Many homeschool moms struggle with discouragement. It is easy to become discouraged when the children don’t cooperate, when you feel like you are in over your head, and when others seem to be doing so well. Is there anything that can help?
I have been a homeschooling dad for nearly 25 years and I served a church filled with homeschoolers for 12 years. I have seen discouragement. I have talked with homeschool moms who were suicidal, who wanted to leave their families, and who just wanted to quit the whole thing. Discouragement, when unresolved, is the breeding ground for serious depression. If you want to end the discouragement and avoid the depression, there are a few things you should know.
First, stop comparing yourself with others. They are not doing as well as they pretend. Many of the homeschool moms I have counseled were held up as examples for others… but they were struggling themselves! Few people want to be considered “whiners” so they put on a brave face and try to make the children behave in public. Sometimes it sends the message that things are always this good. They aren’t. We are taught to put a positive spin on the things in our lives, particularly the spiritual things, and so we tell positive things about our families. That’s fine, but it means that only one part of the truth is presented.
Comparisons are always hurtful, either to you or to others (and sometimes to both). I can guarantee that there is someone out there who wishes her family would be as good as yours. It is just the nature of the thing. You can always find something that will make you feel guilty and you can almost always find something to make yourself feel better than someone else. But don’t. It isn’t a game that you really win.
Some people get into homeschooling because of comparisons. They hope their children will “turn out as good as Susie’s”. When they see other children sitting so orderly at the restaurant or at church and they hear how respectful those children are, these parents just know that homeschooling could do the same for their own kids. Not necessarily.
I have known kids who sat quietly at church only because of the intense fear of what would happen later if they wiggled. Is that what you want your children to think about in church? Other parents maintain very orderly lives themselves and that order is simply passed on to the children. I have known homes where the soup cans are arranged in alphabetical order on the shelves. It works for them… but not for most of us.
God has made us different from others. You can’t compare yourself with others because you don’t have the background they had or the perspective on life they have. I am not an engineer and I don’t think like most engineers. If I were to compare my way of handling money, for example, with that of some engineers I know, I could get discouraged. They always know where they stand and they always seem to have more and better things. But the truth is that most of the engineers I know make much more money than I do and still they log the miles driven each day by their children and budget everything religiously. This isn’t bad, of course, but it is different… and it makes comparisons almost impossible.
You don’t win the comparison game. Someone will always do something better than you. You will have to come to the understanding that your acceptance, especially with the Lord, is not founded on how well you do. His grace is given because of our need, not because of our strength or competence.
Love your children and don’t compare them to “Susie’s”. Let them be who they are supposed to be. Follow the Lord and keep your focus on Him. You will find love and acceptance and encouragement in Him.
c David Orrison, PhD
(This is the first in a series of brief articles on homeschooling discouragement. Read the entire article and find more encouragement at www.gracefortheheart.org)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. David Orrison has been a homeschooling dad for nearly 25 years. He and his wife, Alice, have 8 sons. He has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and is now the director of Grace for the Heart, a ministry designed to proclaim the sufficiency of Jesus Christ in all areas of the Christian life.