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Homeschooling Through Trying Times
Our world is becoming increasingly tumultuous. With the responsibilities of managing a household and homeschooling (and for some, working) how can we be the best version of who God has made us and called us to be?
Even if you limit your media and internet exposure, it’s virtually impossible to be immune to the heaviness of what is going on in the world. It’s affecting each one of us in some way.
We’ve likely all dealt with sickness or life-altering loss this past year and a half. Compound this loss with the political climate, environmental catastrophes, crisis in the Middle East, and increasing division within the world and in our community of friends and family. As homeschool parents with the unique and consuming responsibilities that we carry, it’s no wonder that so many of us are struggling. It is a lot!
Now more than ever we must be relentlessly committed to healthy lifestyle practices that support our physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
A Personal Note
I don’t prescribe a “one-size fits all” approach. Not only does that lack compassion, it’s also not realistic. There are as many ways to successfully navigate a time like this while homeschooling as there are different people who need them.
Further, during the past year and a half I have walked through some deeply personal circumstances. I share that to assure you as the reader that I come to this topic with integrity as well as empathy.
This personal experience has dramatically shifted my perspective on how to have true peace and contentment even through the major traumatic events that come. I want to encourage healing and hope for others amid the trials of life—most especially for homeschoolers—as a homeschool mom.
I also hope to inspire anyone who needs it with practical ways to courageously walk a journey towards wholeness no matter what goes on in the world, near or far.
These suggestions are by no means exhaustive or conclusive and I hope they serve as a launching point so that you can homeschool with the joy and peace God intends for your family.
Why take care of YOU first?
One of the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). It is not selfish to prioritize caring for yourself. Quite the contrary, I believe God reminds us that how we love ourselves has a direct impact on how we love others. We can only give what we have. It is paramount for us to love ourselves in order for us to love others. I hope that it goes without saying but I’ll say it: God is concerned with our whole being—mind, body, soul, and spirit.
Each individual person knows best what is needed. However, so often we are imbalanced in taking care of ourselves. Some go to extremes—perhaps feeling guilty about experiencing pleasure—while others don’t make time for themselves at all. Valuing ourselves enough to fight for the best, most healthy version of ourselves takes intention.
It’s not complicated, though it may not be easy. Are you willing to love yourself by prioritizing the things you need? How we answer this question will determine how we navigate the heavy and difficult challenges of this life.
These are a few foundational ways I have found to help me:
1. Acknowledging Feelings and Emotions
Feelings and emotions are neutral; they are neither good nor bad. However, they are indicators. Like the check engine light on the dash of our cars, feelings and emotions alert us. When we pay attention to them and learn how to read them, we can get information that will help us understand and respond to how we’re feeling in healthy ways.
We all know that hiding our true feelings is not only unhealthy, it’s also counterproductive. By the same token, acknowledging our feelings and emotions is not the same thing as giving them free reign or allowing them to define reality. They are simply how you feel. They are present as responses to things going on around us whether we admit them or not. Especially when it comes to negative ones, simply acknowledging them can help tremendously to relieve the response in the body.
Try this: Check in with yourself at least three times a day. Get alone in a quiet place for at least two minutes. Take a couple of deep breaths to help quiet your mind. Ask yourself the question “how am I feeling right now?” and just listen. Often this will be enough.
Listening may reveal some negative self-talk or unhealthy belief systems. It may lead us to read the Bible, pray, or call a friend. It may help us listen to the need we have for a nap, a walk, or some calming music. It’s not always easy to respond with what is needed in the moment, but by honoring what is revealed as much as possible (and as often as possible), greater emotional, mental, and spiritual health will come.
2. Journaling feelings and emotions
Journaling allows you to process information using a different part of the brain. Specifically, using journaling to write down negative feelings and emotions can help to shed light on new information or give a new perspective. Many of us include spending time daily with God. Whether journaling is already a part of your routine, I encourage you to specifically include a time to use journaling to describe how you’re feeling about things going on. With no judgement, allow yourself to write freely as if talking to the safest, most attentive listener in the world. You may be surprised by how cathartic this will be.
3. Deep Breathing
Learning and applying the use of deep breathing techniques to relieve stress and promote relaxation has been a tremendous gift during this season. It is a simple and effective way to bring calm. Its benefits and effectiveness have gained popularity as of late due to the increasing stress in our society.
There is a direct correlation between our breathing and our body. Our body was built with a natural stress response known as “fight or flight.” It is when our body experiences this stress response often that health related problems arise. For example, a stress response such as an elevated heart rate is our body’s way of dealing with challenges so that we’ll react when needed. Our body cannot sustain the effects of this response long term without causing all kinds of negative symptoms. While we cannot avoid stress altogether, we can manage how we deal with it. Awareness of our breath as well as the regular practice of deep breathing can help successfully overcome the effects of stress in our bodies.
Here is a website that is helpful in explaining some different types of breathing exercises: Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation
4. Practicing Thankfulness
The Bible is full of the exhortation to be thankful and give thanks regardless of circumstances. Was God being insensitive to our circumstance or was there something He knew about the way He created us? Scientific studies support the positive impact of thankfulness on our bodies. It has only been most recently that science has actually focused on this topic, but the research is consistent. This simple practice has the potential to rewire the brain which then leads to a change in behavior and overall increased health.
I highly recommend a regular practice of at least a few minutes a day intentionally focusing on things for which you are truly grateful. The book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp, coupled with some other teachings on this topic, have had a profound impact on my life. As I have taken the time daily to practice thankfulness, I’ve seen anxiety extinguished and my overall happiness increase. It is one discipline that I will continue for the rest of my life.
5. Doing What Brings Joy
Whatever leaves you feeling joy, peace, or rest…DO THAT as often as possible. Make the time. Read. Walk. Sleep. Swing. Sing. Play. Grab coffee friends. Master that puzzle. Crochet that blanket. Sew that dress. Create that decoration. Build that piece of furniture. Visit the salon. Get a massage.
These activities can be as critical to our rest and rejuvenation as anything else we do. We will always find reasons to NOT give ourselves the space for joy-building activities. But I’d like to exhort you to the fact that to avoid burnout we must find the time for regularly practicing them.
You are worth it. Your family is worth it. The short- and long-term benefits are worth it.
6. Connecting with Trusted Others
Feeling connected with another person who cares about you in a way that you feel seen and heard is critically important for us as human beings. Ironically, it is not uncommon in our culture to either not have these kinds of meaningful connections or to not make time to prioritize them in our busy schedules. However, we were made for connection—with God as well as other people.
These connections can take place in a myriad of ways that are meaningful to the individual. When I was a homeschool mom of four young children, one of the most significant parts of my week was our day at co-op. It gave me the opportunity during lunch and break times to connect with other moms while my kids were all occupied. It took sacrifice and intention on my part every week to give up a day at home, get everyone ready, and also, at times, prepare to teach a class, but what I gained in the time spent connecting with those moms was worth everything I traded. I know I was a better mom and teacher to my kids because of those women!
Whoever you call your tribe, make an intentional effort to spend time with one another in joy-filled activities, and also in listening and caring for one another. Your kids need you to do that.
All these suggestions require a shifting of your mindset first. The situation that I walked through the past couple of years—alongside the pandemic—served to help me take responsibility for myself first. I realized that once I did that, I was free to heal and love others around me with a more authentic, unconditional love. Much like the love God has shown to me.
Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not advocating that we neglect our family or responsibilities. I’m simply advocating that when we intentionally prioritize ourselves, we can better love and serve others—particularly those neighbors who live in our house.
For further reading:
- Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). “Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84 (2), 377.
- The Grateful Brain: The neuroscience of giving thanks.