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Homeschooling With Depression

by Jessica Parnell | Nov 13, 2018 | 4 min read

I remember the moment clearly. I was sitting at the table with my coffee in my hands, head hung. My son was working on his science at the table and he asked me a question, one he had asked over and over again. One that I had answered over and over again. And, I lost it. “Why are you asking that again? I just answered that!” The look on his face was devastating. “Sorry, Mom! Geez. Are you ever going to be happy with me?” Heartbreaking words. And, with them, a realization. The depression, the anxiety and anger, was winning and spilling over onto my entire family. Homeschooling is hard. Homeschooling with depression and anxiety can seem impossible, for us and them.

The grief had taken over. The loss of a friend, the struggles of life had come, massive wave after massive wave. Pretty soon it was all I could do to tread water– get up, make food, clean clothes. His education, his learning was far down on that list when survival was paramount. And I felt so small, so very small. If you are homeschooling with depression, as so many of us are, there is hope beyond the devastating smallness you feel each day. And, you’re not alone. Here’s how I walked homeschooling with depression and came out the other side.

Help is Not a Four Letter Word

The first and most important thing I did was seek help. If you’re struggling homeschooling with depression, feelings of hopelessness or inadequacy that you cannot put aside, anger and irritability that you cannot reason through you MUST get help. You can’t power through, pray enough, will yourself out of depression and anxiety. You need to submit to the care and counsel of those who can guide you through the darkness. This is wisdom, not weakness. When you get help for your emotional struggles- be it counseling, medication, in-patient care, etc. you are sending a clear message to your children. You are saying “Weakness is ok. Help is always there. Find the helpers.” And this is a powerful message that will enable them to ask for help when they need it in the future. And, they will.

**Depression hurts. Don’t suffer alone.  If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).

Rest Becomes the Lesson

After admitting I was struggling, really struggling, I came to an important realization. Life was bigger than lessons. I realized that I could no longer guide my child day by day through learning, with joy. But, this wasn’t a disaster. Because I had an opportunity before me to teach him a lesson about life, about coping with pain, and about seeking help and healing. I had a chance to show him that rest isn’t just important, it’s the foundation of healing and the way we begin to see hope amidst the darkness. Isn’t that what homeschooling is all about? The flexibility to learn the lessons that really matter at the time that our children need them the most?

So, we pursued rest. I began to focus each day on healing activities, ones that brought us both peace. On building into him and me the coping skills, peaceful moments, and relationships we needed to get through the season. We talked more, read a ton, watched movies, and journaled. We put aside those lessons that were causing stress (algebra!) and choose to dig into the lessons that fed our soul. He learned that we don’t always have to climb the mountain. Sometimes it’s enough to rest in the valley while you gain the energy you need to begin the journey up.

Find Your People

Recently I saw a hurricane on tv as it battered houses along a coastline. I was amazed that some houses built high on pillars and created with protective materials stood firm as others were washed, literally, washed away. When I finally reached out, via text, to a friend about my depression. I was amazed at the response. I had literally hid for months out of fear and shame. Her response “I know. I’m here. What do you need.” Those words were a beam of light that seared through my darkness. And instantly I knew, it’s going to be ok.

Depression and anxiety, grief and sorrow can be so isolating. And isolation breeds loneliness, which causes us to withdraw, which creates more isolation. If you are homeschooling with depression you must find your people, pillars that will hold up your house as the storm rages. Don’t believe the lie in your head that no one cares. They do. People care. We care. Find a team of people to support you with meals, cleaning, homeschooling lessons, grading, and whatever else you and your family need.

Eventually the low season we were in began to wane. The waves got smaller and smaller and our rest began to ease the pain. Life isn’t perfect and down days still happen, but I am now able to stand on the mountain and look down over that valley. I realize how hard it was, and yet what a gift it was to me, to my son. We learned so much. We grew together. We found the strength to take those steps towards hope and community. And we’ll do better next time.

Homeschooling with depression is a very hard journey. But, with counsel, rest, and support you can come out of a season of darkness more equipped to travel dark roads again, and to help others who are struggling as you once did. How can we help you? Leave a comment below.

Jessica Parnell
Hello everyone! I’m Jessica Parnell — mom, homeschool evaluator, teacher, and CEO of Bridgeway Academy. In my 20+ years of experience as a homeschool mom and evaluator, I have had the privilege of meeting homeschoolers that take a variety of approaches to their education. It is their many stories and successes that inspire me in my own homeschooling and I love to pass on the knowledge that I have gained from them to other homeschooling families. The one constant that always remains true is that there’s no such thing as a “cookie cutter child.” Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made and as a result, learns and functions differently. It’s our job to ensure that we’re raising each child to fulfill their individual purpose and when we can teach in a way that inspires them, we are on our way to homeschool success. When I’m not writing or teaching my children, I like to ski, write and participate in triathlons. I graduated from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Masters in English and I am currently pursuing a degree in Neuroleadership.
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