Tips for Making Homeschool Work When You Have a Chronic Illness
Homeschooling can be a great choice for your family. You have the opportunity to design your child’s curriculum, engage with more personal lesson approaches, and even mold your schedule around the diverse needs of your family. However, that’s not to say that homeschooling is without some significant challenges. This might include the possibility that your family’s personal health circumstances seem to clash with the independent approach to education. Particularly if you live with a chronic illness, you might even be dissuaded from pursuing homeschooling. You shouldn’t be — a solid education for your children is still achievable. Homeschooling with a chronic illness isn’t impossible!
Let’s take a look at some tips for making homeschooling work when you are living with a chronic illness.
It can be tempting as a parent to push your problems aside to attend to your child’s needs. This is prevalent in homeschooling as it’s not uncommon to feel guilty for prioritizing your health over providing your children with the education they deserve. However, neither you nor your child is likely to thrive through the process if you ignore your chronic illness. This is why maintaining lines of communication is important.
First, you must engage with your family. While you may be the one leading the homeschooling process, it is not wise to go it entirely alone. Talk to your spouse, partner, or relatives about where you feel that your chronic illness might be limiting the activities you undertake with your child. Even seemingly common vision issues might impact your ability to engage in lessons that require fine detail or rely on depth perception. Work with your family to establish how they may be able to help out with some lessons — either permanently or as needed — to ensure your child gets a full educational experience.
It’s also important to remember that homeschooling does not necessarily mean that you are apart from the educational community. Many cities will have networks of homeschooling parents of varying degrees of experience who can provide insights into curricula, behavioral issues, and local resources. When you’re living with chronic illness, you must keep in contact with these community groups. Talk to them about your issues, and they may be able to direct you to tools, support, and activities that can help ease the pressure when you’re finding certain aspects challenging.
Awareness and Flexibility
Homeschooling isn’t as rigid as regular, formal education. This works to your advantage when you live with a chronic illness. It means that you can respond flexibly in a way that both helps you stay kind to yourself and doesn’t negatively impact your child’s education.
Your approach here should include:
Your ability to maintain an agile homeschooling program relies on your ability to understand the issues that your health condition presents. Think of it this way: if you were homeschooling your child with a chronic illness, you’d be checking in with them once or twice a day to assess how they will be able to handle their tasks. You should take the same approach to yourself. Exercise mindfulness, be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling, and recognize the signs that you are struggling. This allows you to adjust more effectively.
- Think Long-Term
A micromanaged curriculum plan is the enemy of flexibility. While it might seem as though you should have an hour-by-hour activity plan for education, this can spiral out of control if you have to adjust when you’re having a tough day — and it might lead you to playing a stressful game of catch-up late. Rather, plan from the perspective of the ideas that you want your child to grasp each week or general standards to achieve each month. That way, it isn’t the end of the world if you have to skip certain activities. Your focus instead will be on ensuring understanding in the long term.
Don’t Be Traditional
One of the most prevalent benefits of providing a homeschool education is the fact that you can make it more rich and personal than a public school experience. Indeed, some of the ways that you can engage in a non-traditional way can also be supportive of your needs when living with a chronic illness.
On days when you can’t do typical sit down classroom activities, you can still find ways to educate your child that are less taxing on your physical health. Take video games, for example. Gone are the days when video games were seen only as a form of mindless entertainment. Instead, teachers have found they can offer a unique form of education, not to mention a variety of mental health benefits.
On rough days, you can also include a focus on real-world activities. Alongside their academic work, you can provide focus on more practical lessons that they wouldn’t otherwise get in a school environment. This should include self-care. Particularly on days that you are finding your illness challenging, these can be opportunities to talk to your children about the benefits of engaging in activities that ensure you are kind to yourself. Use your own experience as context and help them to build skills such as mindfulness, self-respect, and meditation.
Indeed, it can be important for them to understand that they may find themselves responsible for helping somebody such as yourself, a neighbor, or a stranger living with a health condition if there is an emergency. If you cannot engage in academic lessons, shift them to more practical lessons such as basic first aid training. Introducing them to the procedures, knowledge, even the equipment of emergency response can build their confidence and perhaps even save someone’s life. These skills also tend to improve their future job prospects. It’s important to ensure that they are capable of these tasks though. For younger children simply talking through dialing 911 and providing basic support to a loved one can be a good first step.
Living with a chronic illness can be difficult, and having to homeschool at the same time can certainly be challenging. But it’s far from impossible. Take time to communicate your needs, and take an adaptable approach to your curriculum. Allowing yourself to include non-traditional, practical forms of education into the mix cannot just help you cope while you teach; it is also beneficial to your child’s educational experience.
Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about health, wellness and education, but occasionally goes back to her roots with socially active news journalism. Frankie spends her free time cultivating her zero waste garden or off hiking in the mountains of the PNW with her loved ones.