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.