For many families, the choice to unschool is based on the idea that there isn’t a need to stick to a rigorous or pre-set schedule. The days can be created around a family’s lifestyle and learning preferences. Additionally, the constant “busy” or “overscheduled” feeling that is often associated with traditional schooling can be reduced.
Regardless if you are new to unschooling or a seasoned veteran, there will be times in which the experience may feel overwhelming. Getting into the rhythm of a productive routine, tracking progress, scheduling learning opportunities and routines, and keeping your family motivated is a big responsibility for both parents and kids to take on.
While the pros of unschooling outweigh the cons for most families, the reality is that sometimes burnout naturally happens. Burnout occurs in any environment – whether it’s the workplace, a hobby, or education – when stress is high, support is low, or when it doesn’t feel marked progress is being made.
In order to stay inspired in your unschooling journey, there are a few tips that can help you tackle or avoid burnout and get back on track with learning.
Unschooling allows for unlimited amounts of creativity when it comes to learning and experiencing life. If you feel your child is getting bored or disinterested in a certain topic, find a creative way to spice it up. Take a field trip, let your child go to work with you or a family member, sign your family up for a volunteer opportunity, or find another way of learning the subject that may appeal to them (such as listening to audio/video, kinesthetic projects, or drawing).
Spend Time Outdoors
Unschoolers quickly realize that the entire world is their classroom and that it offers infinite chances for hands-on learning. Being able to capitalize on time outdoors or in nature is a wonderful benefit to unschooling. Science, math, history, and literature don’t just happen in the classroom but are alive in well even in the outdoors.
If you feel burnout coming on for you or your child, find a way to sprinkle in more outdoor learning days. Whether that means a picnic lunch at the park (teach them the life skill of packing for a picnic), practicing math while walking the dog, or exploring the plants and wildlife on a new hike, nature can be a great way to invigorate the body and mind.
Even cold or rainy days present an opportunity for incredible learning. Study the weather patterns, learn how to build a snow fort, or test out different weather-proof clothing and make note of the results.
One of the myths of unschooling and homeschooling is that kids don’t get enough time to socialize. This has been found to simply not be true!
However, sometimes it can be a challenge for families to schedule outings or playdates so that kids can find time to interact with others. This can be based on the size of the family or the ages of the kids, the family’s financial situation, or other factors that just make packing kids into a car more difficult.
But socializing can be one of the most powerful ways for children to learn skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, grit, patience, communication, and other valuable social skills. It’s also a great way to interact with other unschooling families or communities and potentially create more learning support for your family.
Check to see if your area has a local unschooling group that organizes occasional outings, play dates, and field trips. Look for opportunities such as age-appropriate music festivals, craft fairs, museums, and parks to relax as well as engage your child’s curiosity. Remember that it’s okay to ask for help from supportive family members as well. Grandparents or trusted family friends often love the chance to take the kids out for the day and introduce them to new experiences.
Every family has the chance to create their own systems, structure, goals, and preferences for their unschooling experience. This allows children to feel supported in their own unique and inviduals needs. Because unschooling isn’t a “one size fits all” experience, families have the ability to change their routines or create new processes for learning.
If you or your children start to experience burnout, it may be time to reassess those goals and systems that you currently have in place for unschooling.
Make it a priority to take time to discuss with your children what they feel is working and what isn’t. Assess where they are struggling and where they are excelling. Don’t forget to also consider your experience as an unschooling parent and taken inventory of how and where you could improve the experience. Be creative with solutions and dont’ be afraid to ditch a process that is causing you or your child undue stress or concern.
Reassessing your unschooling format on a consistent basis is essential to ensuring that it stays engaging, exciting, and manageable for all members of the family. The purpose of unschooling is to encourage a sense of freedom that comes with unstructured learning. Reassessment will help bring that purpose and mission back into focus in a big way.
Ask for Advice
Remember that you don’t have to go it alone with it comes to unschooling! There are a plethora of amazing resources, organizations, and people who are willing to share advice and tips on how to stay excited about your choice to unschool.
Consider observing other families in their unschooling day to learn new methods that could work well for your family. Seek out unschooling events or conferences that offer helpful tools and wisdom on how to best support unschooling and avoid the burnout.
Take a Break
Finally, don’t forget the simple power of a small break from the daily responsibility of unschooling. Just as traditional education allows for days off and holiday breaks, unschooling families have the choice to do the same.
If your family is feeling grumpy and a little stressed, get together and talk about ideas and options for how to take a break and rejuvenate. Perhaps you could take a road trip or a weekend vacation, schedule a staycation at a local resort, or carve out a few days to focus on family activities such as playing board games or exploring your city.
Perhaps your family just needs to change up their daily routine and schedule a bit. Maybe you’ve found that your children learn and focus better during certain hours of the day If so, capitalize on that knowledge and schedule the more engaging projects and outings during the other hours.
Schedule in family days where there is no intentional focus on learning or unschooling and encourage your kids to relax and play. Body and brain breaks are vital in keeping kids and adults healthy and happy!
Burnout happens to everyone, so don’t get discouraged if you notice it within your unschooling family. Simply dedicate time to going through these tips and remember that you’ll soon be back on your way to an exciting and rewarding unschooling adventure.