Gentle Wind School Newsletters
 August 30, 1989 Volume 1 Number 3 

Burn-out

Many homeschooling parents talk about burn-out, and imply that homeschooling their children is burning them down. We believe that most homeschooling parents were burnt-out long before their children were born. Our research shows that people who attended regular school past the third grade have lost their natural connection to reality and are, in effect, burnt out.

It is much more likely that homeschooling parents are merely discovering that they are burnt out and that their own educational experiences have robbed them of the resources needed to do the things they now want to do with their children. Most homeschooling families, especially families where children have attended regular school for a while and then been taken out, go through a period in which homeschooling seems to work. This is the "romance" period, a time when both parent and child are usually taken over by the romance of being at home and by the novel way of relating. Then, like all relationships, the romance is over. All that is left is what already happened to each of the people involved in the relationship before they got together. What happened to most parents and to some children is that they got burned out in the process of their schooling. Thus, what they discover is burn-out!

Once the romance is over, like all young lovers, homeschooling parents and children must get through the barrier of falling out of love in order to establish a more realistic relationship. In a more realistic relationship, each party can explore the commonalties within their mutual existence and decide whether there is enough similarity of purpose to warrant a continuation of that relationship in that way. Homeschooling parents and children must not only find a common ground for their relationship, but parents and some children must also continue to overcome the kinds of damages they incurred in school that are the cause of their current burn-out. In addition, most homeschooling parents, underneath it all, resent having to homeschool their children. They resent what was done to them when they themselves were children. They resent having to invest the time and the energy to provide their children with what schools have failed to provide. And they resent having to homeschool their children in a society that fails to support them as homeschoolers. Yet, in order to continue to school their children at home, they must overcome these resentments along with everything else.

Once these impossible tasks have been accomplished, homeschooling parents must construct an environment founded in reality, and not re-use the same destructive system used by educators that caused them to attempt to homeschool their children in the first place. The more parents try to imitate or compete with schools, and the more parents ignore the natural laws of learning, the more they will experience the feeling of burn-out.

Since almost everything that homeschooling parents know about school is dysfunctional, the real challenge is to discern the difference between the conditioned existence of education and natural reality. We suggest that parents who have taken their children out of school begin with a recovery period. Some parents and children need up to two years of vacation from anything that resembles formal schooling. During this time, parents and children are encouraged to become involved in physical world activities. This means that parents and children should do everything they can to discover how the world works and how things are put together. This does not mean visiting all the local museums. To find out how the world works, people need to learn how houses are built; how to fix the plumbing; or how to repair a car engine. This vacation period may also help parents and children find out what they are naturally interested in doing and learning about.

It should be understood, however, that homeschooling parents cannot recover from what happened to them in school, in the same way that Vietnam veterans cannot recover from what happened to them during the Vietnam War. Whether a man or woman exposed to the Vietnam War was a hero or a coward, the damages incurred at that time will not go away, nor will the damages incurred in school environments. Most homeschooling parents, like everyone who was exposed to the educational system, have incurred so much damage that they are unable to perceive how much harm has been done to them. We think that the Serenity Prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous applies here to homeschooling parents:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.

In other words, there is no hope for homeschooling parents. Our research shows that there are no systems or technologies anywhere in existence that can heal the mental and emotional harm that was done to people in school. The only improvement that homeschooling parents can hope for is going to be through their own children.

We have noticed there are several books and workshops that have been designed to help homeschooling parents with "burn-out." Although we have not attended any of these workshops or seminars, we seriously doubt that these seminars can do anything to repair the damage caused to homeschooling parents by the educational system, which is, in fact, the source of their problem. Our research shows that once this type of harm has been incurred, people cannot recover through any conventional means. We are then left to wonder if homeschooling parents who pay to attend these seminars are receiving any greater benefit than they would get if they sat down and talked with a loving, sympathetic, street-smart, butt-kicking friend who was willing to talk for free.

Although we do not know any of the "burn-out" seminar leaders or authors of "burn-out" books, we suspect that the people who are running these seminars and writing these books are trying to recover from their own burn-out at the expense of other people. They are, in effect, trying to use other people's resources to recover from their own burn-out. If you plan to attend a burn-out seminar, we suggest you ask other people who have attended the seminar exactly what happened to them. Find out whether or not they have experienced any real improvements in their lives as a result of taking those seminars. Find out how they are doing six months to a year after taking the seminar. Find out if they have gotten any real improvement beyond what they would have achieved if they talked with a loving, sympathetic and trusted friend about their feelings of "burn-out, a friend who would have listened for free. We would guess that in most cases, much greater relief would be obtained by talking to a friend, although we would still contend that no form of permanent healing is possible.

When you sit down to talk with a trusted friend, you do so because this friend has demonstrated his or her faithfulness, born out by years of continued, honest, helpful support. If you attend a seminar with someone who does not know you and does not know what you have been through, and who has not demonstrated an ability to help you with your hurt beyond that of a trusted friend, you are stepping into the exact paradigm that caused you the hurt and the burn out in the first place. You are once again the student, sitting before the disinterested, uninvolved teacher, who is being paid even though he has not demonstrated any ability to help you. This is the same as saying that if you have cancer, the best way to cure yourself is to give yourself more cancer, or if you have an infection, the best way to cure it is by giving yourself another infection just as deadly as the first.

"Burn-out" may be a very serious problem for homeschooling parents. We suggest, however, that the burn-out parents are feeling is not a result of homeschooling, but of something far more destructive and harmful that was inflicted on homeschooling parents before they reached the third grade. We know, from the homeschooling literature and letters we have received, that very few homeschooling parents truly understand how harmful the current educational system actually is. We think that after reading this newsletter, and the fourth newsletter describing a proper school, homeschooling parents will have a better picture of the amount of destruction that has taken place in schools, and will be more able to see the futility of trying to heal themselves of what is being commonly referred to as "burn-out."

Finally, we do realize that some parents simply cannot homeschool their children. Many parents who cannot homeschool are so burnt out and bankrupt from their own educational experiences that homeschooling is just not possible for them. If you are a parent who, for whatever reason, simply cannot homeschool your children, then we would say that the Serenity Prayer may apply here as well. We would also suggest that if you cannot homeschool your children, you promise not to beat yourself up and grade yourself in the way that you have been beaten up and graded in the past. There are two ways that you can know if you are beating yourself up or not. The first is that you will hear yourself condemning yourself. The second is that you will feel bad about not being able to do better. In the first case, you will have caught yourself at the stimulus. In the second case, you will have caught yourself at the response and will have missed or not heard the stimulus.

Are Your Homeschoolers Asking To Go To School?

If your homeschooled children have been asking you to send them to school, we suggest that you take the time to find out why they want to go. We have observed that homeschooled children feel guilty about not having to go to school. They see other children being tortured and hurt and wonder why they are free to watch their friends suffer. This is particularly true of children who have already attended school for a year or two and are aware of what is happening to children in school.

If you do take the time to find out why your child wants to go back to school, hang on to your hat. We think your child may have some very interesting things to say, especially if he or she is honest and knows himself or herself at all. Most children say they want to be with their friends. Yet, it appears that some homeschooled children want to be with their friends in order to alleviate their own guilt, by enduring and suffering the same kind of torture as their friends are suffering. In actuality, school children get to be with their friends only on the school bus and for twenty to thirty minutes of recess. This usually amounts to less than one hour over the course of a seven or even eight-hour day. So, what's the real reason that homeschooled children ask to go back to school? We suggest that for many children the reason is guilt, and that parents might be surprised to hear what their children have to say about seeing what is happening to their friends in school!