Homeschooling Through Chronic Illness

Homeschooling Through Chronic Illness

I have had chronic pain and fatigue for all the years I’ve homeschooled my children. I thought I would share about how I work through some of the challenges it brings.

I get recurrent kidney stones, but what affects me more on a daily basis is disabling fatigue, and pain in my nerves and joints. I usually sleep nine or ten hours at night, yet wake up aching and exhausted. Being so lethargic, it’s hard to get motivated to accomplish things. I volunteer for leadership in our homeschooling group and local 4H club so that my kids have something fun to look forward to, and so that I will have some accountability and structure. I lead classes on subjects I would like our family to learn more about. I push myself to learn new things and complete goals to keep that spark alive, and to be a good example for my children.

We’re not called to model another family’s standard of home education. My life is different; I have limitations that others may not have. After years of dealing with varying levels of health and energy, I’ve settled into a home rhythm that works for me, and I protect it so that I don’t burn out. When I am doing well at meeting my own standards and expectations, I feel contentment, and trust that God will take my efforts and bring forth fruit in our lives in spite of my failings. When I start comparing myself to others, I take on the burden of discouragement, doubt, fear, and guilt. My kids don’t want to be stuck at home day after day with an unhappy, stressed-out mom that beats herself up for not doing everything Pinterest-perfectly. They don’t mind that my physical stamina can be low; they just want me to be joyful, loving, and present

We started interest-led learning by necessity; I had spells of pain where following any sort of lesson plans wouldn’t work. I was attracted to mom-intensive unit studies full of books and hands-on activities that sounded effective and interesting; the trouble is, they sat on the shelf and didn’t get used. I’ve heard it said, “The best curriculum is the one that gets done,” but I would even pause to question that point. We had a period of plodding through a dull and ineffective workbook curriculum so that I could have a sense of accomplishment. I found it more fruitful to allow my kids to plan and direct their own projects. I do my best to fill the house with good print and audio books, interesting resources, art materials, and tools to inspire creativity and learning. Obviously, we have to work within our state requirements (and our own personal convictions), but you can find a solution that puts more of the responsibility of learning onto your children, while preserving your energy.

Clear communication is always important, but especially so with chronic illness. We talk about our expectations, so that there is no misunderstanding or resentment if they’re unmet. Other people in your life may not understand your suffering, and it helps to be upfront and honest about how you feel, especially if they can help you.

It’s not an easy path, and sometimes I second-guess myself about whether I’m doing this right. But then God surprises me with unique learning moments, growth, and progress. I pray He uses my weak flesh to glorify His sufficiency and strength.

Comments

  1. Kristi says

    Thank you for this article. I have MS, and there are probably more days than not that I am end-of-a-hard-day exhausted before 10:00 A.M., even though I got up at 8:30 A.M. I don’t crawl back in bed, but oh how I need to.

    This level of fatigue really impacts the amount of housework, schoolwork, and cooking I get done in a day. Then, add to that the amount of guilt I feel when I foolishly compare myself to other moms who seem to have it all together and to the me that meets my own high expectations. I NEVER measure up.

    It’s so freeing to hear from another homeschooling mom who plans for awesome, engaging school days but doesn’t have the energy to carry out those plans. I went the boring workbook route for awhile, too, but then I felt bad that I was boring my children to tears.

    I’ve got to get to the point where I forgive myself for my limitations and love myself anyway. I’ve GOT to quit beating myself up about it when I don’t live up to the lofty expectations I have of myself. That just exhausts me more.

    Again, thank you for helping me feel less alone and for making me believe that I’m not a slacker. I’m not lazy. I’m not a sleepyhead. I have a disease, and I’m doing the best I can.