maybe you’ve thought of some of these or even done them. Maybe one or two is something new to you. Hopefully, having a selection of choices in one location will be the spark you need to choose something, do it, and save your sanity for another day.

Ten Ways to Beat the Yellow Bus Blues

Pamper Yourself More
Take some time this month to take an extra bubble bath or lengthy shower often. Treat yourself to a pedicure and a home-made facial scrub. Take an extra minute to put on lotion after a shower, spend more time in prayer, or sit and sip a cup of tea in the afternoon. Do whatever makes you relaxed and happy, but be purposeful in scheduling it in this month and following through.

Do More Field Trips
Yes, for some the weather can make it a pain to get out, but that is exactly the time when we need to make the effort. Go to the ice or roller rink, go sledding, visit the art museum, aquarium, or science discovery center, take the kids to a matinee.

You can read or listen to this post.

Visit every roadside historical marker in your county. Snap a photo, read the sign, and see if it sparks any additional interests. Be sure to take your smart phone along for impromptu web searches. While you’re out grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant (not a chain!) and chat it up with the people there.

Here’s a fun idea: have ice cream at the mall food court and then go on a scavenger hunt about the mall. Come up with categories where teams have to locate items. Some ideas are: Find an item made in Africa. Find an item that relates to a historical period we studied this year. Find a synonym for durable (or insert any word). Find a platonic solid. Find something printed in a foreign language.  You get the idea. The hunt can include cameras or be done on the honor system. You can form teams or work cooperatively.

School Four Days a Week
It’s only a month, and the shortest one of the year at that. Take an extra day off each week to let the kids (and mom) play, read, and pursue their own interests. It might be the refreshing change everyone needs.

Let Them Choose
Take a day each week or better yet do it every day this month where you ask the kids what they would like to learn about that day. You may have one or two non-negotiable subjects (or not — remember it is only for the shortest month of the year) but other than that, pursue their interests. They want to take a foray into Ancient Egypt, volcanoes, bubble science, cooking school, the history of comic book art — do it. Simply provide materials and offer assistance as they need it.

Tell Them Why You Love Homeschooling Them
What if every day this month your child woke up to a candy Kiss and a note from you listing one reason why you love being home with them each day? Would that make a difference in their attitude? Would writing the notes each night make a difference in yours? Can’t do an entire month? Then do two weeks or one, but showing love makes people feel good — the receiver and the giver.

Try Some Professional Development
There are a number of free or inexpensive online opportunities for homeschooling moms to grow as home educators.  Try an MP3 workshop or order an inspirational book you have heard about, but just never got around to reading.

Some of my favorites include:
Teaching Boys and Other Children who Would Rather Build Forts all Day
Freedomship Education
Homeschooling the Real Child
Any number of the free podcasts at Many are very good.
A Little Way of Homeschooling
Better Than School: One Family’s Declaration of Independence

Or Instead Just Fuggedaboutit 
Instead of professional development, take the opposite approach and forgo reading any homeschooling or parenting books for the entire month. Instead indulge in Regency romances, mysteries, or the latest fiction bestsellers. Re-watch favorite feel-good movies, musicals, or period pieces while munching popcorn. Maybe you can even watch a couple with the kids.

Do Something Fun — Often
If you can’t ditch the curriculum for the month take time out regularly to add a little spice to your days. Replace your normal “Word of the Day” with a “Joke of the Day” instead. Grab a joke book and type the jokes on slips of paper. As each one is revealed, family members can put them in order of funniest down to the bombs — the debates will be the best part.

Stage a cook-off between siblings and enjoy the fruits of every one’s labors. Institute regular tea times with a warm drink, light snack and fun poetry or old favorite novels to read aloud and share. Play board games for math or language arts time.

Serve Others
Many times simply by serving others our own situation doesn’t seem so tough. Visit shut-ins as a family and offer to serve them by doing some household chores, running errands or providing a meal. Make Compassion Bags — lots of skills to be learned in the shopping, decision making, budgeting, and card making on that one.

One of the biggest blessings I have received as a mom of little ones was almost three years ago when some friends hosted a gingerbread party. Our family was invited to the event with a story, crafts, songs and snacks at this family’s home one afternoon. Olivia and John were showered with attention from the older kids. All I had to do was sit back and watch while they had a fabulous time with no effort on my part. Those kind of acts of service are invaluable to a mom of multiple little ones. I think the homeschooling family putting on the party had a great time too.

Find a New Family Hobby
Do a quick poll and see if there is something you can all agree to learn together. Maybe everyone would like to try their hand at calligraphy, cupcake decorating or catapult building. Have a family book club (meet at the local coffee shop) or start a family walking or running club. Can you accumulate enough miles to equal a run across your state in one month?

Whether you do school-at-home or lean towards the more relaxed end of the homeschooling spectrum I hope you can find an idea or two here to help you through the doldrums of winter. And I would love to hear from you. What is your favorite way to beat homeschool burnout in February or any time of year? 

Linking up with List it Tuesday at Many Little Blessings and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Photocredit: Photo from Wikipdia Commons Caseydchap14 at en.wikipedia



  • Anonymous says:

    Awesome post! Great ideas!

  • Sarah says:

    Great post, Pam. Bookmarking it for future reference.

  • Erin says:

    A couple of years ago after hsing for 10 yrs I was burnt out, for a year or more, a horrid place to be and it took a long time to recover, a good year or more too. I would have to say your no1 was one I did not do enough of, and no10. When I finally started crawling out of my pit, they were the two that needed to be put in place and ones I continue to nurture. Oh and one thing that helped was a friend pointing out that teachers have long service after 10 yrs, I was overdue;)

  • Pam Barnhill says:

    Thank you everyone.

    Erin — Anyone who homeschools for ten years is a hero in my book. I am so thankful that you have recovered. I am curious about “long service” for teachers. What exactly is that?

  • Gillian says:

    What fun and creative ideas!

  • Just what I needed to read, I found you via Sarah, bless you for such encouraging words and yes, I’ve been known to threaten sending to school if I’m met with resistance at home!!


  • Mary Prather says:

    Wonderful post! Yes, February can be difficult – I love your suggestions.

  • Great post! I don’t have a “February” problem. February is our short dose of spring (temps in the 80s) before March and April bring triple digit heat indexes. That’s when we perk up and start really doing things.

    December. Now that’s my horrible month. The longer nights and shorter days make already difficult life with special needs kids even more difficult. Love the post. Sharing.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      It is almost the same here. I think our March is really more that way being just a little north of you Michelle. January is a pain, but I am trying to savor that little bit of winter that we do get that I don’t mind until Feb and it just gets old. 😉

  • Desiree says:

    Great list and ideas. February is a hard month, and I’m itching for spring really bad this year.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Thank you Desiree. This winter has been so wet and cold for us. I agree, spring just can’t come too soon.

  • […] Beat the Yellow Bus Blues: Ten Ways to Combat Homeschool Burnout […]

  • […] These lists could be used for long periods of time over entire grades or years (the elementary years comes to mind) or for brief periods of time when burnout might be getting everyone down. […]

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