Even the most seasoned homeschool parents experience from time to time that inner voice of doubt. It often sounds something like…
“Is she learning enough?”
“Is he where he should be for his age?”
“Should I try a different curriculum?”
“Is our structure not working?”
Or if your an unschooler like us it may sound like…
“Am I giving them enough opportunities to experience and learn new things?”
“Are they spending too much time playing video games/Youtube?”
“Are we spending enough time together as a family?”
Then if you find yourself, like I did at the end of 2019, with a critical illness which then led to a chronic illness, the worry, guilt and doubt can come down around you like a dark cloud of shame.
I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that caused my body to attack my kidneys. I was on dialysis and I had nephrotic syndrome which caused me to retain over 60 pounds of fluid. Needless to say I wasn’t in the best shape to be doing anything but trying keeping one eye open, let alone leading a one on one day of Mel Science in the backyard.
I was struggling just to stay awake during the day, especially on dialysis days. I was pretty much bedridden from exhaustion and the burden of the edema for months as the subcription boxes piled up. I finally cancelled the subscriptions when I realized things weren’t going to get better anytime soon, but some were prepaid for a year and they just kept coming. It got to where I didn’t even want to look in the loft where we kept them as the anxiety and pressure of not doing them, but also how I was ever going to catch up, was so overwhelming!
Even being unschoolers I worried that I wasn’t able to spend real quality relationship time with her and the high doses of prednisone i was on was not helping my patience. I was worried we were missing problem solving, auditory processing and directional skills not doing hands on projects. Then on top of that a lack of social since covid also kept her from playgrounds etc. She was already not getting the concepts of math real well so I was concerned about that.
It’s now been one year and two months since I became ill and you know what happened? Nothing. Well, not nothing, but nothing like I had worried about. Something amazing happened instead.
She spent a great deal of time playing video games, playing outside, and watching Youtube. We didn’t lose any bond from my poor disposition like I had worried. Children are unbelievable forgiving. She found a Youtube channel that featured the popular UK cartoons Number Blocks and Alpha Blocks. I pulled out our Math U See which she was never interested in before and she played “number blocks” adding and subtracting the blocks. Then she started memorizing her times tables. She’s grasped the concept of fractions watching that show as well. With Alpha blocks she started working on her pronunciation more often and I was able to help her with her speech day to day by mimicking their methods and referencing the characters in the show. She’s also become quite a speller from trying to type in things she wanted to find on Youtube!
All the fretting and worrying was for nothing! I was once again reminded, that children are natural learners. They will find what’s most interesting and pursue it with passion! In the world we live in today there are so many resources at their fingertips they can learn on many websites, Youtube, tv shows, and yes even video games. That will be my next blog project by the way, breaking down game education, so if your curious don’t forget to subscribe. Overall I’m actually very pleased with her progress this past year.
I was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia and I’m still living with chronic pain that I have yet to find a good system of management for, but I’m still hopeful. I’m going to do what I am capable of doing as a parent to engage her and give her the tools she needs to follow her interests, and celebrate her discoveries alongside her.
Some of you may be disappointed I wasn’t able to ride down the rainbow on my magical unicorn and tell you how to keep up the schedule you did before your illness. I wish I had I could do that. The reality is the stress you cause yourself worrying about these things will rub off on your family, and wear you down further as well. Trust in your child’s inate ability to learn. Self directed learning can simplify the life of a parent struggling with daily pain and fatigue and its absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. Focus on what you can today, and leave tomorrow for tomorrow.
I’d also like to share a blog post with you that may help the traditional homeschooler as well as new unschoolers called “10 Science Based Benefits of Self Directed Learning”.
Do you have any tips for other parents struggling with chronic pain/illness while homeschooling? I’d love you to share them in the comments.