Homeschooling with Chronic Illness

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Written by Sara Jordan Panning of Heart and Soul Homeschooling

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.

Homeschooling 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.

Homeschooling with Chronic Illness

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?

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Sara Jordan is a homeschooling mom of three creative girls. They believe in literature-rich learning with living books. Relaxed, delight-directed learning is their approach so they follow interests and explore ideas to encourage a lifelong love of learning. Their emphasis is on nurturing creativity, curiosity, character, and connection. Sara is an author/speaker/consultant who loves to inspire other homeschool moms on her blog, Heart and Soul Homeschooling, and with the resources she creates in the Heart and Soul Homeschooling shop. You can find her on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

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  1. I was just diagnosed at 38 years old with early onset Parkinson’s disease. We are about to begin our sixth year of homeschooling. PD comes with a number of physical, cognitive, and emotional difficulties, but I am thankfully responding well to the medicine so far. The fatigue is what I’m struggling with right now. It has been a relief in some ways to find out that I’m not just lazy. I have likely been suffering from PD the whole time we have homeschooled. I have no tips… other than, don’t wait ten years of getting progressively worse before seeking treatment … but I did want to say that there are other chronically I’ll moms out here who homeschool. Thank you for sharing this perspective.

  2. Oh thank you so much for writing this!!! I have Crohn’s, fibro, and a host of other illnesses. It’s so hard to find other HS mamas who know what I go through pain wise but also who know how beautiful this journey is!! 💜Bless you!! I look forward to digger deeper into your blog to find some new ideas of how to work out school!!

  3. Both of my children have chronic illnesses and I found this to be so relatable and helpful! Thank you for your willingness to share and encourage, Sara.

  4. Karen ~~ thanks for taking the time to comment. PD is a rough diagnosis and I wish you all the best in your treatment. Remember to give yourself grace on the tough days! I’m glad you made the point of mentioning that we need to make sure to take care of ourselves (like seeing a doctor when we aren’t feeling well) rather than letting it go on too long. As moms we’re so busy taking care of everyone else that we can forget to take care of ourselves!

  5. Jessica ~ I’m sorry you’re struggling with chronic illness. I know it can be so difficult. You’re definitely not alone! I’m glad this post helped you and you’ve encouraged me to write about it on my own blog, which I haven’t done too often. If it can help other moms out there homeschooling with chronic illness, then I’m glad to share my experience. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Shawna ~ I’m sorry your kids have to deal with chronic illness. I know that’s hard on a mother’s heart. I’m glad this post was helpful. Thanks for letting me know!

  7. Hi Sara, I’m an author, blogger, homeschooling Christian mom with chronic illness similar to you. I write a blog called The Silver Lining over at angelaslittleattic.com. Though I encourage others through the trials of life, I very much need encouragement myself. I found that today on your blog… Thank you! I’ve graduated twin boys through homeschooling, and I’ve been especially sick this year, finding it difficult to school my nine year old, even though she’s self-sufficient. I know it’s okay to take a long break, but I often feel anxiety and guilt about it, even though Jesus has greatly healed me of these strongholds. It was comforting to read your post and find another loving, teaching mom like me, who says it’s ok! God bless you and your beautiful family, in Jesus’ name, and I pray healing for you as well! 💙😊✝️

  8. What about when your whole family has chronic illness- mold, lyme, etc. It seems we have a new diagnosis every quarter as we treat the diseases. I’ve been sick for almost two decades. We have one child, who has these diseases which present themselves as sensory issues. She needs constant sensory stimulation, which I have little to no energy.

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