Tuesday, April 18, 2017

When I Don't Feel Good: 5 Tips on Homeschooling with a Chronic Illness (5 days of...)

Welcome to my 5 days of Simple Homeschooling in a Complicated World Series. You can check out the rest of my posts here.

Today I want to talk with you about Homeschooling when you have a chronic illness. We all have days that we just don’t feel good. However, living and homeschooling with a chronic illness is a whole different animal.

For some of us we have periods of time when we are experiencing relatively good health.  We are able to keep up (for the most part) with our premade schedules. We are able to take the kiddos on field trips and trips to the park. We can almost feel like we are normal and live like normal people do.

And then there are those time periods that require major adjustments. 

I am going to give you a brief history of my own story. If you are a regular follower of my blog you know much of it.

Long before I was a momma, I had a massive car accident which left me orthopedically challenged for life. Most of what I have dealt with since my accident is pain and a lack of mobility. The particulars of what and what I haven’t been able to do with my son because of my limitations is something I have had to deal with over the years.

A few years after my car accident, I went into a congestive heart failure and was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. I was also diagnosed with diabetes. Over the years, I have had a few near-fatal episodes of active heart failure.

What this means is that my heart is weak. It maintains is strength through medication and properly taking care of myself. Sometimes, I have warning signs that I am heading in the wrong directions. I need to slow down. I need to watch what I eat. I need adjust medications or routines.

You can imagine that I might have not have the kind of energy I wish I had. It can be frustrating. I also have to keep in the back of my head that at any time my health could take a precarious nose dive. It is a constant and fragile dance…juggling what I think I need to be doing with what is actually the best for me.

I won’t go into the spiritual and emotional toil that this kind of life takes on a girl. I will say that I wholly trust in Jesus. I have learned from the things that I have suffered and I firmly believe that He has me in the palm of His hand.

So that’s my story. And I’m stickin’ to it.

To homeschool with a chronic illness is a brave choice. I have been called out for it more than once. I am not going into the many benefits of your choice. Or mine. This post is not about that. What I do want to do is to ENCOURAGE you and to tell you how I make it work for me.

I also want to tell you that some of my advice is what I am doing RIGHT NOW. I’ve had a few months of precarious health. This is real life, my friends. We have to do what we can to support each other.

Tip #1 Give the Guilt Trip the Day Off

You have made the BEST choice for you and your family. If you feel like you have to put the kids in public school then by all means do so. BUT, I encourage you not to take that step because you feel guilty. I decided a long time ago that the days and hours I spent with my son were more important than anything. Because life is so uncertain I wanted to be sure that I made it count. I didn’t want to miss his life because I was too busy trying to save mine.

Tip #2 Whittle it Away

What I mean by this is that when you are experiencing one of those “low” seasons you need to remove the excess and concentrate on the basics. Is your child reading? Is he or she doing math every day? Are they writing? The other stuff can be learned through self-exploration and play.  

Here is a plan. Let’s say you let your child choose a book to read over the next few weeks. You can either assign so many minutes during the day or so many pages. If you have having difficulty keeping up with your math curriculum find an online program that will help him stay on track. Or keep a math workbook available. There is no harm in reviewing. You can save new concepts for another time. Encourage your child to write in a journal daily. You can either assign journal topics or if you have a creative writer you can let her go to town. For your reluctant writers, focus on copywork. Because Josiah is dyslexic, we always listen to a read aloud together. Currently, he is also reading out of Psalms and an abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo. He is focusing on typing writing and cursive writing. He is also copying out favorite quotes. There are a few other things I add to his day, but if he completes those things I am happy. And what about math?  

Tip #3 Share the Load

There is NO reason on earth that you can’t utilize those special folks in your life to give you a hand. My husband recognized that I was experiencing more fatigue than normal and offered to spend a couple of hours every week with Josiah and his math. This is a LIFE SAVER.   

It’s okay to admit we can’t do it all. It’s okay to ask for help. Even if a grandmother can listen to someone read or assign copywork. We are blessed to have a church family who also assist me in other ways. We have a dear man who takes Josiah out for breakfast every week. This is in payment for Josiah doing the vacuuming at the church, but I don’t even think this friend knows what he is doing for my son. Occasionally, he takes him on errands. To the parts store. To visit at the nursing home. Down to gab with the guys at the local Dairy Queen. We have other friends who take Josiah fishing or to a local state park to hike.  Josiah’s Daddy takes him out every Friday for a “guys day out.”

Don’t discount those kinds of relationships in your child’s life. What a learning experience!

Tip #4 Independence Day

I am always going to be “that Mom.” I am not a tough cookie. Contrary to popular belief. I can be pushed around. But…I’m okay with that. It’s ‘WHO I BE.’ It is in my nature to spoil and smother. I try and take excellent care of my guys. I would probably be that mom who would get up every morning at treat my family to a big breakfast of homemade waffles, scrambled eggs and freshly squeezed orange juice. IF I FELT GOOD.  I can’t be that mom.

Teaching my son SOME independence is the best thing I could have done for him. He also has had to learn life skills that his daddy didn’t know when he left his own home shortly after his 18th birthday to join the Air Force.

There is no shame in teaching your child to operate the microwave or scramble an egg. If you have a ‘little’ show them how to make a PB&J. A peanut butter sandwich was one of Josiah’s earliest achievements. When we lived in an apartment building with a downstairs laundry he was my launderer. We taught him how to operate the coin operated machinery. He was 11 or 12.

He has not suffered because of added responsibility. He is a compassionate and thoughtful young man. He knows to take my arm when the sidewalk is slick.

Assigning household responsibilities to your children is a MUST. Especially when you are chronically ill.

Tip #5 Don’t Neglect Yourself

It’s easy to put ourselves on the back burner. Most mothers are martyrs by nature. My own mother is an especially effective martyr. She was a respiratory therapist during my growing up years. It was not uncommon for her to go to work with Kleenex stuffed up her nostrils when she had a cold. She would look like death warmed over, but would still insist she could do it.

She still is like that. I have learned my own martyrdom at the feet of a master. There isn’t much a cup of hot tea and a hot bath won’t cure, granted…but sometimes you just need to take the day off. Or even the week. Just shut it down. Re-evaluate what you are doing (or not doing) and start again…slowly.

Just this past week, my momma reminded me that I needed to do what I needed to do. I am on a very, very strict diet. I get tired of making special meals for myself. It costs money we don’t have. It takes time I don’t have.

But in the end…I pay for it. So what is scheduled into my week this week? You guessed it. I have a date with some lean proteins and fiber rich vegetables. 

How does this self-care translate when you are homeschooling? Sometimes you will need to put yourself first. As hard as it may be. We can look at all our children might be missing. We can cry over what we are “costing” our family.

Here is a truth bomb. Our family wants US. And if having US means that we have to take to time rest/make special meals/go to doctor visits that is what it means.

I keep hoping that maybe one day Josiah will feel inspired to go into the medical profession. I could use a good nurse on speed dial.

So there it is, my friends. I realize that this has been a LOONNGG post. I have had a lot to say about the matter. Which, in all honesty, I generally have a lot to say about most things.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.

I am going to leave with just a few quick resources today. I don’t want to give anyone medical advice, but I do have a couple of things I can link to.

Dr. Axe – This guy has an awesome site. I use his wisdom quite a bit. I have found it to be sound and biblically based. If you are interested in “food as medicine” you will find his articles really informative.

Essential Oils. – I am not an essential oil fanatic. However, I do have a few that I diffuse on a regular basis. I really like Rocky Mountain Oils. I use Immune Strength, Energize, Joyful Moments and Attention Assist depending on our needs. I used Immune Strength almost exclusively through the winter and I believe it kept us relatively healthy.

If you deal with arthritis and orthopedic issues, I recommend soaking in a hot tub. I use Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salts exclusively.  There are other healing properties associated with the magnesium. I encourage you to research that out on your own.

I am currently reading Wired to Eat by Robb Wolfe. I am on a pretty strict eating plan, but am confident that some of his solutions are going to answer some of my needs. I encourage you to poke around his site a bit.

And some more stuff! Don't miss out on the great posts that my friends on The Crew have written. You can catch them below.

5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017


  1. Thank you so much for sharing!!! I have major guilt. I went from being really active with my kids with lots of activities/outings/classes of all kinds (I have pictures to prove it!) to zero activity. We moved last year and I was just so wiped out with zero energy. I finally found out that it wasn't me, it was Lyme disease/adrenal fatigue/thyroid problems. What?!?! I've had to change everything, my diet, how long I sleep (10 hours!), what I do at night, how I think, how I approach things (slowly) etc... Which means that my 4 kids have gone from "real" mom to "ghost" mom. The kicker is that I look the same, not sick in any way. We've had to adjust. I feel like I went from eclectic teacher to unschooler overnight. I have big plans but lots of days they fizzle. My one consolation is that I pray for God to lead and guide our day - while I can't see the bigger picture I know He can. It will all work out!!! Thanks again.

    1. It IS going to work out. God works ALL things to our good if we stay connected to Him. And you know what? Your kids are not suffering. In fact, I really think my son is such a compassionate young man because of what he has seen me go through. Hugs and Prayers!

  2. Thank you so much for being so brave to speak about this. It is hard dealing with health issues and homeschooling. I feel like a shadow of the mom I could be if I just had more energy and my health. I will keep you in my prayers. God Bless!


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