6 Tips for Homeschooling a Child with a Chronic Illness

6 Tips for Homeschooling a Child with a Chronic Illness - jenniferajanes.com

It’s hard to homeschool a child with chronic illness. It seems there’s always a medical appointment to attend, medication to give, some new symptom that needs evaluating, or a child who is just too worn out to sit and work for more than a few minutes at a time.

It’s hard, but it’s not impossible.

One of our daughters deals with multiple chronic illnesses including asthma and a primary immune deficiency. She has been sick for a few weeks now with a skin infection followed by a sinus infection that has hung on, more-than-usual fatigue and lack of stamina, and poor sleeping patterns. That’s enough to wear a family out, but we need to homeschool anyway!

A child with chronic illness can’t just take a “sick” day every time he/she has a bad day because there are too many of them. We have to learn to homeschool through the bad days too (except for the *really* bad ones, of course). But how do you keep going when your child doesn’t feel well?

6 Tips for Homeschooling a Child with a Chronic Illness

  • Do what you can. This is my cardinal rule for homeschooling when my daughter doesn’t feel well. On the really bad days, I read aloud to her. On better days, we do a full schedule. On the in-between days, we do as much as her energy level and state of health allows.
  • Look at the big picture. When you’re homeschooling a child with a chronic illness, you have to look beyond what you accomplished today. Some days aren’t great when you’re checking off your homeschool lesson plan. So go bigger. How much did you get accomplished this week, this month, this semester? If you look at the bigger picture, you often realize you’re doing more than you thought.
  • Be creative. Were you studying ancient Egypt in social studies before your child got sick again? Look up some documentaries on Netflix to extend the learning. Request some books on the topic from the public library and ask your spouse or a friend to pick them up and bring them to you. If your child doesn’t feel like doing a regular math lesson but loves to play board games when she doesn’t feel well, find a game you both love that incorporates some basic math skills. (But don’t tell your child it’s math! 😉 ) Read a favorite book aloud to your child to develop listening skills and comprehension. They’ll pick up some grammar too as they hear what good subject-verb agreement and sentence structure sound like.
  • Be realistic. Know that you won’t get the hours and rigor that you’re used to from your homeschool day when your child doesn’t feel well. That’s okay. You’re doing what you can to keep the learning process going. You can catch up later if you fall behind. That flexibility is the beauty of homeschooling.
  • Give grace. Allow yourself and your child to rest. Having a sick child, and especially one who is ill often, is difficult for you and for him. Schedule naps into your school days. (It’s okay to do this even when things are going well, if your child has low stamina or lots of fatigue and needs the rest.) Say no to activities that aren’t absolutely necessary to your child’s health and well-being, emotional and physical. (Some outside activities are healthy so your child can interact with her friends, but you don’t have to do everything.) Say no to things that you are asked to do if they will rob you of time you need with your family and to take care of yourself. Being a caregiver is hard work!
  • Ask for and accept help. We are required to do so much in a day to care for our children that I think we often forget that we don’t have to do everything. Give yourself permission to ask for help or to respond truthfully when someone asks what they can do to help. Accept a meal, an offer to have someone pick up the milk and bread for you, or the opportunity to have that special coffee you swoon over if someone offers to bring you one.

How do you make homeschooling a child with a chronic illness a little easier?

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10 Responses to 6 Tips for Homeschooling a Child with a Chronic Illness

  1. Lisa says:

    Thanks for this post. I have recently begun homeschooling my 13-year-old son do to him developing a chronic headache disorder. Sometimes we don’t know what triggers the headaches, but often its stress or irritating noises. We are both having difficulty finding a way for him to concentrate without triggering a headache. He can watch fun TV without getting a headache, but educational videos trigger a headache. He was one of the top students in his grade until he developed the headaches. He loved learning. So my husband and I are convinced this isn’t under his conscious control. I’m looking into unschooling, but its hard to get my son interested in anything when he’s got a headache.

    • I’m saying a prayer now for you and your son. I’m sorry he’s having such a hard time right now. My daughter started having migraines this year. It’s miserable. I feel for you as you seek answers for your son and find the best way to homeschool him. God will help you find your way. Hang in there!

    • To Lisa (above): Wow, you sound just like me. My son is 13 as well and so many things seem to trigger a headache. I think that maybe the stress of thinking of doing school (he has some learning issues with reading and handwriting) trigger a headache. If you see this and would like an internet/email friend, I would love to chat with another Mom who is going through the same thing. So here is my email. deanne.m.postma@gmail.com

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  3. Lindsey says:

    Great list! The only thing I would add as a mom with a chronically ill daughter, is don’t make every good day all about school. Yes, we need good school days, and on most good days I try to pack in the educational stuff. Still every once and a while take a day when your child is feeling well and just have fun!

    • Absolutely! My daughter has chronic health issues, and some seasons are especially tough. I couldn’t agree more that sometimes the good days need to be used for fun! Thank you so much for the reminder. :)

  4. Gary Clark says:

    My daughter has IDOPATHIC INTRACRANIAL HYPERTENSION. She developed it due to a major weight gain due to being bullied in school. School became difficult for her because of her poor vision problems. We were going to Cincinnati CHILDRENS hospital to get spinal taps to release the fluid from her head. We have her on a strict diet. And I took her out of school and homeschooled her for a year. Her condition is now improving. Her vision is back to 20/20 vision with glasses. And she now rarely sees double vision with spots. She is still taking large doses of Diamox. She wants to go back to school. Am I going to be in ALOT of trouble because of her not being able to do tons of work on a regular basis. Sometimes like you stated…I would just read to her. And we did play dominos for math. I kept all her school work in case they accuse me of not schooling her. And I even have a list of what we did everyday. Please give me some advice.

    • Hi, Gary! I’m glad your daughter is doing so much better. Every state is different in what their homeschooling requirements are and in what the procedures are for admitting a child back to public school. I would highly recommend contacting HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) at hslda.org to get some advice regarding your situation.

  5. Celia says:

    My daughter has PI and a host of surrounding complications. So do I.
    Your post really helped. This is her 8th grade year and I worry a lot about not getting enough done.

    • PI is no fun. We’re dealing with another infection here as we speak. We both need to breathe and remember that they’re learning even when it doesn’t look like it. Hang in there!

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