Home School Burnout, Part 2
(Part 1 of Home School Burnout was in our last ejournal. If you missed it, you can read it HERE>> Part 3 will be in the next issue.)
Simple measures to avoid burn-out, continued
In the last issue of the ejournal we discussed that one of the measures we can take to combat burnout is to identify our "energy vampires." These are the people, activities, and beliefs that literally "suck" the energy and enthusiasm out of us. So far we identified the energy vampires of People and Activities. Here are some more "energy vampires" to become aware of.
Lifestyle as an Energy Vampire
A recent article in U.S. News and World Report focused on sleep-deprivation in America. Because of our fast-paced lifestyles, very few Americans ever know the clarity of thought and level of energy that comes with being fully rested. Not only do adults suffer from lack of sleep, but now children are at risk for sleep deprivation, because their lives have become as demanding as their parents’. In his book Margin, Richard Swenson says that to most Americans sleep is not what they do to rest, sleep is what they do because they are exhausted.
Although this seems elementary, the amount of rest you get and the kind of food you eat can have a dramatic effect on your ability to cope with life’s demands. Some questions you might ask yourself are: What makes me happy? What energizes me? What makes me feel productive? What comforts and renews me when I feel worn out and used up? What am I passionate about?
You can make major lifestyle changes that refresh you, or you can make minor changes by building what The 80/20 Principle calls “happiness islands” into your day. For example, I am a person who needs solitude in order to recharge and reconnect with what is important to me. Yet for years I lived in a four room house with three active boys and five or six employees coming in and out of an upstairs office all day. It was a radical invasion of my privacy, and some days I thought I would lose my mind.
I had to force myself to find reflective time, to create “happiness islands” for myself. Sometimes these “happiness islands” were as simple as taking a walk by myself, or shutting myself in my bedroom with a good book. Sometimes they had to be more extreme, like flying to Dallas to participate in a horse-judging seminar, or taking the boys to the beach for a few days by ourselves. In the process, I found out which colors, smells, sights, and activities renew me.
Beliefs as Energy Vampires
Think about it. Here we are, absolute amateurs, sitting around our kitchen tables, using our own children as guinea pigs and clinging to a belief that we can somehow give them a better education than an American institution that has multi-million dollar facilities and a professional staff, and that spends an average of $5,500 a year on each child. The only tools we have at our disposal are our own willingness to give it a try and assorted teaching materials modeled after those used in the public schools.
So we are surrounded with constant questions—questions from our relatives, our friends, members of our church—that undermine our convictions. Even worse, we have to battle questions from own minds like “Can I really pull this off? Do I know what I’m doing? Am I doing too much or too little? Am I using the right teaching material? Am I simply wasting time? Am I going to warp my children and make them total misfits?”
No wonder we struggle with burnout!
Obviously, these questions can become “energy vampires” that erode our sense of confidence about what we are trying to accomplish. We need to surround ourselves with confidence builders that reinforce our convictions, like books by John Gatto that let us know all is not as great as it may seem in the public schools. Or books by Raymond Moore that tell us that warm, loving, family life overcomes any deficiencies there may be in our teaching materials and methods. Or books by Edith Schaeffer that make us realize our homes have the power to mold lives in eternal ways.
There are three major “energy vampire” beliefs I have noticed as I’ve talked with home schooling families across the nation. You can probably spot more self-defeating beliefs in your own life, but here are three I have noticed:
1. The belief in scarcity.
This is the belief in “not enough”—not enough time, energy, money, opportunities, resources, and so on. When we hold a belief in scarcity, we limit ourselves. We tend to not step outside of our own “boxes,” because we feel we must hoard what little we have and we feel that no matter how much we try, our efforts won’t be “enough.” We are always afraid we are going to “run out” of time, energy, money, opportunities, etc., etc.
When we choose to believe in scarcity, we not only limit ourselves, but we insult God—the God Who is Enough, and Who, in fact, promises to give to us exceeding abundantly, pressed down, and running over. We also lock ourselves into anxiety over finances and time pressure, and into regret and grief over wasted time, energy, and money.
One of the reasons our family has tried to keep Hudson Taylor’s biography in print is that he was a man with a firm conviction that God would always “be enough,” and his response to every extremity was, “Now we have an opportunity to see what God can do!”
2. The belief in difficulty.
The word “bummer” has become firmly entrenched in the American vocabulary. It is reflective of a widely held belief that life is a hassle, a battle, an uphill climb, a constant proof of Murphy’s Law (“everything that can go wrong will”). Yes, it is true, we live in a fallen world, but that doesn’t mean we have to approach everything with a “What’s the use?” attitude.
What happened to Jesus' teaching that his burden is easy and his yoke is light? Sometimes I think Christians have so bought into a "warfare" mentality about life here on earth that they forget that Jesus has already won the war and we are "more than conquerers." Our lives shouldn't be the "vale of constant sorrow" sung about in old hymns, but exciting adventures.
When it comes to lowering the level of difficulty in my life, one of the most important lessons I ever learned was about the power of repetition. I used to never make up my bed, because I would hit the floor running each morning and never slow down until I fell into bed again at night. The unmade bed always bothered me, but it seemed like an insurmountable task to tackle first thing in the morning.
A friend happened to mention that if you do something for six months, it becomes a habit and it no longer requires any extra emotional or physical energy. Silly as it may sound, I thought, “Maybe I can try making up my bed for six months.” Well, that was twenty five years ago, and I don’t even think about making up the bed anymore. I just do it when I get up. Since that time, I have used the power of repetition to eliminate the draining effect of certain tasks that I dislike. I’ve found out that social scientists call this “unconscious competence.”
All tasks, particularly tasks that require overcoming a certain amount of inner resistance, have a “competency” curve where once you reach a level of mastery, no further mental, emotional or physical effort is required. We see this all the time when we teach a child to read. For months it seems like we are getting nowhere, but all of a sudden our child reads effortlessly.
Speaking of the word “bummer,” did you know that you can change how you feel about life by simply changing the words you use? If you find your everyday conversation filled with words like “exhausted,” “rushed,” “overloaded,” “stressed,” “frustrated,” “disappointed,” and so on, you may want to make a conscious effort to change the words you use.
Find positive (or even humorous) words to replace your “bummer” words. For example, you can say, “I am achieving warp speed” instead of saying “I’m rushed” or “I’m at critical mass” instead of “I’m overwhelmed.” Not only will changing your words make you think about the labels you put on your life, but it will make those around you start listening to you again. Your family has probably tuned you out because they’ve heard you say the same negative things over and over.
3. The belief in failure.
Robert Kiyosaki says the most damaging beliefs the public school system teaches are (1) that mistakes are bad and (2) that there is only one right way to do something. These beliefs create a fear of failure, a fear of making mistakes, that thwart true learning. Kiyosaki further says that most true learning comes from making mistakes, from falling down and trying again like you do when you learn to walk or learn to ride a bicycle. So failure always has something to teach us, and often teaches us more than success does. Kiyosaki says there are no failures, only “outcomes” and he calls mistakes “outcomes with attached emotions.”
What if we really believed God works everything for our good and even redeems our mistakes? That would dispel a lot of our fear and anxiety.
4. The belief that it will always be this way.
One of my mother’s favorite phrases is “This too, will pass.” It is her way of acknowledging the inevitability of change. Sure, right now you are up to your elbows in baby doody, your house is a wreck, and there is no way you will have supper on the table in time. No wonder you feel stressed and harbor thoughts of sending the kids to military school! But believe me, there will be a day when you would give anything to have a peanut-butter and jelly smudged four-year-old son crawl onto your lap and ask you to read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel for the four hundredth time.
These days with your children will pass you by in an instant. All of my children are now well beyond the diapers and peanut-butter stage and what I miss most are the snuggles, the little hands reaching up to me, the plaintive cries for “just one more story,” the proud calls of “Mama, come quick and see what I did!”
How could I ever have thought it was a hardship to read Mike Mulligan? I would gladly trade all of the clean houses in the world for more of those stressful years when my children were small and every day held a thousand new wonders for them to discover.
Beliefs have a powerful impact on how we perceive life. Next time you are frustrated, anxious, or depressed, ask yourself, “What would I have to believe to feel this way?” Recognizing the false beliefs you allow yourself to hold about people and situations, and then consciously trying to align those beliefs with God’s truth, will dramatically change the way you approach life. For example, if you believe your children are “rug rats,” you will relate to them totally differently than if you believe they are “blessings from God.”
In The Safest Place on Earth, Larry Crabb says:
"We simply do not believe in a God who is so intrinsically good that His commitment to be fully Himself is equivalent to a commitment to be very good to us. When He tells us that He is out for His own glory, and will glorify Himself by making known who He is, we can relax. It’s something like a wealthy, generous father declaring his intention to display his true character. We know we’re in for a bundle. That is, if we’re his heirs."
More measures to combat Burnout
Spiritual Friendships, Mentors and Christian Counselors
We are relational beings, and, ultimately, all of our problems are relational. All of the practical areas discussed so far in this article have to do with changing how we relate to created things (like time and our living environment) and changing what we allow to affect our relationship with ourselves (our thought patterns, our energy level, etc.).
But there are other relationships that contribute to stress and conflict in our lives. Yes, we may have too much to do and not enough time to do it, but this time/space problem only reaches “burn-out” when there are underlying relational problems such as tension between husband and wife, conflict between parents and children, or estrangement between fellow Christians. Usually the largest source of relational stress is in our marriages, because most of us got married without ever being taught how to make a marriage work.
Those of us with relational problems don’t need time-management courses or housekeeping seminars, we need spiritual friendships, mentors, and counselors who help us develop right relationships with others and with God.
What about spiritual friendships? Unfortunately, many of us hesitate to share our deepest struggles, because we suspect other Christians will treat us like a problem that needs to be fixed or like fodder for the church gossip mill. Larry Crabb says in The Safest Place on Earth that all Christians yearn for...
"...a community of friends who are hungry for God, who knows what it means to sense the Spirit moving within them as they speak with you. You long for brothers and sisters who are intent not on figuring out how to improve your life, but on being with you wherever your journey leads.
We would give nearly anything to be part of a community that was profoundly safe, where people never gave up on one another, where wisdom about how to live emerged from conversation, where what is most alive in each of us is touched....where we would feel safe enough to meaningfully explore who we are with confidence so that the end point would be a joyful meeting with God."
Scripture tells us that God intends for the Body of Christ to be just that: a safe place that nourishes the godly in us and brings us to a “joyful meeting with God.” It is worth searching for spiritual companionship, even if we find only one or two others who befriend us spiritually.
But church is rarely a "safe" place to share your problems, struggles, and failures. I recently read The Early Christians in their Own Words and tears ran down my face at the compassion and love they showed one another.
What about mentors? Within the Body of Christ, godly older women are specifically intended to help other women be all that they can be as wives, mothers, and home-makers. But, as I once remarked to a Christian psychologist, “All of the older Christian women I know are faking it just as badly as I am!”
Most of us have struggled to become Titus 2 women—keepers at home, lovers of our children and husband, etc.—but very few of us have had godly older women to show us the way. Instead, we have been nurtured and discipled by women who are as unskilled as we are at fulfilling the Titus 2 mandate. I have always thought of my generation as a “sandwich generation.” We are “sandwiched” between a generation that never mentored us, and a generation that desperately needs for us to mentor them.
How do we cope with this dilemma? First, we need to take a good, hard look at who our primary influencers are. Are these women happy and fulfilled as wives and mothers? Can they provide us with a pattern of beliefs and godly living as well as with practical skills that we can duplicate in our own lives? Is their influence causing us to be happier and more productive, or do we relate to them because “misery loves company?”
A common saying is that you will be like the five people you spend the most time with, so it's important tospend time with people you want to be like (and stop spending time with people you don't want to be like.)
Second, we can search for women worthy of modeling. Sometimes this will mean we have to settle for second-hand modeling, by reading books or listening to tapes by women who are well-respected and generally acknowledged as worthy to instruct other women. For example, most of my role models are women I never knew personally: women like Corrie Ten Boom, Edith Schaeffer, and others whose lives will withstand scrutiny.
In addition to the lack of godly, older women, there is a dearth of mature Christian counselors. It is hard to find someone to talk to whose advice isn’t mixed with pop-psychology, or who doesn’t try to superimpose their agenda over your problems. What do I mean by “agenda?” It’s like the old saying: “When you have a new hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
We’ve all had the experience of someone trying to make our problems fit their doctrine. If they happen to be into inner healing, then our problem becomes the “nail” to their inner healing “hammer.” If they happen to believe in demons, then our problem becomes the “nail” to their deliverance “hammer.” Don’t be ashamed to seek professional help, but when you do, check the person out as carefully as you would any other mentor. And don’t let anyone ever treat you like a “nail.”
Part 3 is coming next! You'll learn about "Sin and Unbelief as Causes for Burnout," "Reaching Ground Zero with God" and much more. Stay tuned....
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You might be home schooled if...
. . . you've ever been in more than three grades at once.
. . . all the signatures on your graduation diploma end with the same last name.
. . . your extracurricular activities take more time than your academics.
. . . your teacher has ever come to school in her pajamas..
. . . your family has the national average of 2.5 children...in each bedroom!
. . . you get your high school diploma BEFORE you get your driver's license.
. . . your answering machine gets the phone more than you do.
. . . your high school transcript has 100 hours of "electives"
. . . your cat gets to go to school with you every day.
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Home School Resourcese
The following books were referred to in the article Home School Burnout, part 2.
Books by Richard Swenson, M.D. Margin is one of the most important books we have ever read. All of Swenson's books have a common theme--how we have lost the "margin" in our lives and how to regain it. "Margin" is his term for the space that should exist between us and our financial, emotional, spiritual, and physical limits. I recommend that you read every one of Swenson's books because there is no such thing as a life with too much "margin." His books include:
Restoring Margin to Overloaded Lives
Books by Richard Koch. The 80/20 principle asserts that there are relatively few key things we do in our lives that produce most of the results we want, so finding those key things and focusing on them is the most important use of our time, energy, and money.
The 80/20 Principle
The 80/20 Individual
Books by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Home Grown Kids is the book I read 20 years ago that started me on my home schooling odyssey. It describes how damaging education can be to a child who is not ready to learn, how institutional schooling leads to peer dependence, and what our children lose by not being with us when they are growing up.
Home Grown Kids
Home Style Teaching
Books by Robert Kiyosaki. Have you ever noticed how many highly successful businessmen like Bill Gates and Michael Dell dropped out of school? Kiyosaki's books address how school teaches you ideas and attitudes that are actually counterproductive to life in the "nonschool" world and how success "thinks." These books are "MUST READS."
If You Want to be Rich and Happy, Don't Go to School
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Cash Flow Quadrant
The Early Christians in their Own Words
My son Seth told me about this book and it is a touching, inspiring, challenging look at what it meant to be a Christian when the church was young.
The Safest Place on Earth by Larry Crabb. Finally someone has described what we've all dreamed the church could be like--a place where you are loved nurtured, and changed into the image of Jesus.
Biography of Hudson Taylor. The two-volume biography of Hudson Taylor is out of print and hard to find, but, next to the Bible, is one of the most important spiritual books I've ever read. There is a condensation of the 1200 page work still in print that is also excellent and should be read by everyone.
Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret
Books by John Gatto. These books will change the way you think about education. Gatto was a public school teacher for decades and New York's Teacher of the Year, so he has first-hand experience with the effects of public schooling. Not only do his books discuss the major issues about what schooling does to our children, he offers insights into what a true education entails and reflects on our society as a whole and the distorted thinking that leads us to subject our children to an influence that robs them of their creativity and enthusiasm for learning. Gatto's books are "MUST READS."
Dumbing Us Down
A Different Kind of Teacher
Books by Corrie Ten Boom. I had the blessing of meeting Corrie Ten Boom years ago and sitting in on many of her live teachings.
She is someone worthy of emulating.
The Hiding Place
Tramp for the Lord
Books by Edith Schaeffer. I also had the priviledge of spending time with Edith Schaeffer and she has been one of my role models for all of my Christian life.
The Hidden Art of Home Making
What is a Family
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