Homeschooling can be challenging. However, homeschooling with a chronic illness brings on a whole new challenge of its own. You may feel discouraged and worried that you are not qualified to teach your children at home when you don’t feel well. I’m here to tell you, do not give up! You are qualified and capable! Just because you are sick does not mean that you are not the best teacher for your child. You CAN do this.
In 2010 I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and since then have had other health issues arise. There were days in the beginning that I was sure I was going to fail at teaching my children. With some faith and perseverance, I pushed through and finally found some ways to keep us going.
Are you worried about how to stay on task when your body just doesn’t want to cooperate? Here are a few things that have helped me cope with my chronic illness, but keep our homeschool thriving at the same time.
- Plan ahead.
I try to take some time every weekend to decide what we will do in the upcoming week. This is when I print out any worksheets we will need, laminate what needs to be laminated, and write down any projects we need to work on. I also evaluate how things went the week before to see if anything needs to be adjusted. I take into account any appointments a family member might have so that I’m not overwhelming the kids (or myself) to rush or catch up later in the week. On days that I’m foggy or in pain, I can look at my plan and quickly remember what is going on instead of feeling lost in a forest of curriculum and school supplies while throwing up my hands and declaring it a “sick day” too soon. When I plan ahead, I fall on our “bad day routine” (More about that in a minute.) a lot less often.
- Live by a routine, not a schedule.
I love my homeschool planner dearly, but if I set a specific time each day to do something I find myself very upset with myself on the days that I just can’t keep up. Once I started teaching in a specific order instead of a time limit, I found that things were flowing more smoothly. On bad days I move a lot slower, and that’s okay. Everything still gets done this way and I’m not feeling guilty if we don’t eat lunch right at noon so that we can begin science at 1 pm. Remember, you can only do what you can do. Micromanaging is not going to give you the ability to do more, especially if you’re feeling lousy.
- Adjust your day accordingly
If mornings are hard for you, give yourself some grace and time to pull yourself together. Just because traditional schools start at 7:30am, that doesn’t mean that you have to. For a long time I tried to have us begin every morning at 9am. We quickly hit a burn out. I move slow in the mornings, it also takes awhile for me to be mentally alert and my body is stiff for the first few hours. When I changed our routine to have our mornings be a time of an easy breakfast, chores, imaginative play, reading books, and music I found that I was able to teach my kids more effectively. We now begin school in the late morning, take a break for lunch, and continue learning in to the late afternoon. Everything still gets done, everyone is happy, and our days just flow smoother.
- Have a plan in place for bad days.
The weather is lousy, it’s cold, you hurt all over, and no matter what you do, you are just not going to feel up to working on that big project at the kitchen table with the kids today. By having a bad day routine in place, your children are still learning and you aren’t pushing yourself too far. Maybe your bad day routine is having them work independently on worksheets, lapbooks, educational movies, educational apps on a tablet, playing games that tie in to what they’ve been learning, etc. The options are endless, really. Sitting on the couch and overseeing what they are doing means you can rest and they aren’t falling behind. Reading book after book all day isn’t a terrible idea either. Just be sure that when you are making your bad day plan that you are realistic. Think of what you would feel up to when not feeling well, not something that would seem easy when you are feeling good.
- Give yourself a big dose of grace.
Guilt has no place in your life. If you know in your heart that there is nothing that can do to change the situation you are in, then there is no reason that you should experience guilt or shame about not having the ability to do certain things. You are teaching your children at home, caring for them, instilling values in their hearts and minds, and helping them grow into adults that will be empowered to make a difference in the world. That’s a lot of work! If anything, you deserve a medal. Worrying about what you can’t do just takes away from the time you could be doing all that you are able to do. Do what you can and feel confident about it, not what so-and-so is doing with her kids that would leave you unable to move for 3 days.
- Take occasional time alone.
Even if you are not able to have someone watch your children so you can steal away for a whirlwind trip to the beach, you can still make time for yourself. Give yourself a facial after everyone has drifted off to sleep. Soak in a hot bath and relax. Call a friend on the phone and have a nice long chat about nothing. Pick up a hobby that isn’t difficult to manage with a chronic illness. For me, I craft and sew. I’m able to do this in another room of the house while the kids are sleeping or enjoying free play. I get time to pray, process my thoughts, and not feel like the illness has won. I’m happy this way. When I’m happy, the kids are happy. When the kids are happy, they are more likely to be more cooperative. It works out for everyone!
Of course, what works for our family might not work for yours, and that’s absolutely okay. The idea is to adjust each day to work in a way that makes homeschooling successful for your family. Remember that many others have walked this road before you and stay encouraged. Once again, you can do this!
Are you homeschooling with a chronic illness? What have you found to be the most challenging? Is there a technique you have found that helps you? Let’s encourage each other!
Angie, a mother of 5, currently lives in the Inland Empire area of Southern California with her husband of 7 years, Bobby, & their 3 youngest children who are 5 & under. She has 2 older children, ages 12 & 10, that she is a noncustodial mother of who live with her during the Summer. She is a stay at home mom, homeschooling all 3 of her younger children. She’ll be the first to admit she is human & full of flaws. Every day she praises God for His grace & mercy on her life. She’s loves to craft & sew and is what you would call a “Disney Geek” since birth. She blogs at Raising Sticky Hands To Heaven about praising God in the midst of jelly sandwiches, toys, cracker crumbs, laughter, and tears.
Stephanie @ CrayonMarks&TigerStripes says
I think all moms need to give themselves a dose of grace! Amen to that! We all need to do that! These are great tips and you are such an encouragement to many!
Thank you so much! I really appreciate that. 🙂
Thank you! I needed this! I am a newly diagnosed diabetic, and everyone around me (except my husband) have been “encouraging” me to put my children in traditional school.
Adjusting to insulin, sugar crashes, etc, has been emotional and difficult, but we’ve managed just great, and my husband has been very patient and very helpful. It has been 2.5 weeks since I was diagnosed, and so far so good with homeschool!
Hi Camille! I’m so sorry to hear of your diagnosis, but so glad that you found encouragement here. It will take some adjustment along with trial and error, but you CAN homeschool with a chronic illness. You’ll be in my prayers. Feel free to ask any questions! Hang in there.
Thanks you for this wonderful post I have Lupus and Fibromyalgia just this year I started with seizures. I love your post something I needed to read today. I am a homeschool mom of 5
Thank You so much…..
Tonya Meadows says
Oops, I just accidentally pushed a keyboard key(s) that erased an hour long response. I have four children: two are grown and living independently, one is in public school, and one with A.D.D. I homeschool. I, too, have fibromyalgia along with scoliosis, and asthma. I had typed in a lot of things we do to stay organized which helps with the fibro fog but I guess I’ll just have to write a blog about it one day and leave the link with you. (blushing) It was a good comment. You would have enjoyed it. LOL 🙂 I’ll leave the link to a blog I wrote in 2013 which shows pictures of our homeschooling space. It has been changed since the blog post but the overall setup is the same. It is improved and I hope to take some pictures and write an updated blog. It’s wonderful you are encouraging others and making the best of your situation. This is an important post and I’m glad you wrote it. Take care and good luck.
Ron Mifflin says
I’m very encouraged by the courage you have displayed to continue to homeschool your children. I’m a stay at home father of 3 young boys and I’m currently in the process of deciding whether or not to homeschool our children. I was injured while serving on active duty in the Air Force and I have since been medically retired. I suffer from a host of medical issues. I’ve been testing homeschooling for the last 6 months and I’ve had some crazy ups and downs. God has seen me through it all.
I also live in Northern Virginia and I would love to talk with you more about how you keep it going. There seems to be little information about HOW to homeschool with chronic illness.
Kay Wilson Tilley says
Hi Amy, you have inspired me so many ways, today~ A BIG Thank-you! I am a Home-schooling Grandmother to 3 of our 6 Grand children, we Feel so Blessed in many ways~ Just recently inspired our daughter and her 3 children in going to church with us…..GOD is sooo Good~ We have a lot to be “Thank-full” for~I am in hopes that we can continue to challenge each other as Stay at home Teachers. I have a Precious Grandson that has a slight form of Autisim, I have been working with hands-on lessons for him, though often run out of ideas. He is eager to learn and so smart in a lot of areas, which we are grateful for. I too have had my share of Health Issues, not fun, though have learned to cope. I have felt I was not teaching as well because there are so many days I am laid back or just not feeling up to par! I have a large manilla envelope with each childs name on it, inside contains “Rainy-Day Lessons with a Flare” It is an off set of a regular day of Lesson studies. The students can be independant and decide what items they want to do and when! I make these up to create their imagaination, as well as learning as they are having fun!We make it over the “Not so Good ” days for me and them. It is wonderful to know I am not the ONLY one to do this~ I feel proud at the end of the day when it goes so smooth~ It is a Blessing to me. Please, is it possible we can correspond with each other? I pray we can. God Bless you and have a Blessed day, Smiles, Kay Wilson Tilley~ My e-mail address is: [email protected] and I am on fb under: Kay Wilson Tilley, Come visit me, I have a Homeschooling page~
Thank you for this! While I don’t have a chronic illness per se, I’ve never gotten back to normal after having multiple pulmonary embolisms 5 years ago. I used to be an early morning person, and have had so much trouble accepting the fact that I can’t do that anymore, due to my body being exhausted.
Mrs. W says
I have CFS and fibromyalgia. Homeschooling with a chronic illness is definitely do able. Things that have helped. We don’t usually start school until 10:30 in the morning. Mornings are really rough for me too. The first two hours of my morning I am stiff, sore, exhausted. We also homeschool year round. Spreading out the school year over 12 months really helps. We also only do 4 day school weeks. It is nice to have a day that can be skipped. We also might actually do some school over the course of the whole week in order to complete 4 days worth of school. (we sometimes spread out 4 days of lessons over 6 or 7 days if needed). My goal is for my children to have their core subjects done by lunch time (math, lang. arts, spelling). Then the afternoons we usually get out of the house for a little bit (this is my best time of day). Getting out helps me to feel a lot better, plus it keeps us from getting too stir crazy. I am thankful the early afternoons are my best time of day, because that is when a lot of homeschool activities happen. Some weeks we might go on a field trip or once a week my children might take a homeschool class. Or in the afternoon we might just visit the library to get out and get some fresh air or visit a park if the weather is nice. Everyday I take a long nap in the late afternoon, which I need to function. I find my nap helps me to get better sleep at night too-more refreshing sleep. As far as covering our other subjects we sometimes do them in the afternoon or sometimes in the evening when I wake up from a nap. I think keeping a variety with our afternoons and evenings keeps me from feeling burned out. One other thing that helps is having weekly goals for what my kids need to accomplish. Daily goals don’t always happen, but if I make sure that everything gets done over the course of 7 days that works out well for us. Also, if you are having a bad day there is nothing wrong with laying down and resting on the couch and your children doing their lessons by you. One last thing- I think it really helps knowing your typical energy patterns. For example, my mornings are rough, so I never sign up or go to any morning homeschool activities. We only do afternoon activities (field trips, classes, etc). I also don’t do evening activities, or it interupts getting a decent nights sleep. I don’t put pressure on myself to do activities at times of the day that make me feel worse. We also don’t do activities that are too long. 1/2 day activities don’t work with my health. Something that last an hour or so is great. I guess knowing your limits and sticking to it really helps keep yourself from crashing out. I find we do plenty of fun things throughout the year for the kids even while sticking to my limits. I hope some of these tips might help.
I am so thankful to God that I found this article and that you gave such inspiration to me. I am currently homeschooling my son who has Down Syndrome and I have been feeling like I may have Fibro as well. I’m pretty positive from all the symptoms and how long I’ve had them. I see a rheumatologist next week to find out for sure. I would love to talk with you if possible. I live in the Inland Empire as well in So Cal. I could use some tips to help stay on track through the bad days.
Hi I just found your post after searching for homeschooling mothers with chronic illness. I have been homeschooling my son since 2nd grade. We are in 5th grade this year. I suffer from Ehler’s-Danlos Syndrome and Fibromyalgia in addition to Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Raynaulds. Needless to say, I am in severe pain all day long, get dizzy and lightheaded and nauseous all throughout the day. My joints also dislocate at times. Mornings are very rough for me also. I usually wake at 7am, take my medications and lay back down for an hour, hour and a half, until they begin working. My son and I hang out in the morning usually until 9:30 or 10 and get started. We always start with Bible and prayers. We usually do LA and math daily. I make up math problems for him. Too much math curriculum is based on 180 lessons and is stress full for him and myself because we always miss lessons. My son had a stroke in utero, so he has some processing issues and executive functioning issues although he is highly intelligent. What I found works best for us is “unschooling” many subjects like history, music history, geography, reading, and science. He learns so much on his own, so I encourage him to follow his interests. We were much more structured in 2nd and 3rd grades. I realized he learns so much just from us following his interests. I make sure he has lots of excellent history books, science books, and literature. He learns a lot from playing historical and geography games. We learn just by living everyday life. He mostly learns because certain things are important to him and he WANTS to know about them. 🙂 I take a 2 hour nap every afternoon as well, after his sister gets home from public school. I wish she would homeschool with us, but she says she would miss her friends. School has caused so many issues for her though, especially bullies and kids just saying horrible things to her. I’m sorry I’m rambling…I’m writing this on a phone so I can’t read everything I’ve written and may have spelling errors I haven’t checked.