Illness strikes whomever it pleases, whenever it pleases. And homeschoolers certainly don’t have an immunity against it.
My own family has lived through our share of illness. From our three-year-old’s diagnosis of MAE (myoclonic astatic epilepsy) to my own battle with a very aggressive form of breast cancer, we have learned how to “keep on keepin’ on” despite challenging medical circumstances.
And I am here to tell you that chronic illness doesn’t have to mean the end of your homeschool! With a little creativity, patience, and teamwork, your children can still thrive at home.
Though every family’s dynamics will be different, if you are suffering through a chronic illness, you’ll find the following concepts essential to continue learning at home through this time:
- Be willing to school unconventionally – When my body was worn down from chemo, my little ones and I often “did school” on my bed. There’s no rule that says school only counts if it’s done in a school room or at a table. My littles actually thought it was fun. Remember, learning takes place in many forms, and the important thing right now is to get well. Concentrate on getting through the day, and do whatever it takes to do that. Each. Day.
- Don’t be a slave to a schedule – Your body needs extra rest during times of illness. If you can sleep until 9:00, then, by all means, stay in the bed. Rest, mama! You can start your school day at 10:30 just as easily as you can start at 8:00. Schooling can also take place on weekends or in the evenings if needed.
- Consider outsourcing – If you have high school students or children who have special skills and study needs, this may be the time to outsource some courses. Outsourcing can take many forms, and is a valid choice for parent-directed education, especially when there are extenuating circumstances!
- Accept outside help with household duties – If someone says, “Let me know if you need anything,” take them up on their offer. Seriously. Now’s not the time to be concerned about their sincerity. Most likely they are sincere, but if not, they’ll learn not to ask again.
- Don’t be ashamed to ask for help – But if you’re not getting offers of help, don’t be ashamed to ask. Bear in mind, however, that most people have not walked a mile in your shoes, and may not even know what you need. So go ahead and be specific with your requests. Friends and family would likely be more than happy to wash a few loads of clothes, vacuum the floor, or cook a meal—you just need to let them know. Perhaps this is a good time to ask the grandparents for some hands-on help?
- Incorporate the older children – If you’ve already taught your children the importance of working as a team to run a household, then this should be a fairly easy transition. If you haven’t, well, then there’s no time like the present. Older siblings can help the younger ones with schoolwork—handling everything from reading out loud and checking daily work to tutoring. All of the kids can do age-appropriate chores. Writing out a simple chore chart can go a long way in helping things run smoothly.
- Be willing to accept a new normal – Whether or not you like it, you’ll need to get good at going with the flow. So start modeling this flexibility for your children and help them learn how to adapt to whatever life throws at them. Because no matter what y’all are going through now, there will be other stuff coming up down the line, too. If they learn today that “normal is only a setting on the dryer,” they’ll be less likely to develop either a sense of entitlement or a martyr complex tomorrow.
- Keep the lines of communication open with your kids – At the end of the day, remember that your kids are in this, too. You may think that you’re doing them a favor by keeping them in the dark about the situation. In reality, however, you may be keeping them from some valuable real-life lessons. Homeschooling is so much more than the “three Rs.” Character lessons such as tenacity, creativity, persistence, faith, and inter-dependency are super important. Practical skills such as housekeeping and shopping and cooking and even childcare, perhaps, will be useful throughout their lives. Use this time to be real with them, and in the process, grow a solid relationship through honest communication. This concept of communication is probably the most important, and certainly one that can even influence their eternity.
I would never wish to walk through another life-threatening, chronic illness, yet I’m forever grateful that God used those times to teach me so many wonderful lessons. And I’m thankful that our family was brought closer together through the process.*
If your family is also dealing with chronic illness, rely on God and seek Him throughout it all. He is gentle and loving and will most certainly provide – everything from household management to homeschooling needs.
* – Candy describes that journey – and how God brought her and her family through those dark days – in her book “Who Turned Out The Lights?”, available on Amazon.