As I looked over the math paper and realized that my daughter had still not figured out how to do this problem correctly, I felt tired and discouraged. I wondered if I was really up to the task of teaching my kids.
What am I doing wrong? Why doesn't she understand?
I had spent hours explaining, demonstrating, using different words and different methods to teach her, but she was still struggling. And this situation was not helping our mother–daughter relationship either.
Discouragement settled into my countenance and my motivation dissipated. I told my daughter that we would talk about math later.
“Go finish reading your book,” I sighed. Slowly, I began pacing around our kitchen muttering to myself. Frustrated, I called my mom. She listened patiently and when I was done, she quietly responded, “Honey, this too, shall pass.”
Well, it wasn't the encouragement I wanted, yet it was a reality check that my situation was temporary. I was letting this difficulty affect our homeschool and our family life by being grumpy and disheartened!
Identify and Admit
When I did a quick evaluation, I realized that my personal situation of feeling inadequate as my daughter’s math teacher was making me feel discouraged.
We’ve all been there. Discouragement can arise from so many sources such as feeling disorganized, being too busy, lacking sleep, dealing with illness, overworking, struggling with disobedient or stubborn kids, and of course, crazy hormones! Sometimes we may not even know the source, we just know we’re struggling with discouragement.
Once we realize we’re in the depths of despondency (or maybe just on the edge), it is important that we admit it to ourselves and those we are affecting. This is the first step in embracing a more levelheaded disposition.
Nurturing a Positive Attitude
Can we fight discouragement? Are there things we can do to nurture a more positive attitude?
One of the first steps after admitting that we are feeling discouraged is to realize that we can change our attitude. We don’t have to let negative emotions steal our joy! You can try some or all of these tips to help you refocus and gain a more joyful attitude.
Try Spiritual Encouragement
If you are a Christian, the best place to start is by going to the Lord in prayer and reading His Word. Cast all your burdens upon Him, tell him your trouble, and then humbly request His help. The Lord is our strength!
Attend a Homeschool Convention
If your discouragement is related to homeschooling, one of the best sources for encouragement is at a local homeschool convention. At these events, experienced speakers, teachers, and moms openly share their struggles and possible solutions.
I have not only found great ideas at our conventions, but also discovered that my issues are common ones. To know that I was not alone in some of these struggles was incredibly encouraging. To laugh and cry with others and their situations is also therapeutic!
Find a Mentor
Finding a friend who has homeschool experience can refresh, calm, and guide you. If you don’t know anyone like this, be assertive and ask around, or contact a homeschool organization in your state to see if they have connections.
An understanding friend can point you in helpful directions by giving practical suggestions, illustrations, and sharing real life examples from their own homeschool experience. Also, they may be willing to pray with you and verbally encourage you.
Count Your Blessings
Though it may sound silly at first, this is a great strategy for fighting discouragement. Literally count your blessings by saying or writing as many as you can. For example:
- I am thankful for my warm and cozy home
- I am thankful for freedom in my country
- I am thankful for my husband and for his job
As a family, we would occasionally sit around a table and play a gratitude game together. Each member would take turns reciting the things they’re thankful for. (A fun twist with older kids is to play this the same way you would play “I'm going on a trip and bringing...” but instead saying, “I live with my family and am thankful for…”).
As we went around the table, many of the things we were grateful for involved our family sitting with us. This game can bond your family in new ways and cultivate an atmosphere of encouragement.
Check Online Resources
Often you don’t have to go far to find encouraging resources! There are plenty of free online homeschool speakers and podcasts available on YouTube or Spotify. There are also hundreds of great articles on the HSLDA blog!
Other Simple Suggestions...
Another great way to help refocus our attitude is through music. Playing uplifting music with encouraging lyrics can help take our eyes off ourselves and have a better perspective of the situation.
It may seem silly, but just smile! Smiling releases endorphins which produce more positive feelings and help lighten your home environment. Even when you don't feel like it, smiling is something good to practice! If you want a great laugh, go smile in front of a mirror and make all kinds of goofy faces. Your kids will enjoy doing this, too!
Doing a favorite activity can also create positive feelings. Take a walk in the fresh air, go on a bike ride, or simply curl up on the couch with an encouraging book. Do something that causes relaxation and pleasure!
Discouragement does not have a right to control us or our homeschool. We can transform our negative feelings, but it takes work! There are a lot of things we cannot change about ourselves, but two vital characteristics are ours to command: attitude and effort. With effort, we can change our attitude from negative to positive, from discouraged to joyful! Our attitude will impact our children and their memories of us and our home. Let’s take the effort to make our home a positive, beautiful place to learn!