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Homeschooling During Chronic Illness

Homeschooling During Chronic Illness

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.

The Top 5 Reasons We Decided To Homeschool Our Autistic Child

The Top 5 Reasons We Decided To Homeschool Our Autistic Child

People choose to homeschool for many reasons. My husband Matt homeschooled his daughter (my neurotypical stepdaughter) and she was almost grown up and ready to leave home when we Samara was conceived. I didn’t know anything about homeschooling when I first came into their home but I could soon see the positive outcome for my stepdaughter.  So, naturally, we wanted to homeschool Samara as well. Some of the reasons we wanted to homeschool before she received her autism diagnosis at age 2 still stand, and there some additional advantages that we are including on this list.

1.) Morals, Values, and Safety

We aren’t a “religious” family, but this was a big one for myself. I hate to sound like an old person here but let’s face it, schools are not what they used to be. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and I didn’t even approve of some of the things I experienced in school. Sadly, bullying, violence, drugs, lockdowns, pedophiles, security guards and police are a reality in today’s schools.

2.) Anxiety, Sensory Issues, and Emotional Dysregulation

Children cannot learn if they are constantly in a state of fight or flight. As a kid, I spent almost all my school days struggling with anxiety. I had auditory processing issues and most of the time couldn’t understand what my teacher was saying to the class. WORDS WORDS WORDS, I could hear them, but not put it together to make sense of it. As a result, the teacher would call on me to answer a question and I just broke down into tears. This outburst, albeit too much for me to ever control, was ultimately humiliating. Too many visual and audial distractions and being forced to be still can be excruciating for some kids. At home, you have control over the environment, lighting, noise, or including the right kind of sensory input for your child. *Check out some of these cool additions for your homeschool.

3.) Socialization

Wait? What? Yes, she doesn’t go to school because I would like her to learn to socialize and schools do not teach children how to socialize. Schools teach children how to sit at desks, be still, and only speak when spoken to and follow orders. Then they turn them loose by themselves on a playground to explode with no adults to role model and expect them to treat each other kindly. At best there’s a playground monitor to escort your bloody nose to the nurse.

When you homeschool your children get the PH. D. of socialization. They have you, the parents, to role model how to treat one another, and maybe older siblings too. There often times are homeschool groups that have park days where your kids can go play with other homeschooled children every week. Many homeschool groups also have outings (field trips), co-ops, and library days. Older children learn to role model for younger children and so there is a lesson in watching out for others and learning to interact with all ages.

Since they aren’t at school all day they get to go out in the real world and learn to navigate daily social skills and appropriate behavior whether it’s at the grocery store, post office, library or the museum.

Now you may be wondering specifically about autism and social skills. Many parents worry about socialization for their autistic child because autism involves difficulties in communication and relationship building. Homeschooling is actually the most ideal situation for an autistic child for some big reasons.

  1.  They can learn the foundations of communication, like nonverbal communication, visual referencing, experience sharing, emotions, etc., from one on one interactions through play and activities with you at home. These are not taught in developmental preschool or elementary school and are needed before one can successfully have social interactions and friendships.
  2. You are available to provide a safety net and help guide them through interactions if necessary.
  3. They can have positive social interactions which will help them feel more confident. In my experience homeschooled children tend to be more aware, kind and understanding of others differences.

4.) Curriculum and Special Education

When you homeschool you can pick a style of curriculum that works for your child’s learning style, unlike the public school system which dictates what is used and its used for all the children regardless of learning styles. This also means you can tailor to your child’s natural interest which is a very important part of self-discovery and figuring their strengths and passions. How many of you graduated from high school still unsure of what those were? I know I did.

All children learn different things at different times and in different ways so you can meet your child where they are at, whether they are neurotypical, autistic, or have a learning disability. There are also many online resources if you need additional help with occupational therapy or speech strategies.

Best of all you have the freedom to be flexible when sickness strikes, anxiety days happen or its a beautiful day for a nature hike. FIELD TRIP!

5.) Learning is fun!

Yes, learning is fun. Learning is a lifelong process and it SHOULD be fun! At home, a child is free to explore areas of interest and learn in ways that are exciting to them. Whether its one of those cool monthly science boxes, exploring the backyard wildlife, reading,  or games and apps.

Are you homeschooling or planning on starting? I’d love to hear your top 5 reasons in the comments.

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