When Healthy Doesnt Go as Planned

Homeschooling with a temporary or chronic health setback

By DaLynn McCoy

Days where a body just doesn’t want to move, let alone get out of bed and do anything productive, are just part of life. Everyone gets sick sometimes, where rest and isolation are the best medicine. But for some households, that’s not just an occasional thing but more like a way of life. For a mom dealing with a tough pregnancy or a chronic health issue in herself or a member of her family, the decision to homeschool or continue homeschooling has many more questions and variables than answers. Can she still do it?

Of course she can, if that’s what she feels led to do and believes is best for her family. This mom’s approach may look differently than other moms. This homeschool may be much more laid back than the classical homeschoolers across town. This mom may need more help and support whenever possible, but she can educate her kids and those kids can and do thrive in an environment where life is about learning and learning is life!

Older students, self-motivated students, and well-behaved kids are easy to homeschool in any environment. If we were all blessed with kids that fit that description, sites like this one probably wouldn’t have any value because no one would need the help! Kids like this (and they DO exist!) can easily follow a lesson plan or pick a subject from a suggested list and guide their own education.

But if the kids are younger or not as inclined to learning, and Mom is dealing with health concerns taking time and energy which cannot then be spent on homeschooling, please believe me when I say that she can still do this! The number one thing to remember in this situation is that life skills are the most important education any child will ever receive, and everything can be a life skill when life requires its use. A child who needs to help administer medication in an emergency may learn to read more quickly than he had from lessons in a book. Necessity isn’t only the mother of invention, but also the mother of education!

As a homeschooling parent who has always dealt with one life or health situation or another, my personal best advice for a homeschool that needs to function on this level is to count on operating year-round. When dealing with a situation that won’t fit inside the proverbial box, is completely unpredictable and impossible to schedule, and can be volatile as far as emergency considerations go, then it’s not a reasonable thing to try to fit the rest of life into that box either.

Don’t try to mark off 180 days of attendance with a 6 hour minimum if life isn’t going to allow you to do that. Some of us don’t have 6 hours worth of energy every day! As a massage therapist who deals personally with fibromyalgia in my own life, you trust that I know what I’m talking about! My family does homeschool year-round. We stop most homeschooling activities the week of Thanksgiving, and since we stay pretty busy (and tired) for the holidays, we don’t count on starting back to school until after the first of the year. But, other than that, my kids know that Monday through Friday, all the rest of the year, they are expected to do some sort of school work. They may not work from 8am until 4pm every day, but who wants to do that anyway?

Lesson plans are wonderful. Sitting down at the beginning of the school year and planning out the entire year sounds so neat and organized! Mustering the energy to do that sounds like a lot of work, but it’s discouraging to know that the homeschooling reality won’t jive with that schedule and that energy would be wasted. Some of us don’t have energy to be wasting on plans like these.

Lesson plans can be done weekly (or even after the fact). Kids can be taught to follow the plan and rewarded for doing so independently. Even in households where doing your part isn’t considered as reward-worthy, children who are being more independent than they should have to be at their age deserve recognition and encouragement. Encouragement builds confidence, and confidence inspires motivation. Who knows a few kids that need motivation? (That one was for me, y’all!)

Never discount non-traditional learning. Keep educational games on hand, games that kids can play alone, or that Mom can play from the bed. Older kids can read to younger kids, and computer or tablet applications can be life savers! Even the free apps out there can keep kids’ interest and teach them essential subjects.

During my very difficult pregnancy with my twins, I had a student with autism beginning middle school, a defiant and active elementary school boy who would’ve qualified as ADHD at the time, and a beginning kindergartner who was later diagnosed as dyslexic. How much school do you think we got done that year? That was 5 years ago and - I promise you - my kids are none the worse for the wear.

One way to keep track of any holes my kids may end up with in their education because of spotty teaching time and Mom’s lack of external motivation, is to check resources like the World Book Curriculum Standards or even books like the “What Your # Grader Should Know” series. Once or twice a year or so, on a good day, sitting with a list like this and checking off what the kids have mastered can really help guide the homeschool for the next few months.

Just being aware of what the kids have learned and what they still need is all that’s really required in a homeschool. Teach them to read, let their interests guide their learning, rest on days that rest is needed, and enjoy life when life is enjoyable.

Life Lesson F-75: You can still homeschool when you’re sick or injured!

I learned this lesson when I was pregnant with my twins, as I mentioned in the article, but am continually reminded of it as my fibromyalgia has become a daily concern since the beginning of this calendar year. Monthly, my flare-ups may knock me down for a couple of days, but I just have kids work on the computer and do what they can until I can return to the land of the fully functioning and help them get more done again each day. Life happens and we just take it a day at a time!

When did you learn this lesson and how did you deal with it?

More Life Lessons Learned by DaLynn:

This special series is presented by DaLynn McCoy - life's lessons learned as a homeschooler!

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pam sullivan says

Just wanted to comment that this was a helpful and encouraging article!  As I have lived with chronic pain for almost 4 years now, I have yet to learn how to adjust my expectations to my situation!  This article reminded me that learning occurs even if the "lesson plans" are not made in advance, and that taking time off when needed is so important.  I did graduate my oldest last year and she entered a rigorous college of her choice; between that event and your article, I am reminded that I CAN homeschool even with chronic pain!


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