My Experience Homeschooling While Dealing With a Chronic Illness
When mommy hurts...and she homeschools me.
My 9-year-old, my youngest child, sees my daily battle with lupus. I have three children. My oldest is 21. My middle child is going to be 19 in a couple of days. My oldest two have seen me healthy, and they have seen me sick. I don't think my youngest remembers when I got "sick," but he certainly sees the daily fight that I put on to beat this illness, all while attempting to homeschool him.
He understands that sometimes I hurt, or that I am sometimes too tired to play with him. What he doesn’t understand is that I am chronically ill and that this is something I will most likely battle indefinitely...although I do believe in the power of prayer.
My older kids, however, understand the permanence of lupus, although I tend to keep the specifics of my illness hidden so as not to stress them out.
I decided to focus on this article today, as the last couple of days have been a real challenge for me health-wise.....actually the last few weeks, dealing with high blood pressure and the possibility of blood transfusions due to a severe iron deficiency.
Over the last two days I had been questioning my ability to continue homeschooling, but I look at the progress that my son is making and I see no other option...sick or not.
Why did I choose to homeschool?
When you plan homeschooling through a sick day or something like a pregnancy, you know that at some point the cold will go away, the pregnancy will end in the birth of a child and you will be able to go on as usual. When you plan homeschooling through chronic illness it’s a whole different set of challenges.
So why did I decide to go the homeschooling route? Simply put, my son asked....or should I say...begged to be homeschooled. He was being bullied in school for quite a while, and it was not until I wrote a letter to the School Board Superintendent that anything was done. By then I had had it, and so did my son. So here we are...homeschooling!
My first month homeschooling
My first month was a bit of a challenge, to be honest. First we decided to take a trip to spend time with my son's grandmother and uncles. WiFi was questionable and we did not start the curriculum until we returned. One of the things I love about the type of homeschooling that I am doing is that it is linked to the Public School system so the curriculum is planned, although I can supplement with many field trips and other activities to ensure that my son is learning what should be learned.
Just to tell you a little bit about myself, I am homeschooling through chronic illness. I was recently diagnosed with Lupus, after a long battle with several other diagnoses ranging from chronic atrial fibrillation to neuropathy to COPD...you name it. You may think it’s strange for someone with so many medical problems to be homeschooling. But honestly, I would not have it any other way. I don’t have to worry about my kids’ “school” when I have my own appointments. I don't have to worry about not being able to get my son up and ready for school. I don’t have to worry about driving to a school building when I can barely walk to the bathroom some days.
Homeschooling can take place anytime!
One important thing I’ve learned about homeschooling , is that learning doesn’t just happen between the hours of 8am and 2:30pm. Actually, I’ve seen the best learning happen at different times through out the days and the weekends. Sometimes we take the day off and have a nature hike at a historic site and that is more engaging than sitting at a table with a laptop and books.
Some days school starts for us at 10:00 a.m. Sometimes it starts at 9, if there is a live lesson that he must watch at that hour. Most days we're done before 2:00 p.m. Some days may be a little longer. My son can also work ahead on assignments and take a day off as long as he is ahead.
My life is different.
We’re not called to model another family’s standard of home education. My life is different; I have limitations that others may not have. After years of dealing with varying levels of health and energy, I’ve settled into a home rhythm that works for me, and I protect it so that I don’t burn out. When I am doing well at meeting my own standards and expectations, I feel contentment, and trust that God will take my efforts and bring forth fruit in our lives in spite of my failings. When I start comparing myself to others, I take on the burden of discouragement, doubt, fear, and guilt. My kids don’t want to be stuck at home day after day with an unhappy, stressed-out mom that beats herself up for not doing everything Pinterest-perfectly. They don’t mind that my physical stamina can be low; they just want me to be joyful, loving, and present.
I teach my child all year long.
The idea that our children should be learning from August to May, with periodic breaks in between is, in my opinion, a little ridiculous. Yes, I understand the religious holidays. I also understand that learning can take place on trips. Utilize every opportunity. Learning shouldn’t be relegated to a season or time period.
As a parent I emphasize beneficial learning all day, every day. What my child learns, and how he learns will look different from day to day, but he is learning all the time. Sometimes he is outside in the garden learning how photosynthesis works. At another time he could be in the kitchen whipping up a recipe he found to be interesting. At another occasion he could be walking through a nature trail at a local historic site, learning about the Indians that inhabited Florida several hundred years ago.
I find it more fruitful to allow my child to plan and direct his own projects. I do my best to fill the house with good print and audio books, interesting resources, art materials, and tools to inspire creativity and learning. Obviously, we have to work within our state requirements (and our own personal convictions), but you can find a solution that puts more of the responsibility of learning onto my child, while preserving your energy.
Pray every day!
I pray everyday.
My day begins and ends with prayer. I am given just enough patience, perseverance, strength, and joy to get through each day.
I know my limits.
Prior to becoming ill my home was in top-top condition most of the time. Yes, I had my moments when laundry was on the couch or something needed to be done and I didn't do it. Today I realize that my house doesn’t have to be perfect. The way I homeschool doesn't have to be perfect either, although it is something that I have been striving for. I realize, and keep in mind, that my son is in 4th grade. He is talented. He is smart and he will continue to learn in his own way. He does what needs to be done, and sometimes I give him permission to let the other stuff go.
When it comes to chores, my son loves to help with loading the dishwasher, or even preparing a meal. He loves to experiment with cooking.
I try not to overextend myself, and I plan for last-minute changes when I do.
This is probably the toughest for me. I love being active. I love going on field trips, and doing activities outside the home. However, sometimes if I have a flare and am not able to make it, I try to have a back-up plan. I have found that being up front and honest is always the best policy. You don’t want to get a reputation for being undependable.
I have a homeschooling back-up plan.
With Youtube being available there is a plethora of videos that can be implemented into the learning curriculum. I also have lots of books and videos. I have a plethora of computer-driven unit studies already loaded on the computer. We also have several workbooks that can be used in a pinch. If I can't get out of bed for any reason, the iPad or the laptop is great for working on in bed.
I take care of myself everyday.
Each morning that I wake up I start the day by saying a prayer of thanks to God for waking me up. The next thing that I do is oil pulling, while I put the kettle on to boil some tea. This is done while my son is still sleeping as I love to have some quiet time to myself in the morning. I spend time taking care of my body on a daily basis. This ranges from massages with essential oils, to simple exercises, to a cooked meal. I also try to take a nap when needed, although getting plenty of sleep is sometimes a challenge. These measures go a long way in helping me feel better each day.
I teach my son to teach himself.
This might sound like a novel concept, but isn't that what we want for our children...for them to be able to teach themselves as they go through life? For fun my child goes on hikes. He recently was given a metal detector, and loves to hunt for old things. He also recently got very interested in collecting old coins so a trip into antique stores is one of his favorite past-times. He also loves to cook, draw, observe nature, plant seeds, make wrestling belts, build forts with his stairs left over from the bunk beds he shared with his older brother. He also loves to read books about World War 2, and other history.
I remind myself that sending my son to regular school is not the best option.
Remember the reasons you are homeschooling. Write them down if you need to. There will be days you will be tempted to take the seemingly easy way out and just send them to school. Knowing why you homeschool, and that those reasons have not changed with your health, will help keep you going. Whatever time your children have at home with you is much better than the time they’ll have at school.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Life isn’t always easy. But some things are just worth the challenges, sacrifices, and hard work it takes to make them work. Homeschooling is like that for all of us, isn’t it? Even those moms who are perfectly healthy have days when they want to give up, feel less than adequate, feel challenged. Having a chronic illness may increase the challenges, but the rewards more than make up for it.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are beginning a good work. He is faithful to complete it. Give yourself the grace you would likely extent to someone else.
I reach out to my support network whenever I feel I need to, and I have one that I can really count on.
I remind myself that I made the choice to homeschool, and that this decision is independent of what others think. When you are undertaking something like this you need to have extended family support, people who will be able to support you and not tell you that you bit off more than you could chew. You need to make sure that you have friends who will help out when you have a bad flare for a few weeks or even a few days. It is highly recommended that you have someone who will watch your child when you need to have labs and tests done and your child cannot come.
You will need to have some sort of support network of people who can help when times get tough and that can be hard to come by. If your friends and relatives don’t support your homeschooling, they likely won’t help for extended periods of time when you need them. And though the homeschooling community will support your decision to homeschool your son, they will likely have very full lives themselves and not able to do much to help you with logistics such as meals or childcare more than a day or two, if that. Something to consider: if you're part of a local church, get in touch with someone who may do meals for the sick. This may be an opportunity to get some help in that area.
I keep in mind the type of learning style my son has.
My son learns in so many different ways, and these can change from day to day. Some days he wants to be very interactive. Other days he will sit with a book and just read. Other times he is into the technology. Either way, he is learning, and I have to keep pace with his learning style. However, if there is a day that he wants to be more active than others, and I am not feeling 100%, then we simply talk about it and make adjustments.
Yes, you can homeschool while chronically ill.
So if you have a chronic illness, know you can still homeschool your kids! It just takes some preparations, flexibility, and creativity to get it all in.
So what do you do when YOU are the one sick? (Even if for only a day)
We simply play it by air. If we need to take the day off, we do. If we need to start at a different time of the day, we do that. That's the beauty of homeschooling. We just have the freedom to make our own schedule, that works around our timeline, and not the 8-2:30 timeline.
Both of us are building character during the homeschooling stage.
One last piece of advice, that I think is also important: Homeschooling with chronic illness is teaching you and your kids important character skills. Remember that! Learn from it.
© 2015 Gina Welds Hulse