I have been there, friends. The desperation. The despair. The lack of energy or motivation. The hopelessness. The overwhelming stress. The racing thoughts. The burden of the world on my shoulders. You are not alone. So, let me tell you that it is hard homeschooling through these things, but it is not usually impossible. And, if you simply can’t and have to put your kids in school, that is OKAY. Do what you need to do. But here are some tips for those of you who want to and feel able to continue homeschooling as you work to overcome your mental and emotional difficulties….
- Be organized. Have a checklist for every kid so they each know what to do if you are unavailable. Have a routine to your days so that schoolwork can keep sailing along somewhat smoothly even if you’re not manning the wheel. Order calms chaos. When you are feeling well, prepare for those times of chaos by setting things in order as much as possible.
- Have independent work ready for the kids for the times when you are unexpectedly needing a break. Here are some excellent ideas for you.
- Choose open and go resources so that you don’t need to work up the energy to do any prep when you are already exhausted.
- Choose resources that don’t have 180 days, 36 weeks’ worth of material. Or, if you do, be okay with not finishing a “year’s worth” of work in a year.
- Keep the screens off! Seriously, if you do this one thing (along with filling your home with objects and books of educational value), it will guarantee that your kids spend their days productively even if no “schoolwork” actually gets done. BUT, with that said, do what you need to do if you truly don’t have other options. I understand the place of deep desperation. Sometimes we need to give up “perfect” for “good enough.” Some good educational shows are Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Liberty’s Kids, WildKratts, What’s in the Bible?, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, Sister Wendy DVDs (high school).
- Decide ahead of time what your one or two nonnegotiable subjects are that must get done if at all possible every day. Usually that is math and reading. Do those during your best time of day so you can call it a win.
- Use a loop schedule so that you can keep making forward progress even when you’ve had a lot of tough days in a row.
- Utilize any available outside resources. Sign your kids up for an online class or two. Ask grandparents, babysitter, or other parent to read to the kids. Allow a friend to take the kids for a few hours each week. Let people help you! Last year was especially rough for me. On Fridays I dropped off my youngest at a local homeschool co-op for 3 hours. A friend of mine graciously said she would be the adult in charge of her so I didn’t have to stay. Think outside the box. Find opportunities for others to help you. It blesses them to bless you.
- Lower your expectations. Okay, this one is totally a “do as I say, not as I do” one. I really stink at this. When I get anxious, my thinking becomes inflexible, I get more stubborn than ever, and I insist that we MUST complete the plan, even if I am the one that made it! Yeah. Don’t do that. Some years you will get more done, some you’ll get less, but it will all work out in the end.
- This is not necessarily homeschool related, but I’m going to say it anyway. Don’t try to completely hide your suffering from your children. They’re smart. They know something is up. I’m not saying to show all, but if you pretend everything is always okay, they will begin to doubt their perception of reality. You want them to be able to trust themselves when they sense that something isn’t right. Seeing you suffer allows empathy to be built inside of them. It sensitizes them to the suffering of others, and that is a pretty good antidote to the entitlement culture we live in. Alright, back to homeschooling….
- Take advantage of the good days. When you are feeling good, give your full focus to homeschooling. This will help make up for the bad days.
- Take a break before you break. This is a big one. For everyone’s benefit, learn to be aware of your body and catch yourself before you fall over the edge. If you find yourself tensing up, your heart pounding, hands sweating, whatever your personal response to stress is, tell your child you need a break before continuing on. Go outside. Get in the shower. Meditate or pray. Find something that will snap you out of it and calm your nervous system. This has the added benefit of teaching your kids by example the right way to handle stress.
- Take care of yourself. Go to bed on time and at the same time every night. Avoid screens during the 2 hours before bedtime. Exercise daily, even if it is just going for a walk. Enlist someone to go with you if you are too depressed to make yourself do it alone. Take your supplements and/or meds. Spend time with friends and family. Spend time alone when you need it. Get in the sun. Get in water – bath, shower, pool, lake. Take an Epsom salt bath. Try EFT tapping. Go out in nature, the longer the better. Look, really look, around you. Study the details of what you see. Don’t just label something a tree, bug, car, bike, bush and move on. Become as aware as possible of the world around you.
- Find the balance between pushing yourself to do things that are out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself too far. Only you know where that sweet spot is, and it may change daily or even hourly. If something makes you uncomfortable, push yourself just a little step past that line, but if you are overwhelming yourself with all you are trying to do, reign it in a little bit and rest.
- Fill your homeschool days with things you love to do. Use curriculum that inspires you. Start a “Morning Time” routine with the whole family and flood your soul with Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Play music throughout the day that lifts you up. Work by a window with a nice view.
Now, if all of the above feels like a massive burden suddenly placed on your shoulders, please know that these are suggestions, not demands. And a mountain cannot be crossed in one leap. Take ONE step, my dear friend. Choose one thing to do. After that is completed or has become a habit, choose another. Enlist the help of those around you. And, if you are truly desperate, please seek the help of a doctor and a counselor.
Here is a great podcast episode on this topic.
Lastly, just know that the world needs what you have to offer. You will make it through this. Your life is worth living and fighting for. You are a treasure of infinite worth. Keep holding on. You’re gonna be okay.