Jun 4, 2015

Making It To Graduation - Despite Chronic Illness

Just a few short weeks ago my husband and I graduated our second daughter and homeschooler.  We've been homeschooling for 15 years.

We've graduated two children so far and have two more to go.  I can hardly believe these years have passed by so quickly and yet I remember the days going by oh so slowly.

In some ways it doesn't seem like it was that long ago when my sweet little girls were sitting beside me learning to read, playing dress-up and discovering new things.

We sure have gone through a lot in the past 15 years. Those of you who frequent my blog know that we've had chronic Lyme Disease and other tick-borne infections for at least the past 8 years. 

You could say that we've homeschooled through sickness and health but not in that order.

You can't meet a milestone like this one without a lot of reflection, mixed emotion, regret and even trying to reach a few pats on the back.

As I reflected on my daughter's life and on homeschooling her, I couldn't be more thankful that we made it until the end.  

I'm so proud of how hard she worked despite being very sick with tick-borne diseases since the age of 12. That's a pretty big deal!

I can see how God always helped us in our greatest times of need. Each time I presented to Him my biggest challenges, my overwhelmed heart, fluctuating emotions, exhaustion, frustration and complete lack of wisdom, He always came through!

Does this mean homeschooling has been a breeze or that I haven't struggled? No way! Have I wanted to quit? Sometimes every day! Have I had to work hard?  Absolutely but it's been worth it.

Homeschooling is hard work whether or not you have chronic illness, but if you do you'll need to make some adjustments.

With 15 years of experience I feel a little seasoned! I have learned some things along the way, mostly from my own mistakes but also from things I learned to do right. While you're hanging out here on my blog I'll share them with you.

1.  Remind Yourself Daily That God is Faithful
Regardless of what your burden is, God is and always will be faithful. You can trust Him to guide you for every detail in your life including homeschooling, parenting advice and help with medical or health needs. 

James 1:5 "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously without reproach and it will be given to him."

Be sure to spend time with Him each day reading scripture and praying. Don't forget to include your children.  

Each morning we gathered around the kitchen table and had what I called, "table time". We read scripture, discussed it and prayed.

2.  Don't Make Homeschooling Harder Than It Has To Be
Don't try to imitate the public school system, you'll only increase your burden.  

For years studies have shown the decline of the public school system as well as the success rate of homeschooled children.  

Homeschooled children statistically test higher and do better in college regardless of their parent's education level or their homeschooling methods.  (National Home Education Research InstituteAcademic Statistics on Homeschooling, New Nationwide Study Confirms Homeschool Academic Achievement)

Homeschooling younger children should be interactive, hands on and include a lot of exploration. 

Homeschooling older children should include a lot of discussion, opportunities to engage the culture and explore future career options.  

Don't forget to surround your children with people who have life experiences and be sure to engage them in conversation. Take advantage of Grandparents, friends and even doctor's and nurses when you have your appointments.

Providing these experiences can be hard if Mom doesn't feel well and even more difficult when your child is struggling with chronic illness, but with some effort you can make it work.  

Do some research and find the right resources for your child. Join a co-op or connect with other homeschool families.  You can provide them with a rich learning environment and opportunities to explore new things when they're well enough.

Don't forget to make good use of the Internet, videos and the library. We've traveled around the world and watched live cam for popular tourist sites, we went on virtual tours and explored new things all on the computer from our own home.  I have Internet protection installed on all our computers and devices and monitor the websites we visit but still monitor computer use.

3.  Be Flexible and Willing To Change
It's so important to be flexible and willing to change even if that means throwing those workbooks in a box and doing something new. I had to do this with my sweet girl who just had terrible melt-downs every day when we sat down to do school.

I knew it was important to love my child and not demand that she be obedient and sit still to work through her book. I needed to figure out what was best for her even though I had spent good money on this curriculum.  

The whole world opened up to her when those books went into that box and sat in the corner of the room while she learned using hands on activities and games.

This experience took me out the "box" early on and away from traditional schooling which helped so much when we later found ourselves needing to adjust to the needs they had with Lyme Disease.

You can guide your child through the years to learn no matter what your circumstances. Make it interesting and as enjoyable as you can. Who said school had to be boring and monotonous? 

4.  Ask For Help
We all need help from time to time. Why is it so hard to ask? The thing we fear most is that the other person may say no. It really is OK if that's the answer you get, sometimes we'll be the ones to say no.

Asking for help also includes using homeschool co-ops, group or online classes and don't forget your local community college for dual High School credit.

So, regardless of the answer you're afraid you might get, ask for help when you need it. Whether it's for tutoring, milk from the grocery store or just a little break because you really need it, ask!

5.  Take It One Day At A Time But Homeschool With The End In Mind
Oh this is so important!  If you wake up every day and tell yourself, "Woes me, I have 12 more years to go, whew! how will I ever make it?", you're going to stress yourself out and you'll frustrate your children.

On the other hand, if you wake up every day and plan to do the very best you can with each day, then you'll be able to accomplish what you really need to for each day.  

At the same time, you need to plan ahead and be sure you're going to give your children a well balanced education covering the subjects they need and preparing them for graduation and for life.

Don't forget, you'll never be able to teach everything but you can teach your child how to learn anything they want!

6.  Don't Go It Alone
Homeschooling is a group effort.  You need support. Your spouse, a fellow homeschooler, co-ops, Mom's groups and even those homeschoolers you meet online can all be great support. I've benefited from many different types of support at different times in our homeschooling journey.

I love online webinars and downloadable audios that I can listen to while cleaning or making dinner. Many curriculum fairs offer seminars and homeschool speakers who have successfully homeschooled their children.

Wherever you find your support make it a priority to have a support system. 

As a homeschool mom, you should continue learning and you may find yourself in my shoes, having to learn how to teach kids who all of the sudden have special needs with their illness.

7.   Accept Your Limitations
Regardless of whether you are the one with chronic illness or your child is, you have to take into account what you and your child are actually capable of.

If your child is overtaken by chronic pain, migraines or even psychological disorders you cannot expect that they will be able to complete their school work like a healthy child. You'll need to allow for time off, extra time for assignments and even more help to get through the good days.

It's a constant temptation to want them to do double work on healthy days but that's not reasonable. A well balanced homeschool allows for social time, outside activities, physical exercise and even fun.

8.  Don't Forget the Encouragement 
Finally, be sure to encourage your child and yourself. It's so hard for them to be down, it's hard to miss out on time with friends, being able to do what everyone else is doing and very discouraging to know that they're falling behind in school every time they can't lift their head up of the pillow.

It can be very discouraging in a home when one or more family members are in pain or are not feeling well.

Do what you can to keep your spirits lifted and a smile on your face.

We love jokes and anything that will make us laugh. Laughter has brought a much needed reprieve into our home especially when things can feel pretty bleak.  

Thankfully, God has blessed our home with a few jokers and we end up with a good belly laugh almost every day.  Laughing is good medicine by the way.

Don't forget, if God called you to homeschool then this is your job and He will help you every step of the way.  I leave you with tight hugs and those words we all want to hear, "You Can Do This!"

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