Saturday, April 6, 2013

Homeschooling with health issues

Lately I've been asked many times, "How do you do it?".  I've also been told by multiple persons, "You do more when you are struggling with health than I do when I'm completely healthy.".    Although the complements are nice, and I'm happy to hear them, I can not stop feeling like I didn't do 'MY' best.  So here is a little back ground and 'how I do it'.  ;)

I had major back surgery back in 2008, which lead to some chronic low back pain and me learning how to function all over again.  During this time we did a lot (and I mean A LOT) of reading.  I read books to the kids, and they in turn read books to me.  We worked on the basics and kept things as simple as I could.  I'm not saying this was a super duper fun time for the kids, but they did not loose their love for learning - so I felt like I was still accomplishing my goal.  (My goal is to develop and nurture a strong love for learning in my kids so that they will become life long learners.)   We still did science experiments that didn't require too much effort on my part.  We studied the life cycle of many insects during those first two years; caterpillar to butterfly, ladybugs (I highly recommend this, as 'baby' ladybugs looks nothing like a ladybug), ants, and then we also learned about dogs and puppies (as my older daughter's dog had puppies).  These are all things that my kids will remember for years, because they were all hands-on learning for them.  They remember the books I read to them, because it was quality time spent with me when I was in too much physical pain to move most days.  (I was told six months to one full year of bed rest after my surgery - if you have kids, you know this did NOT happen.)  Bed rest with children is a very difficult task, at that time my kids were ages 4, 5, 7 1/2 and 11 years old.   

Reading books is not just reading books.  When you read books you are also learning many other things than just language arts.  We read many non-fiction books that the kids chose themselves from our local library.  We learned about countries by allowing the kids to each choose one country each time we went to the library.  Then we read two to five books about that country.  

what one month looked like while I was having
major health struggles
When we were just getting our homeschooling grove back, I suffered a bad concussion in March of 2012, ended up with fluid building between my brain and skull (that was not discovered until January 2013) causing many many health challenges for me.  If I could tell you to do only one thing, just one, I would tell you to go buy a day planner.  I found mine in the dollar section at a local department store and started filling in what we did do each day.  This was so helpful in the fact that my memory was gone, I had almost no short term memory at all, and my vision and hearing were both fading.  As I started filling in all that we had done each day, I could look back and see what we did and not feel guilty about not doing anything with the kids.  Because I had in fact done quite a lot.  This helped me mentally  so that I was able to be more relaxed and sleep better at night.  After all, your body is able to heal while you sleep at night.  

Here is what you should do if you are struggling with your health and still want to homeschool your children:

  • get a day planner and use it to write everything you DID do.  Not what you plan to do, only write in the things you actually do.
  • look into notebooking (it's simple, easy, and kids usually like it)
  • look into lapbooking (it's easy, but will require more of your guidance along the way)
  • read.  Yep, just read, lots of books from a variety of genres (non-fiction offers a TON of options, and fiction is good too.  Read classics like: The Wizzard of Oz, The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass)   Every time you read a book to them, or they read a book, have you children fill out a notebooking page, or do a lapbook about the book, or simply write a mini book report on it.  Depending on the child's age, you could have older kids write full book reports. 
  • Keep up with a math workbook.  It doesn't need to be fancy, Sylvan has some fun workbooks that would help the kids at the very least maintain their math skills.
  • Look into online learning games, there are many free options out there.  The free options do not often offer you a way to track learning though, which you will need to know what they are learning if you choose online.  You can use the free online learning games as fun special a couple times a week.  If you have a real computer learner, try JumpStart learning computer games, they are an inexpensive way to see if you want to do online learning. 
  • There are tons of free downloads for educational items, find ones that fit your families learning style and print a bunch off.  Have weekly folders or a binder with tabs for the kids and label Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and put each days work in the proper places.   Teach kids to become self-starters by allowing them to do their daily work after breakfast.  Once you create the routine you will be surprised at how automatic it will become.  I remember being shocked to find two of my kids sitting at the table doing school work one morning.  A pleasant surprise for sure! 
  • Allow yourself nap times.  If all of your children are too young for you to rest while they play, then take full advantage when your spouse gets home and go rest then.  It was hard for me to rest when my kids were younger, but now that my older daughter is old enough to be in charge, I find that the resting time is so important in the healing process.  

Above all remember, the dishes will still be there and the laundry will too. (Unless you are really lucky and someone does them for you while you rest - then YIPPEE!)  Your health will not improve without you taking care of you.  On the good days, try not to over do it (which I am famous for, by the way), and on your rough days, give yourself a break and make sure to rest.

Homeschooling with health challenges is not an easy task, but it is one that I will continue to choose.  I love spending time with my children, and our family is closer because of it.  I have been called to homeschool my children, and know that God will provide all that I need.  I can honestly say, I would not change this opportunity to homeschool my children for anything (even if I could trade it for fully restored health, I wouldn't.  Homeschooling my kids, being with them every day, it brings me joy!)

So where ever you are on your homeschooling journey, I hope you find joy and enjoyment along your path! 


  1. Thanks Jen this was inspiring! I love only writing down what you actually do. There is a lot be happy :) your amazing!
    :)Tiffany Donigan

    1. Thank you! :) I'm so glad you found inspiration and also happy that you found a helpful idea out of it. =D