Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What to Do When You Run Out of Fuel

"Everyone wants to quit in November and February." -Susan Wise Bauer via Anne Bogel

When Mr. Hippie and I were courting, I used to spend one day of the week with his family. Since we lived over an hour and half apart, sometimes Mr. Hippie would bring me to my dad's workplace and I ride home with my dad. Sometimes Mr. Hippie would drive me all the way home.

Well, one of those times, when we were still 15 miles away from my house, we ran out of gas. We were between towns and the nearest gas station was about 2 miles away. It was dark, and it was the days before we had cell phones. We had hoofed it most of the way to the gas station, when someone saw us, picked us up, brought us to the gas station and brought us back to the truck.

I think that was the only time we have run out of gas together. (knock on wood) We have run on fumes before, but always managed to coast into the gas station.

What a picture of home schooling life...Have you ever reached this point in home schooling? Either running on fumes or completely out of gas?

I did-this year. I wrote about it (here). I was exhausted from a super long conference weekend in which I learned tons of things that I hadn't had time to process. It was grey. I had no energy. All I wanted to do was bury myself in a pile of blankets and not come out for a few days. Oh, and cry and eat lots of chocolate.

A wise home schooling mom and friend of mine on FB, told me to take a day off. Another friend told me to ditch our schedule for the day and do something fun and crazy. Someone else told me to rest.

Get the picture?

Here are my strategies for refueling my home school tank...

1) Take a break. Be it a day or a week. Sometimes even home schoolers need a break. I think one of the strong points of home schooling is that we get to set our own schedule. And it is one of the weak points too. Home schoolers don't take the breaks that traditional schools take. We don't have staff in service days, or snow days, or parent teacher conference days. Which means that right now in November, we are on our 12th week of school and we have clocked 60 days of school. Which is great. But...

Freedom to set our own schedule needs to go both ways. Freedom to keep on when public schools are breaking and freedom to take a day or more when we need a break.

That Friday that I was burned out, my kids watched non educational movies most of the day. I cried repeatedly in bed, slept, read, drank tea. And got my soul recalibrated.

On another note, I always debate taking spring break, because we are so.close. to being done. But I have never regretted taking that week. It gives enough renewal to push on strong to the finish.

2) Sleep. I have a vision in my head. And maybe it is just me. But growing up, the home school stereotype was of kids sleeping in until noon, and then doing school in their pajamas. Unprofessional to the max.

And, I never want people to think that is how I home school.

So, being the over achiever type I am, I get my kids up by 7:45, they get dressed, brush their teeth, make their beds, eat breakfast, do some chores, and are ready for school to start at 8:30. And, I get up hours before them and have usually showered, drank coffee, swam or run, and made their breakfast before I get them up. 

But, I've noticed something as I have gotten older-I need more sleep. Every year. If I am not getting a solid average of 8 hours of sleep most nights, I start to fall apart. My moods tank. It is not cool. I need sleep. Sometimes I can get that sleep by going to bed earlier. Sometimes that time needs taken in the morning.

So, whether I sleep in until 6:00 or 7:00 or 8:50 (like I did this morning-I am fighting a cold), I need to sleep and sleep guilt free. And then get up and do my day, step by step. Not beating myself up because I started it later than I should have.

3) Plan ahead. I find that having planned out my curriculum last summer gives me a framework for the days and weeks that I really would rather not do anything at all. I look at my spread sheet and I already know what we need to do. It has saved me a lot of work, and also has definitely contributed to a lot less "oh, we'll do that later." I know exactly what lecture we are watching, what composer we are studying, what science experiment we are doing. It has been great.

4) Be flexible. I find that when I have a schedule, it actually allows me to be more flexible. I can look at my future plans and see where I have wiggle room.

Case in point...that day I was in bed...I actually had scheduled a lecture free week because of my conference. We ended up taking it that day. So we are right on track-not behind at all. As for science that week, we were studying Isaac Newton and prisms. We needed a sunshiny day for our experiment, but it was grey that Friday. The next Friday was gorgeous. And perfect for our experiment. We were able to slip it in, without making our school day much longer. It was fun, and it worked perfectly.

5) Get out of the house and do something fun and/or crazy. Go to the zoo or a museum or take a nature walk. Get a manicure or pedicure. Read a fun book.

My advice to you and to myself? Switch things up a bit. Laugh. Remember why you are home schooling. Remember your call. Be flexible and be reasonable with yourself. Don't hold yourself hostage to your own expectations. Step away for a day, an hour, a week, in order to be refreshed. You will be glad you did.

Check out these ladies' tips for getting recharged