I received this email yesterday afternoon from my editor who asked me HOW to home school a chronically ill child. Hmmm....How do I answer that one? Well, she requested a second article for the magazine based on that question. I am copying and pasting it below so you can read (and comment!!!) and tell me what ya think. Remember, you CAN comment on the blog...there's this little button below each entry with the word, "comment" on it. :)
Homeschooling is already overwhelming, so adding in a chronic illness can make you feel like the needs are greater than your ability to meet them. The statement that “God only gives you what you can handle” is totally false. He gives us more than we can handle so that we have to lean on Him. Lean on Him and trust that you aren’t failing.
• The first thing to do is to realign your expectations. Then make realistic goals for yourself and your sick child. When necessary, repeat number one.
• Don’t compare your daily accomplishments with your best friend’s. She probably went to the doctor once last month. You’ve already seen two this week. Your day is totally different, so don’t pretend they are the same. They aren’t.
• Determine exactly how much time you can devote to formal “schooling.” Be realistic. If you can’t accomplish school this week, there’s always next week. Yes, it can become an issue when it’s always going to be “next week,” but you can’t function without rest and you will dig yourself into a physical and emotional hole that will overwhelm you if you try to live your life with unrealistic standards. Remember that homeschooling is about more than school.
• Consider creative scheduling. If you can’t manage to squeeze in four language lessons and four math lessons every day, consider teaching your younger children on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and your older children on Tuesday and Thursday. The school year may be longer this way, but everyone is still moving forward. If you have to miss a day, you miss it. Just go back to the plan as soon as you can.
• Write out your lesson plans in advance. I take a month during the summer and lay out the entire program for the year, especially the books that my children will read. When I am unexpectedly away from home, they just have to look at what’s next in order to continue forward.
• Find a curriculum that makes your life easier. I understand the concept of learning styles, but on a practical level you have to be able to manage. If your program is cumbersome, look for something that will allow your child to move forward but takes less of your time.
• Outsource. Find creative ways to home educate your children so the full responsibility is not on your shoulders. There are fabulous online programs that allow your children to move forward without you being present. Find a piano teacher who will come to your home. Use a co-op. Find a college student willing to teach a class to your children. One or two video courses might help for an older child.
• If you rely on library books, put them on hold two weeks before you need them and have your husband pick the books up on his way home. Our library allows my husband to check out books on my card so that, should a crisis occur, the library late fees are all on one card. (Our library has a maximum fine of $10 which, I hate to admit, we pay regularly, but we only pay it on one card!)
• Train your other children as soon as possible in household management. Someone has to keep the ship on course and you can’t always do it. If you have to miss school in order to teach your children how to mop the floor or bake bread, consider it a home-economics class. These are skills the children need on a practical level, and you need help. The family is in this together, so do not feel guilty asking your children to pitch in. The Proverbs 31 woman had lots of servants; you have children.
• Focus on today. Tomorrow has its own issues.
• Trust your instincts. You spend inordinate amounts of time with this child. You will know which days he is able to perform schoolwork and which days he can’t. Every child and their illnesses are different. You may have to simply write off a full school year. Or, a school “year” might take you two years to complete. Again, trust your instincts.
• Get emotional support, either from a friend or from a professional. You need someone to talk to honestly without fear of rejection. Your emotions are real and need to be dealt with. Don’t ignore them.
• Find some way to manage the stress. I started running three years ago and it truly has saved my sanity. I lost weight, I gained energy, and the endorphins can’t be beat. Exercise is amazingly helpful.
• Nurture yourself. You have to put something into the emotional tank to be able to effectively parent/nurture your children, much less maintain a relationship with your husband. Remember. 70% of the marriages with a chronically ill child end in divorce. The threat is very real. Protect yourself and your family by also protecting (nurturing) you.