Written by Jamie C. Martin of Simple Homeschool
I was 12-years-old when I first began to starve myself.
I don’t know why exactly. Just that it made me feel in control, and being thin brought positive attention my way. That subconscious choice launched a decades-long struggle with food, eventually morphing into bulimia, depression, anxiety.
A deep love for my own kids finally helped me turn the corner in my relationship to food and begin to make peace with it. I spent the first half of my life hating my body, and there’s zero chance I’m going to do so in the second half. I choose to honor each laugh line and wrinkle, celebrate every silver hair I’ve earned.
But I think my struggles back then pale when compared to the load modern day tweens and teens are asked to carry.
I can’t imagine shouldering social media and cyberbullying on top of homework, active shooter drills on top of exams, peer pressure on top of a lack of ownership. Of course it’s not this way for every traditionally-schooled teen, thank God, but it is for many.
Something has been stolen from our kids, and it’s a tragedy.
Kim John Payne, educator, counselor, and author of the book Simplicity Parenting, often talks about the fact that all kids have quirks. Quirks are normal. However, he goes on to suggest a formula he’s noticed, that “A Quirk + Ongoing, Cumulative Stress = A Disorder.”
The truth of this equation and its results are currently on societal display in record numbers.
A healthy homeschool, on the other hand, frees adolescents from carrying these extra loads. It gives them back their childhood, gives them back their lives and educations. A loving homeschool is good for kids’ mental health.
It offers margin, time for cultivating passions, a safe space where differences are respected. Kim John Payne often shares another equation with parents and educators: “A Quirk – Ongoing, Cumulative Stress = A Child’s Genius.” Yes!
If you brushed aside every other potential benefit of homeschooling, this is reason enough. I look at my three teens and see plenty of typical issues, but not the deep fears I dealt with at their age.
I see adolescents with struggles to overcome, but not individuals about to crumble under the weight of meaningless societal pressures. I see young people given the chance to thrive by developing strengths instead of being forced to dwell on weaknesses.
And mamas and papas homeschooling kids with mental illness? You are my heroes. You give beyond what I can even begin to comprehend, all for the love of your babes. Some of your children were at one point in the system, and you witnessed firsthand the horrors it brought your family.
Because how dare we suggest that dealing with bully torments and teenage cliques are necessary “socialization” required to raise whole human beings? That is like saying that being cooked in an oven is necessary in order to know how to heat up a lasagna.
Regular life is full of challenges, and yes, we need challenges. We need to learn how to handle difficult people in the real world. But fake challenges that arise when we put groups of precious kids in a fake environment, strip them of freedom and then ask them to shoulder the emotional fallout is not the real world.
I’m in awe of every reader out there who is, in many ways, taking an extra load onto yourself in order to keep your kids from bearing burdens that children were never meant to carry. And that leads me to the second part of this post.
Because we cannot talk about mental health without talking about our own.
A healthy homeschool is good for our kids’ mental health and in many ways, it’s also good for ours. We don’t have the morning out-the-door rush or the evening homework rush, both of which lead to stress. We’re not being hounded to join the PTA or sell wrapping paper that nobody wants.
But in other ways, whew, this responsibility is intense. It is easy to feel inadequate, to give in to fears and worries, to wonder if we’re doing it right, to lose sleep over a child’s struggles.
We can never give to our kids what we ourselves lack. May I encourage you to do whatever it takes to model the hard work of protecting your mental health?
We don’t have to be idyllic examples of perfection, not at all. We simply need to be real about our issues and address them. That could mean counseling, medication, nutrition, or exercise. And yes, it could even mean putting your children back into a traditional school.
There is NO one size fits all here. There is simply discovering what’s right for you and yours in this season of life.
I see you, moms and dads. Your tears and concerns. Your sacrifices. I see, also, your laughter and joy at the lifestyle you’ve chosen. We are beautiful messes, held together by grace, grace that restores.
Your work is valid, urgent, important. It matters—not just for your kids’ academics but for every part of them: body, spirit, and mind.
I’m in awe of you. Keep going.
If you enjoyed this post, check out Jamie’s book, Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy.
Have you found homeschooling beneficial for your children’s/your own mental health?