Home Schooling a Chronically Ill Child - And the Rest of the Kids, Too!

Homeschooling is difficult all by itself, but when you throw in a chronic illness, it feels impossible.  On one hand, you want your child to be "normal" and to learn at a normal pace.  When a child is ill, they fall behind and it can be overwhelming.  Then, you have your children who are not ill.  What do you do with them when you are busy with the sickly child or worse, stuck in a hospital. 

I don't have the answers.  But, I do have a child that suffers from an undiagnosed chronic illness, that has landed him in the hospital more than I would like to see.  I hope I can encourage you, as a parent and a teacher, to persevere and offer some helpful suggestions.

1. Pare down your curriculum.  This is not the time to have a very teacher intensive curriculum.  We are Weaver lovers.  But it is very teacher oriented.  I simply can not keep up with it.  I have my older child doing a workbook curriculum and my younger kids are doing computer based phonics. We use Click n Kid Phonics and Starfall.  We also use Math U See.  The video teaches the lesson, and my 6 year old only needs minimal assistance after that.

2. Lower your expectations of yourself as a homeschooling parent.  It is a great goal to want to read the entire set of Little House on the Prairie books, but if your child's illness will not permit him to be up for extended periods of time, or if you are too busy holding his hand while he is vomiting, you may not be able to accomplish this.  It is ok.  Sometimes I spend the majority of my day cleaning up after my sick child and nothing else really gets done. 

3. Lower your expectations of your children. The entire family will feel the stress of having an ill child in the home.  They need time to come to terms with this and with the fact that your attention will seem unfairly divided sometimes.  This is likely to cause some acting out.  When this happens, it is not a good time to ask about their math lesson.  This is the time to hand out extra hugs and love.

4. Read a lot of unschooling blogs and/or books.  This really helped me.  I was able to see how parents managed to raise children who still all learned to read, all learned to do basic math, and all still enjoyed learning.  I also got lots of ideas about how to promote an attitude and spirit of learning in my home. 

5. Involve education in your child's daily life.  Leave down the scissors, colors, paper, and glue.  Play eduational videos from netflix and your library. Listen to audio books. I have been surprised at how much my kids have picked up simply by watching Sid the Science kid.  Thanks to him, even my 3 year old knows what a hypothesis is......

6. Let your children play together without everything turning into "school".  Your kids need each other.  They need to be able to play with your ill child and your ill child needs to be able to play with them.  My son has had several good weeks.  He is currently having some issues.  The good weeks, I let him play.  We did a little school, but mostly he got to run and jump and play. He learned to roller skate with his sister. They wrestled and colored together.  Should I have been "doing school" or should I have just let him feel good for a little while?  I opted for the latter.  Should my child die from his illness, I will rest easy knowing that he got to be a kid.

7.  Ignore the naysayers. No one knows what your life and day is like except you. Follow your instinct.

Above all, be patient as your family learns how to navigate these waters. 

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