It didn’t take a lot to derail our homeschool year. Just two great grandmothers battling cancer, both grandmothers distracted or absent in serving them, a husband away on business more often than not, a nasty bout of bronchitis, and a co-op community that spontaneously combusted.
All in the same 30 day period. Add in learning challenges, hormones, and day to day frustrations and our homeschool nearly fizzled out. With each new tidal wave, we spiraled around and overcame or at least I thought we had. Until the debris settled. I woke one morning to find my usually peppy and eager learner lingering in bitterness and disappointment.
For him, there was no point in continuing with the previously scheduled curriculum. There was no reason to push past the losses and reach for the next goal. To him, every assignment, every conversation, and every morning birthed a fresh remembrance of his pain. Every dawn ripped off yesterday’s bandaid and started the hurt all over again. He wanted nothing to do with learning and nothing to do with me.
His discouragement was palpable and weighed on me with great heaviness. The outside influences we could negotiate. But the sorrow in our own home, in the heart of my kid, had me questioning myself and my reasons for homeschooling. Until I dusted off my britches and began applying the next seven steps.
7 Steps on How to Homeschool a Discouraged Child
1. Call Out
I always recommend starting every battle with prayer. Deep, weepy, non-sensical, Holy Spirit save me prayer. There’s no point trying to shoulder the healing alone. We are simply not created to heal our own souls, let alone the souls of others.
That’s God’s job. Let Him know you trust Him to handle it before you try to conquer it on your own. But, don’t stop there. Call out to friends, as well. Avoid your more gossipy friends, (we all have them) and navigate toward friends who can mourn and celebrate alongside you. God’s going to use them and you’re going to need them
2. Gird your Loins
Wake up Mama and put on your armor. Before your feet hit the floor wrap the promises of Ephesians 6 around you and lean into the Lord. As a mom, you are the one most likely to shoulder the blame of whatever discouragement has landed upon your household. That doesn’t mean you’re guilty of it. It only means you’re the one most available to accuse. Be ready. Remember who you are in Christ and armor up.
3. Be Prepared to Listen
This one goes alongside girding your loins. When discouragement hit my home, so did the late night/early morning talk sessions. Be ready for them. These can be healing and hug-filled. But don’t be surprised if they’re often loud, angry, and all your fault. Be ready to listen without judging your child or yourself.
You’re doing your best. Your kiddo is just processing their own confusion and hurt. If they’re coming to you to talk it out, you’re doing something right. Keep your heart and ears open and your tone and facial expressions calm. Remember to begin and end each of these conversations with prayer. Even if you’re the only one praying.
Connecting with Your Discouraged Child
4. Don’t Neglect Together Time
Some call it Morning Basket but in my home, we call it Together Time. A time to gather and have devotions as a group. We lump in a bit of memory work, school reading, and fun reading into our together time. I beg of you, do not overlook this crucial bonding time during seasons of discouragement. More than ever, your child needs to know you are all still a family.
Together Time is an easy way to reestablish that fact and keep a routine going. My discouraged teen frowned at Together Time for the first week of rediscovering it. Now, he looks forward to it. He even reminds me of it when I’ve forgotten.
If you’re new to Morning Basket/Together Time and you’re going through a season of discouragement don’t make it hard on yourself. Grab a fun chapter book and read aloud. Even 15 minutes of enjoying time together can get the healing started.
5. Create Moments of Fun
Similar to together time, your children need to remember that life isn’t all bad. Creating moments of fun, during a season of discouragement can do this. Bust out the board games. Invite your family to a Poetry Teatime. Go for walks. Visit the park. Dump out the Legos or even switch on a Video Game.
Just make sure you’re enjoying the fun alongside your kids not just watching them. Do this a few times a week or even once a day, until the heaviest of the gloom has lifted. Then keep surprising them with small fun moments. In my house, we snagged a drippy color changing candle and stuffed it into an old, empty cider bottle.
The kids take turns lighting it and blowing it out every day. It may seem silly but that’s the point. An injection of whimsy can brighten any season.
6. Set Everyone Up for Victory
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of schoolwork, I recommend ditching it all for a week or two and sticking with Together Time. When that isn’t possible, like when High School Credits might take a hit, scale back as much as feasible. Focus more time and energy on delight driven subjects and methods of learning.
Do more subjects together and do fun things first. Need to finish a Science curriculum but your student can’t find the strength to crack the book? Do all the labs in one day. All of them. Log the hours, while everyone enjoys the mess and mayhem of science experiments gone wrong.
A few days later, have your student listen to the chapters on audio and take notes. Or add short science readings to together time. Tweak any subject in the same fashion. Do fun things first. Reignite the love of learning and rediscover the purpose of your Homeschool.
7. Practice Praise
The season of discouragement is not pretty. Most of the time it’s one horrendous blow after the other. Making it the perfect time to practice praise. Not just any praise, true, deep, meaningful praise. This may start as playing Seeds music quietly in your living room.
When discouragement strikes it hits hope first and our ability to see our blessings wanes. Praise and worship music is a great place to begin. At the very least, a bit of Bach never hurt anyone. Play it low and often.
Then, once strength returns, seek out reasons to praise. Praise God for every blessing, especially those that relate directly to the source of your disappointment. (Like that friend who remembers you during the hardest of days and invites you over for coffee and chocolate.)
Don’t forget to praise each other as well. Intentionally point out the efforts and gains of your children. Warning: Whether it’s the Lord or your family you’re praising, make sure it is brimming with sincerity and integrity. Sappy praise breeds false hope and expectations. True, from your guts, thankfulness can change a life.
Above all, don’t give up!
This truly is only a season. It will fade but the memories and connections you make within a season of discouragement can have eternal benefits. Be brave and remember you’re not alone. I’m praying for you!
This is day 16 of the Homeschooling in the Midst of Hard Things Blog Series!. We are so glad you are here!
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Sarah Hualde lives in a home that brings her happiness and hay fever. Her husband is an award-winning chef, much to the chagrin of her waistline. She is the homeschooling mama to two amazing kids with loud personalities. She’s published two books in the last twelve months and by the grace of God still loves writing. Her family is wildly supportive. Her dog is extremely loyal and her turtle is deeply condescending. She adores Jesus and loves coffee with a side of pastry. You find her on her blog www.latenightcoffeemoms.com