Nearly twelve years ago we achieved our dream, one we’d been working towards for years. We finally purchased our rural property! It was the best of both worlds, 147 acres/49 ha only 15 minutes from town. The property was everything we had looked for with the variety we wanted. It was; cleared, semi-cleared and bush, there were flats and hills, a creek and dams. Plenty of land for the children to explore and enjoy, a dam to swim in complete with a flying fox and canoes, space for a dune buggy to roar around in and trees to build a tree house in, places to go camping, freedom to be children. To afford the land though there was a compromise. The house was tiny, 11m x 9m (36ft x 29ft) and we had to fit in nine people. Including seven children with the oldest a new teen, in other words their bodies were poised to grow and grow. It was another three years later before we were able to begin our house extensions. That first Christmas only a fortnight after we moved in we also added a puppy to the mix.
We’d achieved the dream and yet… the wheels were to fall off our learning. Six months after moving in it was winter. Although our winter’s on the North Coast of NSW are quite mild, it all became too hard. I struggled with the house, the growing bodies on top of one another (although the children mostly ‘lived’ outside). Too the house’s positioning was incorrect, it didn’t face north, so it was cold all morning long. It was a cold, miserable winter. No energy, no interest, for months I just went through the motions. Fantasising about putting them on the ‘little yellow bus’ (which we don’t even have in Australia) became part of my thoughts.
Having been committed to home education for many reasons since even before their birth. Loving home education, these feelings and thoughts were so unexpected. However I continued to push through and the children did continue to learn. But this ‘boulder pushing’, the going through the motions, continued to be present for several months.
As Spring arrived along with warmer days I began to improve. Before I could begin to heal from burnout however, I had to identify why it had actually happened. Mixed in with the house, the weather, the changes, there was an underlying grief. Sub-consciously I was struggling with the fact that our life was changing. Our children were no longer all under thirteen, life was no longer simple. I could no longer group all the children together for our learning, life was becoming more complicated. Our oldest was demanding and needing more independent learning. I grieved the loss of this way of life for a long time. Our home education was to never look again like those earlier years, those halcyon days. This grief logically I know seems ridiculous and yet there it was.
A large part of healing from burnout is being kind to yourself an act I struggled to achieve. For a ‘glass half full’ gal I have a tendency when it comes to reflecting on myself and parenting and education, to be a ‘glass half empty’ gal to look at what I don’t achieve rather than what I do. The turning point was when a friend reminded me that teachers receive a paid three month leave, Long Service Leave, every ten years. It was a lightbulb moment, it all made sense, we were about ten years into our home education journey, it was as if I had ‘permission’ to be burnout, that this was a normal, natural feeling, I can’t express the relief this knowledge brought and thus I began the first steps of healing.
Healing from burnout is not an overnight process, in fact it took a long, long time, it took me well over a year. It’s really hard to pin point how long as I was still grieving our former way of life and I was adjusting and stretching to meet our new, new. Little did I know then that once your children reach their teens that there was never to be a set pattern again, that new, new, that elusive search for halcyon days was to be a reoccurring theme.
As I began to heal I employed a few tactics:
- Prayer was essential, nothing too overwhelming to start with, just quick, regular chats with Our Lord.
- Personal Health is another must. Sleep, exercise and eating nutritiously, tasks that seem overwhelming yet are important in healing. More importantly to not allow to decline in the first place.
- Gratitude Journal, I began journaling online, my version of a Gratitude Journal. Celebrating my Treasured Moments, purposely seeking fun activities and recognising the Small Successes that added up to triumphs. Part of my glass half full campaign.
- Nature – Spending time in Nature each day, even as little as five minutes a day. This can be a simple as hanging the washing on the clothesline, pushing a child on the swing, going for a Nature walk with your children, running outdoors, gardening, getting back in touch with our Creator, with Creation.
- Nurture – finding what nurtures your spirit, as a family and as an individual and endeavouring to enjoy that daily. For me reading aloud to our children meets a need deep in my spirit and has many added benefits foremost my relationship with our children. Nurturing can include; art or outdoor pursuits or board games and more. Nurturing for me includes books; reading daily, talking about books, going on a book ‘hunt’, collecting, caring for and collating. When I realised how vital and nurturing this was to my well being it was so liberating to give myself permission to happily be so quirky.
- Creativity – we all have a deep need to be creative on a nearly daily basis, not a need necessarily recognised by society today, this realisation was somewhat of a surprise to me. I hadn’t previously seen myself as creative, I had defined creativity as artistic talent and handicrafts and the like and truthfully felt like a failure. Yet when I began broadening the parameters I realised creativity encompasses many areas; gardening, home improvements, writing, clothes mending, photography, home organisation, and much, much more. Now I happily enjoy my home organisation, blog writing and photography and recognise this as my creative endeavours and rejoice in finally being a creative person.
The years have rolled on and we’ve just passed our second decade of home education. Despite promising myself that when our second ten year block came around I’d ‘take’ Long Service Leave and have three months off, I didn’t. Whilst I didn’t feel as enthused or motivated as usual for a few months, I didn’t experience burnout to with the same severity as the first time. Mostly I believe due to awareness and tactics I had continued to employ from the first experience. If you are currently labouring under burnout just take one step at a time, it does get easier. Encouraging you in your home education journey.
Inviting your to share your burnout stories, & recovery tips.