Deciding to homeschool is a deeply personal choice, but if you have a chronic illness or serious medical condition that choice becomes a very complicated matter.
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. No matter what you say or do your child will either resist you or he will shut down altogether. This is the fight or flight response caused by adrenaline.
However challenging, there are ways to homeschool an anxious child. It’s going to take work on your part. You’ll need to study your child and always remember to not take your child’s behavior or tantrums personally. You’re going to have to be a lot more flexible and patient but you can do it. [Read more…]
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?
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.
[This post was written in June 2015 when we graduated our second daughter.]
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 a chronic illness, but if you do you’ll need to make some adjustments.
With these 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.
(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.