Homeschooling through trials
Comments 17

Homeschooling While Mom is Sick

This is a topic upon which I have become a reluctant expert. Three painful, bed-rest pregnancies and lately two years of chronic illness have taught me the hard way that it is possible to continue to homeschool during physical trials. Indeed, these times teach us as mothers to lean on the Lord and to draw close with our family as never before.

How can we not only survive, but thrive as homeschoolers while battling physical illness?

Make a plan.

Whether diagnosed with a long-term illness, a high-risk pregnancy, or the flu, having a game plan for “what to do when I feel terrible” makes the bad days livable. Take a look at what is your minimum requirement for your state (do you really need to do any school work at all on your sick days?), where each of your children are academically (do all of them need to do another math worksheet, or only the oldest of them?), and your teaching style (would your children know what to do without your guidance for a day?). Make a plan that is as simple, quiet, and stress-free as possible for your worst-case-scenario days, and communicate that to your oldest children. Mine is this: My younger children are “ahead” (whatever that means), so only my oldest son does paper work on my wost days. He only does logic and math on those days. Everyone reads and keeps the house picked up and stays as quiet as possible if I am still asleep when Dad goes to work (during arthritis flare-ups, I can’t sleep at night, and usually fall asleep around 4 am to sleep as late as possible). I live in Texas, which has no “day requirement” or portfolios or other checks, so I am very free with my sick days. Make a plan, and communicate it, and write it down if necessary.

Delegate responsibilities.

Housekeeping chores should be definitely delegated to children old enough to handle those responsibilities. Cooking, washing, vacuuming, tidying up can all be handled by youngsters quickly and efficiently before playtime. I am so glad I spent some time teaching mine to do some housework before I became sick. They don’t keep the place spotless, but they are doing better and better as they grow.

On very bad days, older siblings can help with studies, too. I try not to do this too much, but there are advantages to having big brother explain math sometimes. I just want it to be the exception, not the norm.

Learn in new ways

We love to take field trips and go to museums. When I am sick, I just can’t put one foot in front of the other. We learn more from books. An entire world opens up between the covers (The Wind in the Willows!), and we are transported to places we have never been (the forest of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) to see people we never knew (Vikings! almost as exciting to my young barbarian as Goths!). An entire day, week, or month spent reading is not in vain. If you can do nothing else, just read. Or hand the book to someone who can.

Nurture your own spirit

Illness is an especially hard time for the homeschooling mother. Indeed, I read a classical education book last week that used illness in the home as a chief reason families should put their children in private schools instead (I hurled it across the room and switched to Twain). We become fatigued, wearied,  burdened, distracted, depressed… The yellow school bus never looked so inviting.

We may not be able to magically cure the physical trial the Lord has allowed, but we can nurture our spirit to strengthen our hands for the task. Regular Bible reading will refresh the emotions and uplift the heart. Reading good books on a variety of topics, not aloud to the children but for our own betterment, will stimulate the mind and sharpen the intellect. Conversing with adults, on the phone or internet – and with husband when he comes home from work! – helps to encourage the spirit, maintain perspective, and remind one of the “outside world.” It is important to take care of ourselves spiritually, mentally, and emotionally during difficult times.

Remember that discipleship is the key.

The true nature of home education is bringing up our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4),” to be teaching God’s Word …

when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

 - Deut. 11: 19

Physical trials offer daily, moment-by-moment teaching opportunities to show our children

My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then am I strong.

 - 2 Cor. 12: 9,10

Let’s not give up on homeschooling during times of physical trials. By God’s grace, we can overcome and teach  – and learn – valuable lessons for His glory.

How do you homeschool through sickness?

 

17 Comments

  1. You go! God placed your kids with you for a reason (duh! ;-) They are learning so much more than they could through a curriculum. Compassion and responsibility…their relationships with each other are probably going to be stronger than it normally would have been. So much. You probably see how your illness stretches them in ways that the rest of us don’t see.

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  2. Thanks for sharing so candidly! I’ve been struggling myself this past year. Again, but in a different way than I have before. I, too, believe that preplanning is the best way to deal with chronic illnesses. I live in a state where we do have to keep track of days, but I’ve learned to become lenient enough to count just a few things they do on their own as a school day, if need be.

    I think one thing you forgot to mention and that I usually don’t do, is to let go of the guilt we over-achieving homeschool moms feel when we can’t implement the usual plan and when we do have to spend the day in bed. That’s the toughest thing about being chronically ill!!

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    • So true, Bethany. I was actually thinking, when I wrote the point on nourishing our own spirit during trials that I could have made that into an entire post itself. And letting gowould be such an essential part of that. You are right; I didn’t say that clearly enough. Keeping a “big picture” view of things helps a lot with that. When I seek for God’s mind and pray for His wisdom, not my own, that helps me not frantically fuss if I don’t master worksheets and schedules.

      Last night, I attended church for the first time in quite a while because of my health. My pastor spoke on John 16, Christ’s fore-telling of His own death, resurrection, and Pentecost. Jesus explained clearly to the disciples in vs 16 through 22 that they would be very sorrowful, they would not understand the trials, and they would be separated from Him for a time. But these things were necessary so they could have the joy of His full power and presence (vs 23-33, compare to Acts 1 and 2).

      How marvelous, how glorious to take part in such trials here below. Just a little while, just a few days of shadows and searchings, but oh, the fullness of the richness of His power and peace and joy!

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  3. Thank you for this, Lea Ann. My children are two and four now, and we’re beginning of first year of formal homeschooling with the oldest next year. I have rheumatoid arthritis, and I’ve had several complication related to that in the past few years so I’m a little apprehensive about what homeschooling will/can look like for us.
    You’re right, though, that the struggles point me toward the great hope we have in Christ. Thank you!

    ~Shannon (found over at our family blog, Dinglefest, and my special needs ministry one, The Works of God Displayed)

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    • Oh, Shannon, I feel for you! (gentle, empathetic hugs!). Though I haven’t been specifically diagnosed, I’m suspecting I have sero-negative RA myself (it runs in my family, too). We (you and I) can’t do it – homeschooling while chronically ill is too hard and painful – in our own feeble strength. But God can do it through us, and that is a miraculous thing.

      I am very happy to meet you!

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      • Lea Ann–I think you read my guest post over at Shannon’s blog, and I know you read the one about the little girls reaching out to a boy with special needs at church. (sorry for the poorly written sentence!). Shannon, meet LeaAnn my writing buddy. LeaAnn, meet Shannon, a lady w/ a heart for special needs families. ;)

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  4. The flexibility is one of the major perks to educating at home, especially when illness strikes. We have only our own schedule to meet and not those of someone else. We are also free to move at a pace which the family can manage when the situation is difficult. Illness is one of those intervening circumstances that tests our creativity and in fact becomes part of the education of our children. Share in another families effort to deal with a similar and difficult intervening circumstance. http://home-school-coach.com/intervening-circumstances-can-teach-families/ Keep doing what you are doing and your family will not only survive but thrive.

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  5. I’m finally getting to this after/on the upswing of my own fibromyalgia flare. Between my flare and the title of this that popped up on Twitter, you inspired me for a series early fall–special needs parents who have their own physical challenges as well. I appreciate this post and will come back to it, I’m sure. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Write it, Jenny!

      I was just comiserating with another chronicly ill homeschool mom on the isolating effects of sickness. We really think “I am the only one” with this type of trial, and these demands … but nothing is further from the truth. “There hath no temptation (trial) taken you but such as is common to man…” It is so important we encourage one another to endure through these hard times.

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      • Funny you say that. I put up the question on my two special needs homeschooling FB groups, and got feedback almost immediately! I thought, “Looks like we’ve got ourselves a series!”

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