Homeschooling with a Chronic Illness — 10 Tips to Help You Succeed

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 homeschooling with a chronic illness

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.

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So here they are — 10 Tips to Help You Succeed (when homeschooling with a chronic illness):


Pray . . . every day. 

You will be granted just enough patience, perseverance, strength, and joy to get through that day.

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.

 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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are beginning a good work. He is faithful to complete it. Give yourself the grace you would likely extent to someone else. 

And remember . . . when God calls us, it’s our chance to obey.  He says He will equip us . . . 


Believe Him.

Everything is possible for him who believes. ~Mark 9:23

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  • Sam

    Great post Marcy! I will share on my FB page and Twitter =)

  • Teaque

    Thanks for sharing. I can’t imagine being in your shoes. Prayers! I have a friend considering homeschooling but is concerned b/c of her health issues. I will be passing this along.

  • jennie jennifers testimony
    I was sick,and when I got well my three friends took the course the next month and they all are back to work and life and well too. I met Jen when she still had lupus. I had chronic fatigue/fibro/environmental illness. Be encouraged. PM me for details if you are interested. Its an amazing 50 hour course/bible study mixed with input fro modern medecine. Lifechanging. We send people there all the time and NOBODY has left the same. GOD is good. Its a college lecture environment. Nothing like the TV drama… I used to be a chemical engineer and I have a little one ot start homeschooling so I did not go back to work like the others. I was not sure, jsut went ot check it out. If it applied to my life, I went ot God about it and at the end of the week I was well. I had no idea what to think before I went, so feel free to check it out and decide what you think after. You will not be sorry. Still thankful for the person that encouraged me to go…and for watching my friends get well too.

  • Shannon

    I had no idea about your diagnosis. Please know I’ll keep you in my prayers. I love your tips for homeschooling with illness…very helpful.
    Let’s plan a together soon. :)

  • Cherished Keeper

    This is very good & so needed. Oft times while comparing ourselves with others, we aren’t gentle with ourselves & end up feeling like a big, fat, homeschool failure. When you add a chronic illness, especially those pesky “invisible” autoimmune syndromes, it can overwhelm you! Thank you for sharing this, very helpful! Bless you!

  • Amanda

    Terrific post, Marcy – so many great ideas and reminders! Praying for you, friend! 2 Timothy 1:7

    Amanda B.

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  • Dawn

    Great post! Thank you so much. I also have a son Ben and have lupus. I appreciate and agree with your wonderful advice. Blessings!

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  • nicole

    Thank you so much for this article. I desperately needed it today. I was diagnosed with lupus a few months ago and have really been struggling with our old homeschooling routine. Again, thank you.

  • Shalon Clevenger

    Be encouraged! I have “been blessed” with lupus for 18 years now. I was diagnosed two years after having my first child, who will be 21 this year. God led me to begin homeschooling my two girls in 2008 while I was running my own property management business. In 2010, I have been on dialysis and am currently awaiting a kidney transplant. Nevertheless, my friends and family often comment how easy it is for them to forget that I am “sick” because God gives me such energy and passion for life in all that I do. For those who have not experienced the joy of relying on God for your every need, from getting out of bed in the morning (yea, sometimes afternoon) to making your mortgage payment without a job, my short summary may sound like doom and gloom. On the contrary, God has shown himself real and present in my life and my girls have been blessed to witness the transformation of living a life dependent on and in service to a merciful God. I forgot to mention that I have been a single mom through all of this as well. With God, all things are possible! Again, I say, be encouraged!

  • Becky

    I needed this! I’ve been diagnosed with Graves Disease and I’m really having a hard time. This last year has been rough but we aren’t giving up! I take it day by day. And some days we get a lot accomplished and others very little but we are getting it done!

  • Cindi

    Thank you for this. I have chronic hives and Raynauds syndrome. My days consist of much pain. I’ve pushed through but really haven’t allowed myself the rest I may need some days.

  • Anne

    I also have fibro. I also have MS. I learned our first year to take it easy. There is always tomorrow.
    Great post!!

    • Marcy Crabtree

      Bless your heart. Thanks for stopping by!

  • April Crum

    Thanks for reposting this. I had found your blog a few years ago when searching for other moms who homeschool with chronic health conditions. I have lupus as well and it was so encouraging to know that I wasn’t alone and that I could do it!

  • Bethany Hargett

    It can be done! I homeschooled ten children with increasing adrenal fatigue and exhaustion. It was a struggle every single day — correction — every single minute. I cannot count how many times I longed for health, relief, a tutor, anything! I never came close to my ideals for their education, but, as I look back, I see God’s blessings all along the way. Now, I have 3 children left to bring to their graduation day. Thankfully, I have had a huge turn around and am improving amazingly. But, God’s promises were, and still are, incredibly dear to me as I hung on to them for dear life.

  • Amy N Bobby Hogan

    This is nice to read . I have Hasimoto Thyroiditis and hypothyroidism. This will be my first year of home schooling. Right now I only have one child to homeschool.

  • Abounding in Hope

    I’ve homeschooled for the past 8 years through chronic Lyme disease and Coinfections. One of my symptoms is Fibromyalgia pain. I’ve graduated 2 through my illness and their own and now I’m homeschooling the last 2. It can be done and your points are very true. God bless and I will pray that God will bring healing and help you accomplish the work He has set out before you.