Life has been slow in our homeschool lately. I have struggled with Fibromyalgia pain for several years. Then, this past December I was diagnosed with Lupus and started a medication regimen to suppress my immune system.
I discovered very quickly that with immune system suppression comes the risk of getting every virus that comes along. In the past 2 months, I have had bronchitis, shingles, and strep throat. In the midst of all that, I also badly sprained my ankle and my shingles brought on a case of chicken pox for Ben. Getting homeschooling completed each day would have been difficult if I didn’t have a plan for days (or months) like these.
I don’t tell you this to offer excuses or to receive pity (although I do covet your prayers). I know I’m not the only homeschool mom out there living with a chronic illness or pain and homeschooling. So I thought I would write this blog post for 2 reasons — to encourage you by making sure you know you are not alone, and to give you some ideas of how we plan for these times.
So here they are — 10 Tips to Help You Succeed (when homeschooling with a chronic illness):
1. Pray . . . every day. You will be granted just enough patience, perseverance, strength, and joy to get through that day.
2. Be honest with your children. Children are so empathetic and compassionate by nature. They will understand more than you can imagine. Enlist older siblings to help with younger ones, if possible. Ask them to help you in ways they are able.
3. Know your limitations. Your house doesn’t have to be perfect, and neither does your homeschool. Never compare your worse day to someone else’s best day, and don’t compare your house to your picky neighbor’s. Do what needs to be done, let the other stuff go. Get your kids active in helping around the house. Even a 3-year-old can sort and match socks. A 12-year-old can be taught to make a simple meal. A child as young as 6 can load and unload a dishwasher.
4. Don’t overextend yourself, and plan for last minute changes when you do. This is the toughest for me. Ben and I both like to be busy and enjoy being with other people. It’s hard to say, “no.” You can plan for co-ops, field trips, committees, sports and other things outside the home, but you must have a back-up plan. I never tell Ben about field trips ahead of time, if I can help it. When I’m teaching in co-op, I try to have things ready so someone can easily step in for me, if necessary. I try to have a back-up person to take Ben to a sports game. Be sure those counting on you understand why you may have to back out. I have found that being up front and honest is always the best policy. You don’t want to get a reputation for being undependable.
5. Have a homeschooling back-up plan. Use technology, videos, and books to your advantage. I always have a book basket full of books and videos from the library for our unit studies. I have a plethora of computer-driven unit studies already loaded on the computer. We also have several workbooks that can be used in a pinch. A breakfast table works great for homeschooling in bed. You can use it for a laptop table or a writing desk for your students. Have your kids read to each other, or to you. You can still be there, involved and available for instruction and to answer questions. Make a picnic of it while you’re there!
6. Make room in your homeschool schedule for days you just can’t do it. We begin our year in July and end in May, taking off June and December. That gives us a full month of days to take off as we need or want to. Treat your kids to a fun movie on those days. I absolutely love being able to stream Netflix movies through our Wii.
7. Don’t be too lofty with your goals. It’s great to teach art, music, knitting, and Spanish to your 3rd grader. But getting the basic 3Rs is really all that’s necessary. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself!
8. Take care of yourself every day. Don’t just wait until you can barely get out of bed. Eat right, exercise, take your medicines, take a nap when you need it, get plenty of sleep at night. These measures will go a long way in helping you feel better each day.
9. Ask for help when you need it. Have someone on back-up . . . a friend or family member who understands. I do this more for Ben than for me. I sometimes feel guilty that he’s spending too much time at home with a sick mom. A quick phone call to a friend for a playdate is helpful for both of us. When I’m really desperate, I can always count on my mom to come get Ben for an overnight stay.
10. Know that sending them to school is not the best option. Remember the reasons you are homeschooling. Write them down if you need to. There will be days you will be tempted to take the seemingly easy way out and just send them to school. Knowing why you homeschool, and that those reasons have not changed with your health, will help keep you going. Whatever time your children have at home with you is much better than the time they’ll have at school.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Life isn’t always easy. But some things are just worth the challenges, sacrifices, and hard work it takes to make them work. Homeschooling is like that for all of us, isn’t it? Even those moms who are perfectly healthy have days when they want to give up, feel less than adequate, feel challenged. Having a chronic illness may increase the challenges, but the rewards more than make up for it.
Remember, when God calls us, it’s our chance to obey. He says He will equip us . . .
Everything is possible for him who believes. ~Mark 9:23