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.