It was October of 2014. The leaves were falling, the breeze was cool, the oh so controversial aroma of pumpkin spice was filling the air, and I was plunging head first into the world of homeschooling.
I had zero intention to ever homeschool any of my kids. It was the furthest thing from my mind, until 2014.
The journey began when my daughter was in first grade. My studious bright-eyed little girl was starting to become extremely bored. At home this girl devoured chapter books, I could not (still can not) supply enough books for her. Reading consumed her, she lived for it. At school, her voracious love for the written word was quickly diminishing as day after day her teacher would ask her to read “The cat sat.” The same was happening with math. I remember one day, she was sitting on the floor having quite the fashion show with her raggedy looking barbie dolls when suddenly she looks up at me with this look of pure astonishment, as though one of her dolls just came to life. That was far from what really happened, of course. What actually happened was by far more exciting to her, she looked at me and began explaining to me how multiplication works and spitting facts at me. Once again the same thing happened, at school they wanted her to do 5+2. This school was killing my sweet little girl’s love for learning, and I was not going to sit and watch that happen!
Mama bear came out and I contacted the school. After multiple meetings with the principal and teacher, they came to the conclusion that they could not let my daughter do the 2nd-grade work in the 1st and 2nd grade combined class. I mean she was in 1st grade, she should be doing 1st-grade work. Well, my kiddo didn’t fit in their box, so I took her out of it.
Even though my mama bear instincts kicked in and I pulled her out so easily, I was terrified.
Despite my fear, I did it. I had many people doubt my abilities. Especially since just that past summer, I had been diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis (a chronic bladder pain condition). Needless to say, I had family members who completely detested the idea. I did it anyway. (Even though the thought of having to teach a kid while feeling as though I’m being stabbed in the lady parts was gut-wrenching!) I just could not shake the feeling. I knew homeschooling was the best thing for my daughter.
What got me through it was simply, faith. Faith that God would deliver. That he would give me the strength to get through the bad days. Years later, I am happy to report he has delivered.
Honestly though, if you are anything like me you are probably thinking something like “That’s great and all, but HOW am I really going to do this??”
Which is exactly why I am writing this right now. I am by no means an expert, I’m still trying to figure this homeschooling thing out myself. However, I do have experience and some strategies I use to help me do this thing.
I would like to share with you the 8 biggest tips I wish someone would have given me years ago.
1. Take care of yourself
I am starting with this because it may seem obvious but sometimes we forget this. Especially, when we are ill and in pain.
You have to take care of yourself. Whichever way you manage your illness whether it be medication, holistic medicine, or just diet. Keep with it. Try to get enough rest. Sleep! Sleep is so very important, especially for those of us with a crappy immune system. If you take medication, don’t forget your medication because you are so stressed out about the “lesson plans” that you completely forget to take your meds. (I only speak from experience here…) Make sure you are eating right. Try your best to manage your stress. In the midst of all the craziness of the homeschool world just don’t forget to take care of you, too!
2. Have a backup plan
This one is seriously a huge life savor for me. When homeschooling with any type of illness, be it chronic pain or just your typical seasonal flu it’s very useful to have a backup plan. I actually have 3 to be exact. Call me crazy but I have a plan A, B, and C. I will elaborate.
Plan A is what I call my “Good day plan”
This is the plan I aim for. When I am not flaring this is totally do-able. I don’t set crazy high standards, and I don’t stress when we can’t get everything on my list checked off for the day. We pick it up the next day.
Plan B is my “Ok day plan”
For this one, I have to get creative. An “Ok day” is basically when my body hurts and have little or close to no energy. I don’t feel great but I can get the bare minimum done for the day. If we can get a condensed Morning Time in along with our must do subjects done for the day, the day is a success!
I also have a list of Plan B activities for the kids to do. That way it is already right there planned out for me in advance for the days when all the coffee in the world won’t perk me up. I don’t have to think about it, I just do it.
I even have secret books, magazines, small activities, games stashed away that I pull out when I need it.
Plan C is other words for “Super flare major bad day plan”
This really is just a fancy way of saying I call my mom and beg her to take the kids. If she can’t, well then school is just off.
This is part of the reason why we school year around. That way I can take these sick days without falling behind hours wise or without having immense amounts of guilt.
As this is a huge topic for me, I am in the works of making a series of posts just about my A, B and C plans. My plan is to go into much more detail in those.
3. Get creative with your resources
Fortunately for us homeschoolers, we have resources bursting at the seams! Take advantage of that. There are many curricula and other resources out there that really can make our job a whole lot easier. The more we simplify our workload the more consistent we can be with homeschooling, especially on a rough flare day.
I’m not gonna lie, this is a huge topic, it really deserves a post of its own. For now, here is a quick list of my absolute favorite resources I could not fathom homeschooling without.
-Video-based or online curriculum
– Educational board games.
– Curiosity Stream
– Educational apps (Yeah, I said it..)
– Art & Music education classes via Online Subscriptions!
4. Take school on the go
Between my doctors’ appointments and my youngest son’s appointments, we have to take school on the road quite often. We do not take all of our subjects with us most of the time, unless it is a long appointment, far away. Majority of the time we just back up our must-dos and head out. If we have to leave in the morning I will do a car Morning Time. I always try to schedule our appointments for the afternoon, but sometimes that just can’t happen. Or in other cases, the doctor is too far to schedule a pm appointment. I will say I still find it funny when my kids are with me, bags and curriculum in tow and a doctor will ask “Why aren’t you guys in school today?”
5. Unexpected fun
There are times when I have a doctor’s appointment near some pretty fun places that we don’t get to visit often. As long as I am not in pain that day and it’s just a routine visit, many times I have turned a doctor appointment day into a field trip day. It’s the best feeling ever when your kid tells you “Today was the best day ever!” regardless of the fact that you had to drag him around for 2 hours for mom’s doctor appointment.
It doesn’t have to be a field trip, and it doesn’t have to be on a doctor appointment day. The point is, is to not forget to have fun with your kids. When you have a good day, live it to the fullest.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It took me years into my chronic pain journey to understand that I am not a failure if I accept help. Personally, I used to think it was only ok for me to say yes to help if I were laying on a hospital bed. Turns out if I don’t let people help, I may just find myself on that hospital bed after all. Through time I have accepted there are going to be days when I call and ask (maybe even beg a little) a family member to please take my kids for the day so I can just rest. You know what? That is perfectly ok.
7. Don’t try to do it all
For me, the biggest downfall about homeschooling is the fact that there are so many amazing opportunities open to us. I’m kinda the type of person that if I’m having a good week or two, maybe even a month, I will book everything. We sign up for all the activities. What happens? I flare. I flare because I am beyond stressed out. How did I get so stressed out? Because I simply thought I could do it all because at that moment I felt like I could do it all. Well, I just can’t. Over time I have realized that I can have a longer flare free stretch when I know my limits and don’t push them. I personally, only allow each kid to do one extra-curricular. (Well, 4 classes of dance counts as one right? I mean it’s all dance…) We don’t do large co-ops any more. We actually all prefer small group “co-op” activities. Currently, right now we do art with our good friends every Friday. It’s perfect because the kids love it, and I get to hang out with one of my best friends every Friday afternoon. Low key.
8. Know that you got this!
The stench of doubt was clearly drifting around in the air when I announced we were going to homeschool. The doubt, at times, was so intense that I began to second guess my abilities myself. The thing is, no matter whether you are in full health or chronic pain, homeschooling is scary. You are now putting the fate of their education into your hands. It’s a scary thought for any mom. Then add the fact that your so-called friend is worried that you won’t be able to make it out of bed. There’s no wonder you have doubts when you feel as if the entire world is against you because of your decision. Well, mama, tell that nasty little devil named doubt to shut it and get out of here.
I know the thought of it all is daunting. Truly, I get it. The thing is now 5 years later I know that it is possible to homeschool with a chronic illness. Like anything in life it will have its challenges, but mama I am here to tell you that you can do this!
As frustrating as chronic pain can be, I have learned a lot from it.
I entered motherhood very young, I had my first son when I was just 17. While he was growing, I was too. I feel like it wasn’t until I started having chronic pain that I really started to “act grown-up”. I had to make changes to my lifestyle. My entire identity as I knew it changed. But, more than anything I had to learn to lean on God and trust in him more. So I did. Even though the road thus far has been rough he has shown me through my illness of the unconditional love my family has for me. I’m not ashamed that my children witness a woman who is obviously aching from her fingertips to toenails hobble out of bed each morning. Because they also get to see that same woman pick herself up and find the strength within to suck it up and open that math book. Not only does that model perseverance, but I believe this is God’s way of showing them just how deep my love for them is.
Chronic pain is a challenge for sure, but it does not mean that it disqualifies you form homeschooling.
Never forget: You CAN do this!!
Thanks so much for reading,