Helping your children to recover from school, how to go from surviving to thriving!
I want to discuss our recovery today and how that has looked for my family in our home Ed journey. It really saddens me at how regularly I am reading posts from desperate parents who have made the tough decision to home educate their child(ren) because of their suffering from high levels of anxiety, stress and depression. Sadly it’s all too common that children are buckling under the pressure of an often unbending “teach to test” system.
This was definitely true in our case. My son went up to secondary school in Sept 2016 and he was soon receiving support from our local “Emotional Well-being and Mental Health Service (EWMHS,) we also had a family solutions case worker supporting him and he received daily help from the schools learning support team and yet even with all of this in place he was still signed of by the Doctor with acute anxiety within the very first term of starting.
My daughter went to school each day petrified that teachers would tear out the pages in her work book, which was the current technique they were using at the time to promote neater work and stop children from drawing lines through their mistakes!!!
My children were at breaking point and so was I, being a practising Christian I did only what I knew to do, I dropped to my knees and I cried out to God to help my children. I wanted us all to go from surviving to thriving but I had no clue how I was going to go about that.
Soon my husband and I found ourselves believing that we were being called to home educate the children! I was terrified but before we knew it the deregistration letters were in and we had started our new life.
but it wouldn’t be easy
you see it wasn’t as simple as just starting with how I intended to proceed as an educator, I still had damaged, depressed, anxious children to help before I could even consider any kind of academic learning. Over the next weeks and months I would come to rely on three basic principles for their recovery that I’d love to share with you today, because sometimes before we can move on to what’s next, we must heal from where we have come from. And so with looking at how God helped Elijah with depression in the bible I took my principles from there.
In 1 kings 19
we read the story of a man called Elijah who is fleeing for his life, there is a woman who is set on killing him and we see that he is at the end of what he can bear when we read.
1 Kings 19:4 New International Version (NIV)
4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
Interestingly God responds in this way
1 Kings 19:5-7 New International Version (NIV)
5 Then he (Elijah) lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
So here are my three principles
- Some time in the wilderness (get some space)
The story shows us that Elijah journeyed away from who he was with and where he was to go to the wilderness, put simply he created some space for himself, For us this was some time away from all structured learning, which is commonly known in the home Ed world as deschooling. In this time I didn’t instruct my children to do anything whatsoever, for us this lasted around 7/8 months, because quite frankly they needed to recover. It felt like we were in the wilderness too. Nothing looked or felt familiar to me, education became something which felt alien, where we focused on what we needed to do to get through each day. I as their parent was discovering that learning about ourselves and our desires, our hopes and our dreams was just as important as learning times tables and correct punctuation, in fact for this period it became more important. Now we have been home educating for ten months I still find we need wilderness days, or days ‘out’ where we recover from the pain of the past.
My kids can really sleep, (so can I for that matter) once we’re out, there is little that wakes us easily, but sleep initiation has always been a huge problem for us. For years whilst attending school my children would spend half the night awake and have to be dragged out of bed for school each morning, I decided early on in our home Ed journey that sleep would take high priority, that we would trust our natural sleeping patterns in order to maximise productivity during our waking hours. Nowadays we don’t expect our children to get up early because they naturally fall asleep later and naturally get up later. I know that some people make the argument that this isn’t preparing them for work life (i.e. 9am-5pm working hours) but my response to that is that if we don’t think a parent failed a “want to be” nurse by not teaching them in shift patterns then we shouldn’t think a home Ed family is failing their child by choosing unique working hours to suit them. If in the future my children need to get up for work early I will help them with that, but for now I am trying to help my children learn in the best possible circumstances, so for us that means to start from a well rested place.
- Eat and drink
I love in the bible story above that God sent an angel to prepare food and water for the downcast Elijah. I have felt for a long time that my own mother is some kind of angel who always makes me incredible home cooked food, and it never fails to build me up for whatever life has next for me. Now of course I know that angels and humans in the bible are not the same but we can certainly learn from the angel in this story! Healthy home cooked food and water that will sustain our children can have a massive impact on their mental and physical well being, just as spiritual teaching can help our children’s growth too.
I must admit I am not a natural chef, I don’t find cooking enjoyable by nature but I do value it’s importance in my children’s recovery and that is why lately we have tried to focus our attention to what we are eating, the quality of that food and trying to opt for preparing it ourselves as opposed to something that was processed before we bought it. When my children went to school and I worked in a school we lived off processed food, our lives got too busy and I didn’t have the mind set to make things from scratch let along the time. Home education has meant we can learn to appreciate and educate ourselves on the food we eat as a team, the adults are as much in the process as the children are.
So for anyone who is just starting out in home Ed and you have a child/ren that are recovering from anxiety, stress or depression from school life I have this advice on where to start. Get yourselves into the wilderness for a while, prioritise getting some really good, restful sleep (whenever you can get it) and focus your efforts on preparing some really good quality food!
Not Just for home Ed
and the thing is that the bible story I looked as was not about a home ed child. The principles that we learn here can be for anyone feeling like they are at the end of what they can cope with, it’s a lesson for all of us.
Bless you for reading
Love Leanna Ellena x