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    by Mike McHugh

Avoiding Home School Burnout
Date Posted: December 7, 2006

A common concern among home educators today centers around the subject of "burnout". More than a few recent books or newsletters have contained testimonials describing the plight of home school parents who pushed themselves to the point of exhaustion and experienced burnout. Most parents who end up in this depressed state for a season have simply set unrealistic goals for themselves and their children or perhaps have pursued certain objectives at a pace that was wrong for their families. These occasional testimonies should not be surprising, however, for as long as human beings remain fallible they will continue to experience brief seasons of depression or burnout.

What is perhaps most distressing about the home school movement’s seeming preoccupation with the subject of burnout, is the emphasis that people become stressed to the point of total exhaustion primarily because of "environmental" causes such as misguided academic strategies. This familiar perspective fails to acknowledge that the root cause of genuine burnout is spiritual in nature and not the product of one’s environment. When Christian home educators lack the discernment to properly identify the reasons why people lose a positive focus toward home education, they become even more vulnerable to the darts of discouragement that Satan loves to throw their way. God’s children must never forget that a Christian’s attitude should not be dictated by his circumstances in life, be they delightful or distasteful. I believe that Isaiah 26:3 is on point here: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee."

The difficulty in discussing the real root cause of burnout in parents today is that the majority of material that has been written on this subject in recent years has been profoundly humanistic. For this reason, parent educators are not accustomed to considering burnout as a manifestation of spiritual frailty. Instead, they are prone to attribute the ill effects of burnout such as confused scheduling and poor student achievement, to the source of over-structured curriculums and orthodox teaching approaches. Nevertheless, the true reason why most parent educators become profoundly discouraged is that they lack spiritual stamina. On occasion, their may be underlying health issues that drive a parent toward depression and eventual burnout, however, these cases are rare. In most situations in which a parent becomes paralyzed by discouragement, the true source of the problem is not health related or simply because the parent is "too busy". One point certainly seems beyond debate; burnout stems from more than just the fact that home education is a hard and challenging venture, for few parents go into the arena of home schooling thinking that it will be easy!

The simple fact is that all parents who home school, just like all teachers in general, will have difficulties and hardships. But what does the Bible say in the face of such sober realities? John 16:33 declares the words of Christ who said, "… in the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." 1 Thessalonians 5:14-19 also provides believers with these exhortations: "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit."

No one who is tempted with discouragement and frustration can blame God for the fact that they succumbed to the pressures of their trial and sinned, for the Bible declares: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)

But, you may ask, what are some of the specific ways that God has given to escape the sin of burnout? Consider the following suggestions:

  1. Pray daily and earnestly that God would renew the spirit of your mind so you will not lose sight of your spiritual goals in the calling of home education. As it directs in James 4:7-8, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you …"
  2. Run your race with patience. Far too many home educators fail to pace themselves well. Never forget that when your strength fades and you are weak, you can obtain help from the Lord. As the prophet Isaiah stated so well, "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:29-31)
  3. Never forget that: "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Hebrews 12:6,11)
  4. The general teaching of Scripture directs believers to wait on God, be of good cheer, and the continue in prayer for the strength He alone can provide. "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing," (James 1:2-4)
  5. Be on guard against Satan’s devices. Never forget that Satan often uses the cares of this world to try to destroy the ministry of the Word of God in our lives, so that we might become unfruitful. Read Mark 4:13-23.
  6. Confirm in your heart the Biblical truth that a spirit of contentment is often gained only after a long learning process. Indeed, for many of us contentment must be re-learned many times within the context of life’s common struggles. It may help to view trials and tribulations as opportunities for learning contentment and patience! Read Philippians 4:11-13.

The clear testimony of Scripture would seem to support the view that home school burnout stems from the fact that parents permit themselves to be drawn away from their Lord by the cares of life and consequently lose their direction. Just like in the story of Peter walking on the water, far too many home educators are becoming shipwreck because they are taking their focus off of the Lord and placing it on their troubles. Like the familiar gospel song so rightly directs:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus; Look full in His wonderful face; And the

things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and

grace.

The solution to home school burnout is not to be found in "self-help" books or in secular workshops designed to improve a parent’s self esteem. Nor will this problem be properly addressed if parents choose, out of frustration or depression, to abandon their God given charge to train their children in the way of the Lord from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same. (Deuteronomy 6: 1-9) The real solution to burnout comes as God’s people cast all of their cares daily upon the Lord, for He cares for His people. As the good Book so aptly directs, "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice." (Philippians 4: 4)

Copyright 2006 Michael J. McHugh

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Biography Information:
This column is written by the staff at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois. As a pioneer in the homeschool movement, Christian Liberty ministries has been operating a full service, K-12 home school program for over thirty years and a Christian textbook ministry (Christian Liberty Press), since 1985. The mission of Christian Liberty is to provide parents with quality, affordable educational products and services that will enable them to teach their children in the home and to train their children to serve Christ in every area of life. A more extensive explanation of the CLASS home school program can be obtained at www.homeschools.org.
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