Sunday, June 30, 2013

Home Educating with Depression

People with depression aren't necessarily down in the dumps and gloomy every minute of the day. We have up moments, sane, normal and yes, even happy and joyful moments. It's too easy to judge me as being 'okay' because you catch me in one of those moments. Most of the time I'll do my best to look and act cheerful, hoping the pretense will distract me and boost my flagging spirits. People prefer happy, cheerful people: I know I do. It is hard to maintain a cheery disposition so many of us work alone or hide in our homes. We don't want to disappoint or upset our friends and those we love. I also know how difficult it is to help someone with depression, how hard it is to offer comfort and reassurance, especially when it is continually rejected by them. But most of all I know how difficult it is to feel empathy and sympathy for someone with depression. Depression is a lonely affliction. My online communities make it easy for me to function socially, to feel connected, to feel useful and offer a way I can help others feel okay about what they are doing in their lives. I feel blessed to have what I have - love, friendship, support, encouragement, comfort - but most days I feel broken and weary, and lack the energy and drive to help myself. I do what I can, hang in there, hope that in the next moment something will shift in my body and mind and the fog will lift, just a little bit - I can do the lifting from there. So catch me during one of those moments and celebrate life with me, but understand how rare they are right now for me. Send me love, think of me kindly, and remember my depression is not me.

Depression doesn't mean we're not capable of parenting or educating our children. It's not easy, but then parenting is never as easy as people assume it will be. Home education my children gave me the gift of time so that my children captured my quality moments as a parent. I had no way of predicting when those moments would occur. Had my children been schooled chances are they would have only met and known one side of me - which facet I can't know. I only know that my children endured and survived my depression and without their unconditional love and acceptance of me as I am, not who I should be, helped me endure and survive this debilitating illness. We are richer and closer as a family because we all worked so hard to not let this illness destroy us.

Home education allows for considerable flexibility. It's adaptable to the needs of each individual in the family. It can be anything you want or need it to be. Education doesn't have to fit into a set timetable - it can and does occur throughout the day. Unschooling and making the most of natural learning was the approach that worked best with our family.

In my early years of home educating few people voiced their difficulties and this was very isolating: I felt I needed to be super-mum to home educate my children well. Little by little people like me began to chat about our problems as well as our successes. I found that the majority of parents home educating had health problems and were struggling to find balance between all the competing needs within each day. The more we opened up and shared our problems the more heartened we were that problems can be solved, if not immediately, then eventually. But most of all we discovered that our children weren't being damaged by the experience: our experience of family life was in fact becoming enriched, relationships were growing more respectful, cooperative, and mutually beneficial. And what made this possible is the gift of time home education bestows - we have oodles of time to fit in the educational development of our children.

Quantity allowed for quality. Without this I am convinced my children would have a different perception and experience of me as a parent and person and our relationship today would not be as full of love and support as it is. Those quality moments I share with the world are precious to me, like lifelines I cling to and try to focus on and remember when the fog descends. My family, who understand and accept me, thanks largely to the fact that we lived so closely together throughout those home educating years, know that the fog will and does lift, and they wait patiently, with love. Nothing beats that kind of support.