Homeschooling seasons ebb and flow. Some are easier than others. A new baby arrives or you make a cross-country move. Eventually, life returns to “normal,” and you find your homeschool groove again. However, chronic illness can be unpredictable with no end in sight. Homeschooling, with its built-in flexibility, can be an excellent option for families coping with chronic illness.
I’ve been living with chronic illness and pain for 21 years and homeschooling for over ten years now. Based on my experience, you can homeschool in spite of chronic illness. I’ve found homeschooling to be a gift in spite of my health struggles.
Homeschooling with Chronic Illness
I had a chronic illness before my children were even born, so I went into homeschooling aware of it. Some people don’t receive a diagnosis until after they begin homeschooling, or they have periods of remission and recurrence with their illnesses.
Sometimes it’s a child who is diagnosed with a chronic illness, like diabetes, Celiac disease, or even severe allergies. Whatever the situation, homeschooling can be a huge blessing in the midst of difficult times.
Why Homeschooling Is a Great Option for Parents or Children With Chronic Illness
The flexibility of homeschooling makes it ideal for people coping with chronic illness. Homeschooling allows you to:
1. Slow your pace
If a flare-up strikes, you can take things at a slower pace. I have fibromyalgia, migraines, thyroid disease, PCOS, and mixed connective tissue disease (similar to lupus). Some days I can manage my pain with medications, followed by days when I can’t get ahead of the pain.
On those bad days, we cut back on our activities. A traditional school schedule doesn’t allow for too many absences or a slower pace, but homeschooling makes it easy.
2. Adjust school start times
If you’ve had a difficult night with insomnia or other sleep disturbances, you can sleep in. No rushing to catch a bus at 7 am!
3. Modify your calendar
We homeschool year-round. This schedule allows us to take breaks anytime we need them. No need to cram everything into a certain time period on the calendar. Even if you don’t school year-round, homeschooling makes it easy to reschedule your calendar as needed.
4. Monitor your child’s health
Homeschooling allows you to monitor your child’s health more closely. Whether it’s checking blood glucose levels or avoiding exposure to allergic triggers, you can create an educational environment that supports your child’s health needs.
Tips for Coping When You’re Homeschooling With Chronic Illness
1. Create a literature-rich environment.
Books, especially living books, are the key to our homeschool success. Whether they’re audiobooks, library books, or our own growing collection, books are the heart of our learning. When I’m having a rough day, we can still enjoy learning together from a comfy spot on the couch with good books.
2. Take advantage of homeschooling’s flexibility.
If we plan a field trip but discover it’s a bad pain day, we know that we might have to leave sooner than we expected and come back another day. Sometimes we choose to reschedule.
If you’re homeschooling with chronic illness, consider trying relaxed, delight-directed learning or even unschooling for a time if necessary. A more relaxed approach to education allows you to capitalize on the good days without stressing over the bad ones.
3. Don’t discount the life lessons.
Children can learn important character lessons like compassion, patience, and perseverance through difficulties like a chronic illness. Look at trials as an opportunity for growth.
4. Don’t beat yourself up.
Sometimes we’re our own worst critics. We’re juggling so much in our roles as moms and homeschoolers, and chronic illness adds another layer of responsibility. Do what you can on the good days, but allow yourself some breathing room on the not-so-good days.
No one ever wants to become an expert on how to homeschool with a chronic illness, but sometimes life happens in less than ideal ways. Remember to give you and your children grace. When it comes down to it, pulling together to cooperate and get things done even when it’s not easy strengthens family bonds.
Do you homeschool with a chronic illness? What tips would you add?