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.
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?