— and Discover an Excellent Curriculum In the Process
Why such a morbid topic — and so early in the school year, no less?
Well, because for many home-educating moms (or, at least, for me), discouragement can set in on the very first day of homeschooling! 😉 We know that Satan is a roaring lion, waiting to devour an unsuspecting soul:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour… (1 Peter 5:8).
We start the school year with high expectations, resolve, and intentions, but, surprisingly, our children don’t necessarily share our enthusiasm. Laundry, dishes, dirt, and clutter multiply in spite of the loftiness of our goals and calling. Meals still need to be made, errands run, and bills paid.
The Very Difficult Homeschooling Day (or Hour That Seems Like a Day)
It might go something like this:
Johnny and Susie bicker over the only sharpened pencil in the house instead of doing the breakfast dishes — and it’s already going on 10 AM. Little Jimmy accidentally drops his glass on the tiled kitchen floor as he tries to walk with his eyes shut, spraying orange juice and shards of glass in all directions. Even Littler Sally attempts to toddle into the fray. The baby’s diaper is ripe, the phone rings, you remember that you were going to make an extra meal today to take to a friend who just had a baby, and you still have this nagging feeling that your husband was upset when he left for work earlier. To top it all off, after changing the baby’s diaper, you sit down to feed the poor, hungry, squalling wee one. You hear a resounding “crack!”, and realize that somehow Even Littler Sally had gotten ahold of the glasses you have to wear for driving, and had set them down on the chair you now occupy.
Sound familiar? And that’s just one little (thankfully imaginary in this case, but all-too-close to the truth) snippet of time!
The closeness of several personalities of varying ages during a homeschool day causes friction and bickering, and shows up in a glaring light each other’s weaknesses and the lack in our child-rearing efforts…and ourselves. Fatigue threatens, eventually. Throw a nursing baby and accompanying diapers into the mix and you have a recipe for potential discouragement — or worse, depression.
I speak from experience. After the birth of our eighth child, a boy whom we all love to smithereens, I went through what is (un)lovingly referred to as postpartum depression. It was breathtakingly severe for two years.
I have since discovered that I have been highly anemic for a number of years, but that condition somehow, though documented, was never treated properly. I eventually had to have a blood transfusion because of “profoundly low” hemoglobin and iron levels. I suspect that this exacerbated my mental and emotional difficulties.
Throughout this experience, I struggled to maintain healthy thoughts and emotions. This became, over time, so extreme that I felt like I was barely holding on to my sanity. I battled increasingly negative, self-accusatory thoughts of discouragement, and even despair. I shudder to remember this secret war.
I now believe that, as I entertained unhealthy, sinful thoughts, I also allowed Satan to have a foothold in my mind.
Neither give place to the devil (Eph 4:27)
The Lord taught me a number of lessons during this time, and actually granted me victory over this debilitating sin and situation. Because I don’t think I’m the only one who has struggled with this, I would like to share what the Lord taught and is teaching me.
Now, how in the world does all this relate to curriculum? Good question, and we’ll answer that in a bit.
But before going on, it’s disclaimer time. The information in this article comes from lessons (being!) learned by the author, and are not addressing medical or severe conditions, and should not be used in place of medical attention where such is required.
Also, although I believe some personalities may be more prone to depression than others, we also can take comfort in the fact that Jesus deals with us gently:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls (Mat 11:29).
A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory (Mat 12:20).
Finally, let’s look at Acts 17:11, where we read of the Bereans:
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
When we are dealing with the Word of God, you and I are both wise to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so.
The Amazing Word
The Word of God fascinates me. It is vast and varied, addressing everything from the creation of the universe, heaven and hell, and the Last Days to the hairs on one’s head, a tiny sparrow, and unseen thoughts.
It uses stories, songs, prophecies, doctrine, narrative, and poetry. It is eternal in its scope, and immediate in its efficacy and application.
It is comprised of 66 books, and was written by over 40 authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit during a span of approximately 1,500 years.
God has seen fit to reveal to us those things we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3,4), the Truth of His Word, not in neat little lists, but in the tapestry of Scripture, encompassing doctrine, training, reproof, instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).
Among these and many other awe-inspiring facts about God’s Word, the most amazing is that Jesus is declared to be the Word made flesh:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
With these golden nuggets tucked into our minds, consider with me some many-faceted gems contained in the Scriptures on the topic of managing our minds, thoughts, feelings, lives, and even our bodies.
1. Not everything is black and white — and dealing with depression is no exception.
There are absolutes in Scripture and in life, and there are many circumstances and situations that require discernment, prayer, and wisdom. Conquering depression, I believe, is one of the latter.
While sin is sometimes involved, I don’t think that is always the case (remember: opinion. I could be wrong). Sometimes physical issues (certain mineral and vitamin deficiencies, for example) may affect the brain, causing it to function at a less-than-optimal level, and making the processing of thoughts much more challenging.
People who have never struggled with depression will not necessarily agree with this. Since they have avoided it so far, it seems clear to them that if depressed folks did what they do, they wouldn’t struggle with depression, either.
Well, maybe; maybe not.
That’s a bit like my naive thought, after toilet-training one of my children quickly and painlessly, that I was good at toilet-training. The next child came along, and, ahem, I wasn’t so good at toilet-training any more!
Thankfully, there is much for the depressed person to be encouraged by in Scripture.
A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory (Mat 12:20).
And for further encouragement, here is a quote by Richard Sibbes, a Puritan author, from his book, The Bruised Reed, originally published in 1630 (!):
Ungodly spirits, ignorant of God’s ways in bringing His children to heaven, censure broken-hearted Christians as miserable persons, whereas God is doing a gracious, good work with them. It is no easy matter to bring a man from nature to grace, and from grace to glory, so unyielding and intractable are our hearts.
May this be a reminder to all of us to be careful in judging what God is doing in another’s life…
Who are you that judges another man’s servant? to his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand (Rom. 14:4)
…even while we exercise discernment (1 Cor. 6:3-8).
Every one of us is born with one of those intractable hearts, and looking on another’s difficulty with a proud spirit is sin.
A high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin (Pro 21:4).
2. The key to dealing with depression (and this is big) is replacing untrue thoughts with the truth.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depressing thoughts, and you only remember one thing from this article, remember this one.
God’s Word says, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32).
When a person is mired in the quicksand of depression, the biggest battle is with the thoughts. It is all too easy to listen to the lies of Satan, who, as the Bible says, masquerades as an angel of light. Dark, despairing thoughts become overwhelming, and the person can even feel like he or she is drowning in them, and that there is no help or hope. These thoughts often spiral down, out of control, and take on a sinister, condemning, destructive, hopeless tone.
This is a terribly frightening experience. And, this is where we meet up with some hard truths.
Our thoughts inform our attitudes and ultimately our words and actions. It is absolutely vital that we think the truth even when filled with feelings of doubt and despair… Or especially at such a time.
We desperately need to stand firmly on the truth of God’s Word that He exists, loves us, has given the believer His indwelling Holy Spirit, that He is strong when we are weak, that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us, that He has given us a way of escape when we are tempted to stay in the pit of despair…and many more liberating truths.
But this is over-the-top challenging. How in the world do we do this, when we feel so helpless in the face of such debilitating mental anguish? This may sound melodramatic. Anyone who thinks so has not really struggled with full-fledged depression.
This brings us to…
3. The time to think truth is now. We cannot wait until we feel like turning our minds to the truth.
Ah, there’s the rub. It’s like the classic, “Johnny, you must not grab the toy from your sister.”
Johnny: “But, Mom, she grabbed it from me!”
Oh, yeah; I forgot that rule: if someone does something unkind to me I can do something unkind to them.
Or, if I don’t like something, I can have a fit.
Or if someone hurts me, I can lash out at them, give them the cold shoulder, emotionally manipulate them, pout…you get the idea. Shades of having a bunch of kids (and a couple of adults!) in the home.
Just because someone is a kleptomaniac doesn’t make it OK to steal. Just because someone is a pyromaniac doesn’t make it OK to start fires. Just because someone has been mistreated doesn’t mean it’s OK to take revenge. Just because a husband has been a bit callous toward his wife doesn’t make it OK for her to behave disrespectfully toward him. Just because a wife has poked a little hole in a husband’s comfort zone doesn’t mean it’s OK for him to give her the good ol’ silent treatment. Just because a child strongly disagrees with a parent’s instructions doesn’t mean he should expect that his parents check with him first before delivering those instructions.
Shocking, isn’t it?
The same is true when we are fighting unhealthy thoughts. Just because we feel like we suffocating in a dark cloud or are drowning in defeated, misshapen, twisted thoughts doesn’t make it OK — or wise or safe — to stay there and entertain those misty tendrils of snaking poison. Sounds poetic, but I’m totally serious. There really is at least an element of that danger.
We could get into the topic of spiritual warfare here, but we’ll save that for another time.
Caveat: There are times when we or someone else has been wronged, and a relationship will be best served by dealing with the problem and the other person. Scripture does teach that we can approach one another with concerns and try to solve problems. Our manner and attitude, however, must not be one of pride, anger or blame, but rather humility, grace, and edification.
Now, here’s where we get super practical.
We know how defeating depression is. We know it can lead to discouragement and despair. We know it feels insurmountable, and that it seems practically impossible to do anything about it.
We also know that we cannot wait until we feel good and content before we address the issue of our depression.
So, what then?
We make choices based on the truth of God’s Word, not on our blinding feelings.
Here are some ways to do that.
– Gather an arsenal of encouraging verses to recite, meditate on, and to pray back to God whenever you feel overwhelming (or before you feel overwhelming) discouragement.
– Be ready and willing to do this whenever necessary. For me, this was sometimes every few minutes or hours. Seriously.
– Be ready to do this even when everything within you claims that God is not listening, and when you feel absolutely no encouragement from these verses. Cry and rant if you must, but keep on keeping on. It was a grueling two years for me, but this one thing was how God kept me from losing my mind.
– A dear friend of mine, who knew I was battling severe depression, suggested to me that I write encouraging verses on index cards, and literally have them in a pocket to refer to at a moment’s notice. Excellent resource.
– Sing praises to God. There is a story in 2 Chronicles 20 about the children of Israel going into battle against the Moabites and the Ammonites. Verse 22 says, “And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.”
Wow. Let’s do that. Let’s sing praise to God in our darkest dark, like the Israelites did in this story, and like Paul did when he was in prison.
There were times, in my misery (I assure you, it was miserable), that I would sing hymns and songs of praise to the Lord with tears streaming down my face, not because of reverence and joy, but because it seemed so useless. By and by, however, these songs and Scriptures that I made myself focus on began the healing in my heart and mind that I so desperately needed.
-Listen to encouraging, uplifting songs of praise and adoration, including some classical music. Some of these songs are very precious to me now, as I clung for so long to the hope described in them.
One particular one was All For Jesus, by Robin Mark. The line, “For it’s only in Your will that I am free” was my theme, and ultimately led me to…
-Plant a proverbial flag. We may scoff at this over-used tactic, but for me it was invaluable, and was a turning point in my battle to conquer depression.
I clearly remember the morning that I was in my room, making my bed, and I surrendered myself to God anew, in a sense, and affirmed that, “Yes, Lord, only in Your will am I really free. Without You, nowhere else, nothing else has any lasting or real meaning. I must admit that I hate the condition I am in at this moment! But I will follow You right here, right now.”
Two weeks later, I suddenly realized that I had not been inundated with condemning, depressing thoughts for over a week. I was amazed.
So, what if I had cut to the chase and prayed that prayer two years earlier? It would have been great, I’m sure. However, just between you and me, as awful as that time was, I think there were some very important lessons that the Lord wanted me to learn.
I find I am more understanding now of people who are deeply entrenched in depression.
I can now recognize the lies of the devil more easily when I am tempted to entertain wrong, sinful thoughts.
I can encourage others who are experiencing their own battles in this area.
I added a new love for God’s Word to the respect and appreciation I already had for it.
-Pray, of course. Pray God’s Word. Sometimes that was all I could do. I couldn’t compose any decent prayers on my own, so I prayed Scripture. I highly recommend it. After all, God wrote it.
-Pray “without ceasing”. Moment by moment, if necessary, day by day, month by month…and, yes, year by year. The Bible tells us to do that even when we are not depressed! 😉
– Get help. This is hard, especially for a Christian homeschooling mom! How can I admit what I am going through? What if the authorities find out? They’ll take my children away from me! What will people think?” And on and on.
I could tell you about the time that I sat on the kitchen floor, yellow pages on my lap, so desperate for relief that I wondered what institution a Christian mom could commit herself to without dishonoring the Lord and her family, and that wouldn’t take the children away, and that would give her truly Biblical counsel.
I could tell you about the time(s) that I thought that maybe if I ran away, things would be better; maybe I was just such a failure at this Christian wife-ing, mother-ing, home-educating thing, that everyone would be better off if I just wasn’t around.
Praise be to God, He directed my husband to allow me to go away to visit some family and friends, one of whom was a dear sister in the Lord who faithfully walked me through Scriptures, truth, and assignments, without judging me. That was well before my “planting a flag” experience, but it was what bounced me off the bottom of my personal well, and started me on a healing, obedient-to-the-Living-Word path
So: godly, encouraging help from a praying friend is invaluable.
– Give thanks to God for His truth and love even if you don’t feel it. Are we seeing a theme, here?? Thank Him for everything you can think of, even if you have to literally grit your teeth to do it and rack your brain for something reasonable.
Depression is like living in a cloud; we do not see clearly in that cloud. Praying, singing, trusting, listening, giving thanks, claiming Scripture — all these things will eventually (and it might be a long eventually) help you to finally see the lifeline God has been throwing to you all the time, but you were unable to discern it. The Bible says, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”
– Read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, Perfect Love by Ruth Myers, and The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes…even if you are not depressed! 😉 you will be blessed and encouraged and challenged by this books, I think.
– Get exercise! ‘Nough said.
-Drink water! Lots of it.
– Take some supplements. I won’t go into this here, but take some Vitamin B and C and D for starters. Maybe you, like me, are low in iron. It’s easy enough to do some research on this topic.
– Drink some healthy teas. Many herbal teas have some interesting health benefits, and a hot cup of something can be very comforting.
– Laugh. Read some clean jokes. Watch a clean, funny movie (that might be hard to find). Visit with a baby or toddler, if you don’t have your own. We’re running out of babies and toddlers in our home, and we will certainly miss that age.
– Serve others. This can be hard when we feel completely depleted. I know I felt that way.
-Don’t beat yourself over the head for having problems. Everyone does, in one way or another. You are not alone. Submit yourself to the Lord, by an act of the will, and keep calm and carry on.
And, yes, we are at long last ready for
The Curriculum (and, Finally, the Conclusion)
What in the world does all this have to do with curriculum??
Well, if the word “curriculum” actually means “course of study”, then it has a lot to do with it.
Look back at the “The Choices” section. All of these are excellent things to do at all times, not just during times of discouragement.
These lessons (curriculum) have influenced how I exhort my children.
When we and our children stand before the Lord one day, His concern will not be what math program we used or whether we used a Charlotte Mason method, even though these are interesting, effective, and worthy pursuits.
His concern will be whether we honored, loved, and obeyed Him in everything we did: in our relationships with Him and others, in using our talents, in yielding to and walking in the Spirit, in loving God and our neighbor(s). Homeschooling is right up there amongst these considerations, and God will be faithful to lead you to wise curriculum choices to meet your family’s needs.
Remember the homeshooler’s favorite passage out of Deuteronomy 6:
Hear, O Israel:The Lord our God is one Lord: And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: And you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shalt talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.
We will be wise to train our children to love, honor, obey God, to walk in newness of life, to meditate on Scripture, to pray, to give thanks, rejoice, exercise trust in God during dark times, to be filled with the Spirit, deal with problems Biblically…and to practice self control even when they don’t feel like it.
Thank you for journeying through this article with me.
These are things the Lord is teaching me, and will, I’m afraid, have to continue doing so until I reach heaven. I’m a difficult case.
I have not reached maturity in these lessons (just ask my family! On second thought, don’t 😉), but am on that path.
If you or someone you love is dealing with depression, and you would like to discuss this with someone who has been there, you can contact me here.
You may strongly disagree with me on one or many points. You are perfectly free to do that.
However, if you would like to contact me, please express yourself with graciousness and respect, and I will do the same with you. Harsh, unkind, slanderous emails will be deleted. Ain’t nobody got time for that!!! 😅
I am no expert…just someone who has, unfortunately (and yet, ultimately fortunately, as God is in the business of redemption) “been there, done that, and got the T-shirt”.
God bless you in your personal and homeschooling journey!