Homeschooling is one of those wonderful blessings that presents constant opportunities for growth and change. Homeschooling an anxious child, well, that can just rock your world!
Anxiety is a very real disorder, adrenaline kicks in and suddenly your child becomes out of control and no longer thinks clearly.
Recently I was having a discussion with a friend who also homeschools her children. She said homeschooling was really hard for her because she felt all alone and she felt she was groping in the dark, hoping that she was doing a good job. She only wanted what was best for her children.
I asked her if she was part of a support group or if she uses any of the resources online and she said no.
I began to share with her some of the connections and resources I’ve used online and she was actually surprised. She had no idea there was help online for homeschoolers.
This of course got me to thinking, I wonder how many other homeschool moms are groping in the dark, trying to figure out how to homeschool all alone.
When I was gearing up to start my first year homeschooling a seasoned homeschool mom took me under her wing and mentored me through the process. What a blessing that was.
I’ve noticed that over the past 10 years homeschooling has changed right along with everything else.
Many homeschool moms are busier than ever! Many are over involved, over committed, trying to keep up with what everyone wants or thinks they should be doing.
Many are homeschooling and working or taking care of loved ones who are ill. Many are homeschooling while battling their own chronic illness.
It can be hard to find a support group especially if you’re not a computer savvy kind of homeschool mom. It seems to be harder to find that mentor homeschool mom that you desperately need especially when you have no idea what to do for that difficult subject or distracted child.
For a number of years I couldn’t even get out to a support group because I was so ill and I’m hearing that I’m not alone.
Thankfully, there are many support groups in the form of blogs, websites, Facebook Pages, Twitter Feeds, online stores, online classes, and even online training for mom.
I for one have greatly benefited from these resources and I am so thankful for them because they were there for me when I needed them most.
I began to explore these resources about 10 years ago when I first began having health problems. I couldn’t walk very well without intense pain in my legs and feet so I sat a lot. My husband bought me a laptop because it was easier than walking to the computer which was in our school room. I couldn’t physically attend a homeschool support meeting so I relied on the resources I could find online.
I began to find amazing resources and amazing women who offered them. These were homeschool moms in the trenches right along with me, sharing life, ideas, encouragement and resources for teaching.
In my next post I’ll introduce you to some of my very favorite online homeschool resources, so if you’re stuck and feel alone homeschooling come back soon.
Have you ever noticed that when school starts everyone’s excited but that it only lasts for a few days and then real life sets in.
It’s so easy to allow the day in and out of homeschooling stress you out especially when you have chronic illness.
It’s hard to plan and stay on track when you don’t know how you’ll feel each day.
My health is probably the best it’s been in 8 years and after graduating my two oldest daughters, I’ll only be homeschooling my youngest two.
My daughter is 15 and will be a Sophomore and little man is 8 and entering the 3rd grade.
This year should be a breeze right? After all, a few short years ago I was homeschooling four and very ill with chronic Lyme disease. [Read more…]
We’re rapidly approaching another school year and for many, that means another year of homeschooling with chronic illness.
Homeschooling a child with chronic illness can be very challenging depending on their needs. Homeschooling when you have chronic illness will require you to think more carefully about your year, planning for those times when you are physically limited or need to spend time in therapy or at doctor visits. You also want to be careful not to over plan or put high demands on your schedule which will create an environment of stress and possibly cause a relapse.
I homeschooled for many years through both scenarios, my illness & my children’s. I’ll be honest, it’s demanding, difficult, and stressful but very rewarding.
How do you eagerly approach a year that you know is going to be a lot of hard work, induce stress and possibly conflict?
[This post was written in June 2015 when we graduated our second daughter.]
Just a few short weeks ago my husband and I graduated our second daughter and homeschooler. We’ve been homeschooling since September 2001.
We’ve graduated two children so far and have two more to go. I can hardly believe these years have passed by so quickly and yet I remember the days going by oh so slowly.
In some ways it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago when my sweet little girls were sitting beside me learning to read, playing dress-up and discovering new things.
We sure have gone through a lot in the past 15 years. Those of you who frequent my blog know that we’ve had chronic Lyme Disease and other tick-borne infections for at least the past 8 years.
You could say that we’ve homeschooled through sickness and health but not in that order. You can’t meet a milestone like this one without a lot of reflection, mixed emotion, regret and even trying to reach a few pats on the back. As I reflected on my daughter’s life and on homeschooling her, I couldn’t be more thankful that we made it until the end. I can see how God always helped us in our greatest times of need. Each time I presented to Him my biggest challenges, my overwhelmed heart, fluctuating emotions, exhaustion, frustration and complete lack of wisdom, He always came through!
Does this mean homeschooling has been a breeze or that I haven’t struggled? No way! Have I wanted to quit? Sometimes every day! Have I had to work hard? Absolutely but it’s been worth it.
Homeschooling is hard work whether or not you have chronic illness, but if you do you’ll need to make some adjustments.
With this many years of experience, I feel a little seasoned! I have learned some things along the way, mostly from my own mistakes but also from things I learned to do right. While you’re hanging out here on my blog I’ll share them with you.
1. Remind Yourself Daily That God is Faithful
Regardless of what your burden is, God is and always will be faithful. You can trust Him to guide you for every detail in your life including homeschooling, parenting advice and help with medical or health needs.
James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously without reproach and it will be given to him.”
Be sure to spend time with Him each day reading scripture and praying. Don’t forget to include your children.
Each morning we gathered around the kitchen table and had what I called, “table time”. We read scripture, discussed it and prayed. Then we spent time doing other lessons.
2. Don’t Make Homeschooling Harder Than It Has To Be
Don’t try to imitate the public school system, you’ll only increase your burden.
For years studies have shown the decline of the public school system as well as the success rate of homeschooled children.
Homeschooled children statistically test higher and do better in college regardless of their parent’s education level or their homeschooling methods. (National Home Education Research Institute, Academic Statistics on Homeschooling, New Nationwide Study Confirms Homeschool Academic Achievement)
Homeschooling younger children should be interactive, hands-on and include a lot of exploration. Homeschooling older children should include a lot of discussion, opportunities to engage the culture and explore future career options.
Don’t forget to surround your children with people who have life experiences and be sure to engage them in conversation. Take advantage of Grandparents, friends and even doctor’s and nurses when you have your appointments.
Providing these experiences can be hard if Mom doesn’t feel well and even more difficult when your child is struggling with chronic illness, but with some effort, you can make it work.
Do some research and find the right resources for your child. Join a co-op or connect with other homeschool families. You can provide them with a rich learning environment and opportunities to explore new things when they’re well enough.
Don’t forget to make good use of the Internet, videos and the library. We’ve traveled around the world and watched live cam for popular tourist sites, we went on virtual tours and explored new things all on the computer from our own home. I have Internet protection installed on all our computers and devices and monitor the websites we visit but still monitor computer use.
3. Be Flexible and Willing To Change
It’s so important to be flexible and willing to change even if that means throwing those workbooks in a box and doing something new. I had to do this with my sweet girl who just had terrible meltdowns every day when we sat down to do school.
I knew it was important to love my child and not demand that she be obedient and sit still to work through her book. I needed to figure out what was best for her even though I had spent good money on this curriculum.
The whole world opened up to her when those books went into that box and sat in the corner of the room while she learned using hands-on activities and games.
This experience took me out the “box” early on and away from traditional schooling which helped so much when we later found ourselves needing to adjust to the needs they had with Lyme Disease.
You can guide your child through the years to learn no matter what your circumstances. Make it interesting and as enjoyable as you can. Who said school had to be boring and monotonous?
4. Ask For Help
We all need help from time to time. Why is it so hard to ask? The thing we fear most is that the other person may say no. It really is OK if that’s the answer you get, sometimes we’ll be the ones to say no.
Asking for help also includes using homeschool co-ops, group or online classes and don’t forget your local community college for dual High School credit.
So, regardless of the answer, you’re afraid you might get, ask for help when you need it. Whether it’s for tutoring, milk from the grocery store or just a little break because you really need it, ask!
5. Take It One Day At A Time But Homeschool With The End In Mind
Oh, this is so important! If you wake up every day and tell yourself, “Woes me, I have 12 more years to go, whew! how will I ever make it?”, you’re going to stress yourself out and you’ll frustrate your children.
On the other hand, if you wake up every day and plan to do the very best you can with each day, then you’ll be able to accomplish what you really need to for each day.
At the same time, you still need to plan ahead and be sure you’re going to give your children a well-balanced education covering the subjects they need and preparing them for graduation and for life.
Don’t forget, you’ll never be able to teach everything but you can teach your child how to learn anything they want!
6. Don’t Go It Alone
Homeschooling is a group effort. You need support. Your spouse, a fellow homeschooler, co-ops, Mom’s groups and even those homeschoolers you meet online can all be a great support. I’ve benefited from many different types of support at different times in our homeschooling journey.
I love online webinars and downloadable audios that I can listen to while cleaning or making dinner. Many curriculum fairs offer seminars and homeschool speakers who have successfully homeschooled their children.
Wherever you find your support make it a priority to have a support system.
As a homeschool mom, you should continue learning and you may find yourself in my shoes, having to learn how to teach kids who all of the sudden have special needs with their illness.
7. Accept Your Limitations
Regardless of whether you are the one with a chronic illness or your child is, you have to take into account what you and your child are actually capable of.
If your child is overtaken by chronic pain, migraines or even psychological disorders you cannot expect that they will be able to complete their school work like a healthy child. You’ll need to allow for time off, extra time for assignments and even more help to get through the good days.
It’s a constant temptation to want them to do double work on healthy days but that’s not reasonable. A well-balanced homeschool allows for social time, outside activities, physical exercise, and even fun.
8. Don’t Forget the Encouragement
Finally, be sure to encourage your child and yourself. It’s so hard for them to be down, it’s hard to miss out on time with friends, being able to do what everyone else is doing and very discouraging to know that they’re falling behind in school every time they can’t lift their head up of the pillow.
It can be very discouraging in a home when one or more family members are in pain or are not feeling well.
Do what you can to keep your spirits lifted and a smile on your face.
We love jokes and anything that will make us laugh. Laughter has brought a much-needed reprieve into our home especially when things can feel pretty bleak.
Thankfully, God has blessed our home with a few jokers and we end up with a good belly laugh almost every day. Laughing is good medicine by the way.
Don’t forget, if God called you to homeschool then this is your job and He will help you every step of the way. I leave you with tight hugs and those words we all want to hear, “You Can Do This!”
The first part in this 2 part series is Chronically Ill Homeschooling Part 1 – When Mom is Sick.
As homeschoolers, we work very hard to meet all of the demands of the family’s busy schedule, managing and balancing the needs of the home and educating our children.
We carefully choose the right curriculum and work hard to implement it while teaching to each child’s learning style. We try hard to minimize meltdowns and teach character while at the same time keeping our cool. At times we may wonder if we’re even good enough to educate our own children.
Homeschooling is hard work but add to that a chronic illness or special needs and it could make most consider throwing in the towel.
Homeschooling Sick Children
When my children began having symptoms from chronic Lyme Disease our homeschool had to make adjustments and changes once again in order to make it work. I had already made huge adjustments when I became ill but found that things needed to change again.
Thankfully, when I recognized that my girls might be dealing with Lyme Disease, I was showing some improvement with my treatment but still struggled with pain and fatigue.
Each of my girls’ illnesses was different in severity and they each had different needs. There were times when they all needed me at the same time. This was difficult especially when I felt like I didn’t have the strength to care for them.
Because we had already been homeschooling I knew what my kids were capable of before their illness. Moms usually know when their kids are really sick or just trying to get out of something. It’s much harder to know when it comes to Lyme Disease because of the nature of the symptoms especially recognizing fatigue or cognitive impairment. I was able to understand when two of my children began having difficulty with the very things I had been.
I often think about how much harder it would have been if I hadn’t experienced the severe brain fog and cognitive dysfunction before they did or even the severity of the pain that comes with Lyme. I’m not so sure I would have been able to understand what they were really going through.
As we encountered this journey of homeschooling through Lyme, I had to relearn some things, like how to help them learn because of their brain fog. The learning techniques my children once found useful no longer worked, so I had to adjust. One of the hardest things I’ve had to do was to learn how to help one of my daughters approach her school when everything brought about a great struggle because of severe anxiety.
I strongly recommend that if you’re experiencing difficulty with your child that you can’t work out, get the help you and your child need and set up a support system for yourself. I believe getting help will give you the tools needed to continue to educate at home.
I spent time studying how the brain works, how it’s nourished, how food and amino acids can help minimize symptoms and how a person learns and retains information. These things proved to be very helpful for teaching all of my children.
I studied how to teach children with special needs because I realized that I needed a new plan.
There was nothing specific that I could find about teaching children with Lyme disease so I scoured books from the library as well as medical and educational websites online.
Even with all of my studying and the help we received it wasn’t enough for one of my daughters.
She didn’t begin to improve until we changed her Lyme treatment from antibiotic and herbal therapy to homeopathic remedies but the plan that I had set up helped me to approach each day with purpose.
Day to Day
Each day I needed to make the decision as to whether or not I should let my children rest and whether or not they were even capable of completing their assignments for the day.
Most importantly I had to learn to fully trust God for direction and help, letting go all of my well laid out plans for my children’s future. It wasn’t about me, it was and is about God’s plan for their life.
Our requirements for how learning took place and when a class was completed also changed. Sometimes my children needed me to sit with them and provide more help than normal. This was very time-consuming and required a ton of patience and again I had to rely on God because I’m just like everyone else and I get tired and impatient.
As my children started getting better, I think the hardest thing for me was recognizing when they really didn’t feel well and when they just didn’t feel like doing anything.
Many Lymies look great even when they feel like their whole body is shutting down on the inside and you can’t see “Lyme brain”.
Balancing my children’s social life with time spent on schoolwork was also difficult and completely different than if they were healthy. Sometimes our children would have to spend weeks in bed because of their symptoms. When they started feeling better and had the opportunity to go do something fun, my husband and I always allowed them to go even though I knew they were behind in their schoolwork.
It’s so important for us to think the best of our children. They want to succeed in life, they may just find that it’s harder and sometimes if they’ve been sick for a very long time they may struggle to believe that they ever will.
We have to be their greatest encourager and help them see that while they may have to work a lot harder than others around them, they can accomplish their goals.
Help them to be reasonable about their expectations for themselves. Obviously, no one can do whatever they want just because they want to.
We need to help guide our children and help them to find what they’re capable of doing and discover what they enjoy doing. They may need to adjust their goals so that they’re attainable.
Although my children have lost countless hours of school compared to healthy children, they have worked harder than I ever did in school and much harder than many kids I know today who are healthy.
My children love learning and they each have the tools for learning anything they want to.
Each of my girls has lost much time in their schooling because of illness but something that has really encouraged me is that in High School they each took at least one outside class in a Homeschool Co-Op where they were taught and graded by another teacher.
Each one of them excelled beyond what I thought they were capable of.
This was not only a good thing for me to see but it was a wonderful boost for them to see that they can do it.
For a number of years, our homeschool has looked more like a home stricken with a continuous bout of the flu; everyone lying around with heat packs, pillows, and blankets. When this happens we have either taken time off from school and rested or if it was possible we listened to audio books or watched educational DVDs.
The use of electronics and the Internet have been very helpful for us during our illness.
The amount of educational material on the Internet these days can almost be overwhelming but with a little effort, it’s easy to put together a complete curriculum or supplemental course work for the student to listen to or watch as they lie in bed.
Pinterest has been extremely helpful for setting up specific subject boards with safe places for them to explore.
On days when the kids are feeling well they often hear me say, “get as much of your school done while you’re feeling well so that you don’t have to push yourself when you’re not.”
This has become routine, though the kids haven’t needed the down time like they have in the past. We’ve also done our fair share of school during the summer months and during holiday breaks.
More Than One Right Way
Great flexibility and patience are needed when homeschooling through any trial.
I’ve learned to think outside the box when it comes to education. I don’t believe that my child has to sit and work through pages of material from a textbook in order to complete a grade.
I’ve seen the value of using many different tools like the library, the Internet, videos, audio books, and real life in order to supplement my children’s education.
Field trips are amazing but when you barely have the energy to walk to the bathroom they’re not very practical.
With the use of the Internet, we’ve traveled the world, watched Old Faithful, Victoria Falls, seen the light show on the Eiffel Tower, visited museums and were exposed to culture and art with the click of a button.
Sometimes our greatest field trips were to the doctor’s office or lab. I try to ask questions of the doctor or the staff in order to provide a learning experience for my children. As a result, my three girls are very interested in fitness, health, nutrition and helping others and if you ask them anything about tick-borne infections be ready for an education.
I can’t stress enough the importance of feeding your soul during these difficult times. Spend time in prayer and pray about everything.
Find scriptures that will encourage and strengthen you and place them where you can see them to remind yourself of God’s truth.
With help from homeschool Moms who have been through similar situations and the support and guidance of Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) I’ve been able to customize each of my children’s educational needs for each year.
Sometimes finding support and encouragement came from family or friends and sometimes from a blog or online webinar.
I found the support I knew that I needed because I looked for it and I asked for it. I knew it was crucial in order for me to get through this time.
We’ve been through many challenges through the years while homeschooling through illness, some years have been the most difficult I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Some of you are going through similar times and some much worse. God promises to help those who love Him and He promises to provide for His children. Look to Him for your help.
The Joy of the Lord is my strength.
Choosing to Homeschool
My husband and I chose to homeschool when our now 20 year old daughter was finishing up Kindergarten. Looking back I sometimes wonder to myself, “what were we thinking?”
At the time we wanted our daughter to have the best possibilities for learning without the distractions and interruptions she had experienced in school. She was and is still very bright. She was reading before entering Kindergarten and became very frustrated with school for a number of reasons.
Long ago, as we chose to homeschool our first daughter, we had very deep convictions for why we felt this was the best option for our family. There were also reasons we could have worked around but were still very important to us. We didn’t want her to be discouraged or distracted by her learning environment. We wanted our daughter to love learning and to learn at her own pace without having to wait for others. Most importantly, we wanted her to be able to explore and discover the amazing world God created without fear of mentioning His name.
We hoped that by homeschooling she would avoid wasting time on busy work and would be able to use that precious time to explore her talents and gifts. While we had many reasons for why we chose to homeschool, we continue to add to our list as the years go by.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Hindsight is 20/20”? Now that she’s graduated and our 2nd will graduate this Spring, I can look back and see how homeschooling has served our family well especially through chronic illness.
When my children became ill we didn’t have to struggle with the red tape of a school system in order to allow them time off from school when they were their sickest. I didn’t have to fight for special accommodations or tutoring. We continued to homeschool, much differently mind you, through all of our illnesses including mine.
When Mom is Sick
Homeschooling was most difficult when I became ill with Lyme disease, which happened first. You can read my story, When Everything Changed, if you haven’t already.
I could never have held together our homeschool on my own during my time of fatigue, pain, and cognitive impairment while also visiting doctors and trying to get a diagnosis. Thankfully, my husband was always a huge help.
Homeschooling through chronic illness was very tough, I won’t lie! There were many frustrating and difficult days which included tears and sometimes tantrums but I won’t tell you whose they were. Quite honestly, there was at least one year I’d like to completely forget altogether.
Despite the hardship, homeschooling through illness has worked for us. It has given us the freedom to educate around our most important needs.
My three girls hadn’t shown any Lyme disease symptoms until a few years after my initial symptoms so they were still able to do their chores and help when needed. In fact, when I became ill my girls willingly stepped up to help out. They were still young enough to think that doing chores was actually fun. They’ve since changed their mind about that.
We had a new baby in the house and the girls loved to pretend they were Mommies taking care of things. They learned so many things including how to prepare simple things in the kitchen like macaroni and cheese, homemade pizza, and chocolate chip cookies.
I suffered a great deal of pain and walking was very painful for me so the girls would often help to get things or they would bring their books to me so that I could help them with their school.
My husband hired a friend to come clean the house several times a month which was the most wonderful gift to me. I would often catch her praying as she worked and she shared that she always prayed for those she cleaned for. I just loved that.
My husband also insisted we order a curriculum that was already put together and easy to follow in order to alleviate the burden on me to plan lessons, teach and organize the way I had been doing. As much as I didn’t like giving up that role I knew I couldn’t do it and that it was a wise decision.
While I couldn’t wake up very early, I forced myself to get up each day and attempted to keep my schedule. I would begin breakfast, Bible time and review lessons with the girls but I often found my energy lacking greatly. I required frequent rests during the day and went to bed early in the evening.
My biggest frustration was the mental impairment I struggled with on a daily basis. I was forgetful, I had a terrible time with understanding what I read and had great difficulty making sense of and teaching math. I found it difficult to concentrate, to communicate clearly and even difficult to understand what my husband or girls were saying to me at times.
Despite my condition, we found ways to work through it making sure the girls were learning what they needed to. I’m sure we didn’t cover everything we could have if I were well but the kids worked hard and they learned so much through the curriculum we chose but also on their own just from reading good books.
Thankfully I found that God fills in the gaps when we ask and trust in Him.
There were many ways we had to adjust with how we functioned as a family and homeschooled. To begin with, I kept check-off lists to help me track what we needed to do and what the kids completed each day. That sounds like a relatively normal thing to do right? My lists were extreme and I had to write down everything because I literally could not think. I found it helpful to use different color pens so that I could understand what I had written. I also used sticky notes and a whiteboard that I placed on my fridge with removable Command Strips.
I had a very difficult time processing simple tasks and I found multi-tasking to be impossible, I even struggled just to plan the day. I knew that I had to do certain things but I didn’t know how to go about getting it done. We had our rhythm and our schedules established from previous years so I tried to continue with those the best I could. I found it helpful and even imperative at times to use timers and reminder alarms on my phone.
I felt as though my brain wouldn’t work, that’s the only way I know to explain it, and getting through each day was difficult and exhausting.
When I was well enough, I signed my girls up for classes when I had the opportunity and this took the burden off of me to teach and grade certain subjects that I had more difficulty with because of my illness.
My husband always helped with Math and he led the dinner conversation which usually revolved around what they had learned that day. This went beyond the “what did you learn today?”. My husband engaged the children in discussion and often went deeper into the topic whether it was History, Science or Bible.
Around the House
Day to day tasks is always difficult when we’re not feeling well but impossible when you’re down for a long period of time. Thankfully a friend cleaned my house for a short time but there was still the matter of getting groceries, cooking, laundry and all the other things that needed to be done.
This was a very difficult time for me because I liked my home a certain way. I liked for it to be clean and organized and clutter free. I just couldn’t make it happen. I wasn’t physically able to scrub my tub or kitchen floor and had to be ok with letting things go.
I had to let go of my high standards and allow my husband and children to do what they could. I had to be thankful and appreciative of their work and service even though I wanted things done a certain way.
When my girls cleaned the kitchen or reorganized the counter tops or another part of the house, it was important for them that I enjoy their creativity and hard work by expressing to them what a wonderful job they did. Many times I ended up loving what they came up with and I was so appreciative of how much they helped out.
While I could send hubby to the grocery store for a few things, I ended up finding a grocery company where I could order our groceries online and have them delivered right to my kitchen. For a small delivery fee, a necessary task was done for me which was such a huge help, especially since every step I took caused intense pain.
There are so many other ways we can rearrange how we live in order to keep our homes running and for continuing to homeschool when Mom is ill and while it’s harder it can work if the whole family pulls together.
I’m so sorry if you’re here reading my blog because you have a chronic illness. I know how hard it is and how many fears and uncertainties you might have. If you are going through a challenging season whether you’re suffering from health problems or some other difficulty, look to God for your help. He will provide the guidance, support, and encouragement that you’ll need to get through to the other side and then you’ll be able to encourage someone else in the future.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
(Since the writing of this post my 2 eldest daughters have graduated from our homeschool and are both productive members of society.)
Recently the county where I live approached the topic of a later start time for the public schools. For many reasons, this becomes controversial mostly between the schools and the parents.
The school administration obviously needs to be concerned with logistics; bus availability, the daily schedules of the drivers, the teachers, and the parents. They stated that the school budget would increase in order to make a delayed start a reality.
Parents, of course, are concerned with their child’s health and their ability to concentrate and do well in school but they also need to consider their schedules especially with the many extracurricular activities on the calendar.
As a homeschool parent, I have the luxury of allowing my children and especially my teens the freedom to sleep in. It doesn’t take us the same amount of time to complete school and they don’t need to wake early enough to catch a bus.
Even so, the type A part of me has always insisted on an early rise so that we can conquer as much as possible because, after all, I feel great when I can check off those boxes. I’m often mastered by my to-do list, by the requirements of school and by productivity. I’ve always had a hard time resting and allowing those in my life to rest.
Despite my natural driven tendencies, my whole world changed when I got sick with chronic Lyme Disease and I couldn’t stay awake. As each of my children was diagnosed I realized the absolute necessity of physical rest in our home.
The American Academy of pediatrics states that adolescents need between 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night in order to function at their best. My logical answer to that is “go to bed earlier”. But if you’ll remember your teen years you’ll remember that wasn’t possible. In fact, studies show that teens have a hard time falling asleep before 11pm.
So I’m faced with the question that if a healthy teen needs that much sleep how much does my chronically ill and fatigued teen need?
It’s hard to answer that question. I have to consider whether or not my teen even slept the night before. As hard as it always was for me I had to let them sleep as much as they needed during their sickest times. Sometimes that meant they didn’t get out of bed for weeks or months except for the necessities.
My teens don’t want to stay in bed, well, not always. They certainly don’t want to fall behind in school or miss out on what all their friends are doing. They get discouraged and even frustrated with the amount of rest they need. It’s been one of the hardest parts of parenting & homeschooling ill children.
Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made. When something goes wrong our body needs to shut down temporarily in order to heal. We need sleep, healthy nutrition, and TLC. We would do well to stop and give in to rest.
As you can imagine I have experienced a lot of anxiety over whether or not my children would ever be well. Would they be able to finish school and graduate? What about their future?
We have had to find creative ways to make learning happen despite our circumstances. We had to decide on what the most important things were for our children to learn.
I sought the counsel of other moms who had been in my position as well as the counsel of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). They were able to give me wonderful guidance and even suggestions for curriculum that would work for my children and their individual needs.
The school board in my county finally decided to approve a delayed school start but only by 20 minutes. As for my household, I will continue to assess and decide on an ongoing basis when our start time will be which I base on the health of each child and what their individual needs are.
I’m thankful for the flexibility that homeschooling allows for our family, especially since chronic illness became a major factor.
For more information about the sleep and teens head over to The American Academy of Pediatrics.
To learn more about Homeschool Legal Defense Association click here: HSLDA
Dear Chronically Ill Homeschool Mom,
I know you, I have been you, I am still you but now only occasionally. Each morning your eyes struggle to open, it feels too early, it’s another day. You still feel so exhausted, like you didn’t sleep at all. You’re weary, your body hurts and you don’t know how you will get through the day. Your emotions are raw and tender because of the pain and fatigue.
The calling on your life to homeschool came with great expectations, a peaceful home, organized lessons and diligent smiling children who love each other and obey without delay.
But one day, things just weren’t quite right. You weren’t feeling so well but you pushed yourself anyway to follow through with your well laid out plans. Each day brings increasing pain and fatigue. You struggle to understand why your body and mind won’t cooperate. You can’t remember things, you’re missing appointments, and your body hurts so badly.
You wonder why your children aren’t understanding their lessons and why they’re bickering and fighting. You walk through your house frustrated because you see all that needs to be done, piles of laundry, the kitchen sink full of dishes with dried on food, toys and dishes still sitting around the living room. It all overwhelms you and you can barely get breakfast made for everyone much less clean and organize the mess that lies all around.
You begin to ask yourself those questions that will ultimately feed the fear and defeat which are already creeping into your mind and heart. Am I doing the right thing? Do I have the right curriculum, the right schedule, the right children?
Maybe I’m to blame for their learning struggles, they’re not reading yet, they don’t know their multiplication tables, I can’t give them what they need, teach them what they need to know or even be a very good example. Who do I think I am? Maybe all those people are right and I’m really not qualified to educate my children. Maybe I should just put my children in school!
When that first thought, the first lie creeps into your thinking that’s when you need to STOP! Here are some things that you might try to regain your perspective and think on what’s true.
First of all, take a step back and take a deep breath. This may be a good time to get the children busy with something, make a cup of tea and take a little break.
Begin by taking every thought captive unto the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5) Recognize the lies and replace them with the truth. Grab a piece of paper, your smart phone or even a napkin and write it down. Write down the truth, that if God called you to homeschool your children He will provide everything you need to do the job.
Write down why you’re homeschooling in the first place. What was it that first made you want to homeschool? Maybe write down a purpose statement for your family’s homeschool. Write down what’s working. Is it really as bad as you think? You may want to get your husband’s input or that of a close trusted friend.
Be honest! If there are things which you could do better or something that you could change to make your homeschool work better then write that down as well. Then pray and ask God to guide you and give you ideas for how you can change those things.
As a chronically ill homeschool mom, don’t try to make your homeschool look like another homeschool and for heavens sake, please don’t try to make it look like the public school! The beauty of homeschooling is that each family can and should seek the Lord for how their family should homeschool because your children are not the same as my children or anyone else’s children.
In reality, homeschools greatly differ even in homes where everyone is healthy. Healthy homeschool Moms struggle with the same questions and doubts at times. They have similar struggles getting their children out of bed, getting them to do chores and even struggles getting their children to understand that difficult Math lesson.
Our jobs are not easy, it’s a calling that has been placed on our lives from the Lord and He promised to help us.
I like to write down scripture verses to remind myself of God’s purpose, plan and provision. Sometimes these are sticky notes that I place around the kitchen or on my laptop so I can be reminded throughout the day. Sometimes they are reminders that pop up on my phone. You can use whatever method works best for you.
Through our 14 years of homeschooling God has constantly been faithful to provide help and direction every time I’ve asked and He will help you too.
Once you release yourself from a standard that is not practical, realize that it’s ok to have the children gather around for reading time snuggled up in blankets on the couch or in bed. It’s ok to listen to great books on audio or to watch an educational video when you’re having a bad day and can’t teach the lesson.
Finally, dear Mom, rest in the comfort that only God can give. Surround yourself with those who can speak life to you when you just can’t hear clearly. Do not look anxiously about you, fix your eyes on God and take one day at a time.