Category Archives: home education through sickness

Chronically ill mother’s homeschool approach.

dys mumI’ve noticed that sometimes the question of homeschooling while chronically ill is lumped in with pregnancy as if they are the same or very similar. They aren’t. Even if (like me) you have the joy of nine whole months of throwing up left right and centre with some “mummy brain” thrown in – pregnancy is different in one very vital way. No one is pregnant for years on end, and many of the more yukky sides of pregnancy are both treatable and manageable. It is also silly to try and lump pregnancy as an “illness”. It is’t, even if the culture of medical elitism tries to tell us it is.

Chronic illness can be neither treatable nor, at times, manageable – and is way more unpredictable. When you plan home ed through a pregnancy you know there’s a point in which you can pick up again. When you plan through chronic illness it’s a whole different set of challenges.

So, what are the things that you can do if the Boss has called you to homeschool and He’s called you to carry the chronic-cross too? You can tell Him what you think of His plan ūüôā – and then you have to get on with it.

First things first. You see that big pile of guilt you’ve got building up over there. Deal with it. Sort out the fake from the real. Bin the fake and get yourself to Confession for the real stuff. If you are too sick for Confession (and there’s nothing mortal lurking about) you can pray a lot. He’s merciful like that. (even when you’ve told Him how you really feel).

Once that’s done (and yes I know it keeps rebuilding, but keep kicking it down) then you can move on to priorities. Prayer first. You’ll get nothing done without help from Upstairs. He has a lot of friends and relations who can be relied on to keep praying for you too. (Where would I be without St. Bridget of Sweden?) One of the wonderful things about the saints in heaven is that they can still pray, even when you, in fog, confusion and befuddlement can’t. Also we are fortunate that God, who is all wise gets a prayer of “Dear Lord, urdle, flurble mup.”

This little conversation is a good illustration of chronics homeshooling.

An article here asks a mum considering home education when she has chronic illness to think of a few things. It essentially says, pray, have a good husband and get some good fellow home ed mums on board to help out. It’s a good plan.

Yesterday a fellow home ed family came over. I’m still pretty crashed from the mini-stroke last week (TIA) but the mum of this family is completely relaxed around me no matter how wrecked I seem. She makes no fuss and simply does her bit around me. She takes the mic and allows me the space to do stuff when I think I can give it a go. Friendships like this are rare and to be treasured (so thanks Jo!)

This is another excellent article looking at a number of seriously chronically ill mothers coping with home ed

Then you must trust. While riding the trust you can plan for what curriculum you need to buy because you aren’t well enough to make it, teach it or organise it. All I can say on this is God Bless America! The UK has a shorter history of home ed (although it’s been around over 25 years) and has almost nothing of quality home ed resources sadly, (I think the awful national curriculum bares a lot of the blame – thanks Maggie Thatcher!). So, look at the American stuff. There’s a lot out there and yes it’s expensive (compared to making your own) and yes, most of it needs shipping and therefore costs are even higher and add the recent sneaky tax on educational materials in the UK and you’ll be in debt – but God never said debt was a sin; whereas not providing the best education you can for your children can be. You do need to plan your debt so you can pay it off, but I haven’t found a way of importing stuff without needing time to pay it off. It’s still a good option done with prayer, discernment and care.

Find ways to make resources do more than one job. Find ways to make cheaper resources when you’re well enough. ¬†One of the things with most chronic illnesses and even acute ones like cancer, is there are good moments when you are more capable. Use them as best you can. I use those times to make and plan stuff that when I’m too sick I just can’t do.

But wouldn’t it be easier to sent them to school?

Not necessarily. First of all you would need to have a school that meets your children’s needs so you don’t have to undo the damage and do the home ed after school because not much ed has taken place in school. (Been there, done that; don’t fancy a repeat) Then ¬†you’d need the energy to take and collect the children every day and cope with whatever fall-out the day has in store for you. That was hard enough when I was well!

Giving your children the best education you can give them is worth a lot and not having to undo stuff from school is a blessing.

Finally, all you can do is plan, pray, trust and take it one day at a time. I know more than one chronically ill mum who home educates children with some serious educational needs such as severe autism. Let them be an inspiration- not a moment of “Yikes! Why can’t I be that good?”


Home Education: workbooks are not as boring as I expected.

I must admit that as I began to adjust the home education approach here to a more workbook¬†based way of learning I was a bit worried that while I wouldn’t have to be using up energy I don’t have trying to plan and work through stuff, that the children would soon become bored rigid.

As it happens the children seem to enjoy their workbooks. Ronan has learned a lot about St. Josaphat while doing Grammar; and I have learned a lot of grammar while helping Ronan as well as getting to grips with a fascinating story about someone I had previously never heard of. English for Young Catholics 3 has so far proved a great workbook¬†that stretches him (and me) but has all the information and explanation within the book, so there’s no extra cost of the teacher’s book to go with it. Ronan is so taken with the story of St. Josaphat that not only has he not moaned about predicates, he has asked if there is a proper book about the saint of the Byzantine Rite.

I like the Seton approach to workbooks as they use a story and teach from there. So it’s not such a massive step away from the Charlotte Mason method after all.

I have come across discussions in some places about the pros and cons of workbooks that are so religiously based. Do we want our children to be so steeped in their Faith that no matter what the subject they are learning Church history, saint stories and theology?

It seems that most people treat it as a Marmite¬†question. You either love it, or you hate it. I am straddling the fence on this one. I don’t buy all the work from Seton, although I respect their very high standard. I do want to the children to learn about their Faith and it’s history¬†obviously, but I think they need to learn more than that and so we have other stuff that has other approaches to subjects such as Usborne books and some that have no specific approach other than to teach the subject such as Math U See and Life of Fred.

Some parents in the discussions noted that the reason so many homeschool publishers tend to tout the fact that they are Christian/Catholic or have a Christian focus is because so many curriculums have quite deliberately and dishonestly edited out anything Christian or even basic morals from their stories. In a reaction to this some homeschool publishers have released books that are definitely Christian and allow a child to grow in their Faith by reading about other people who also believe and behave as they do and if they don’t have the good grace to be sorry.

Our home ed books are a mix of the “very” Catholic to the “it’s just part of life” Catholicism of say, Tomie¬†DePaola through to the God Who? kind of books, that would never mention Himself, but aren’t overtly anti-Christian either.

I have been a little uncomfortable of too much overtly “holy” stuff as a method of teaching other things. While I think it’s important the children know about their Faith, it’s more important that they have a relationship with Christ and His Church through prayer and practice. In a culture that is unfriendly to Christ and His ideals, there is a danger that we could swing off to the other extreme (what I think some would call the ghetto mentality) so I want to be wary of that.

Meanwhile the children are learning and seem settled with the routine and adaptable to my shifting abilities.

Home Education during sickness – doing it but slowly.

As I can’t get about very well right now, it’s important the children get “aired” in some way even without me. They have spent a lot of time in and out of the garden making ice blocks and playing while keeping and eye on the temperature to see just how cold it has to get before their ice blocks freeze right the way through.

My voice comes and goes but I managed to read to them for a little while. I think I am going to need to find some other method of getting some of the usual read alouds done for the time being Рor shelve them until I can talk and breathe properly.

I am sorting out the workbooks so that on the whole the children can work as independently as possible and that I only need to do a bit of listening and explaining here and there. I manage this with them all working in the same room and having the workboxes set up and ready to roll in the morning.

Ronan is helping with the lifting and carrying that needs doing which means I am still managing to be set up for the learning day by half nine.

Despite some faffing¬†about, and both Ronan and Avila interrupting their work to help Heleyna a couple of times when I couldn’t – everything we set out to do today was done.

The three older ones are doing more of the taking and fetching for beavers and cubs and tomorrow for ballet.

I did manage to cook the tea starting the process at lunch time and getting a bit at a time done so that it was all ready by tea time.

Other housework is falling behind but I am hoping to catch up on some of it once the steroids and antibiotics kick in properly (although this time around they are taking their own sweet time over it).

Some of the jobs I would usually just do, the smaller ones are beginning to take on. For example they can easily put their own breakfast bowls and plates in the dishwasher themselves.  I am reminding them more about tidying up their own things, rather than me doing it for them.

The older ones are taking on more stuff too, so that hopefully things can run fairly smoothly for a while yet.

I am trying to get some of the work set up in advance so that they are still covered no matter what happens. This is where I think just allowing them to write straight into the workbooks and be done with it might be my best course of action, instead of having the notebooks to write into.

I am still undecided on this as workbook work is more expensive anyway – but then, its more important the education continues… We’ll see how that goes.

I really do think a lot of this is down to how much is expected of the children. If they are expected to get on with work, they tend to do so. It helps enormously that I am not having to make enormous changes to their and my routine to get this done.

Looking around at other Home educating and homeschooling families who have gone through long-term sickness it seems there’s a lot of adjustment and outside support to be had. Having older children who are well versed in taking care of themselves and their own learning has come up a few times, meaning things that might otherwise not have been manageable are manageable.

I’ll write more of this as we go through it. I hope the ideas and methods I use will help anyone else in this situation.

Home education with acute and chronic sickness

Over the years I think we have managed the home ed through some astonishingly tough times. My illness, hospital admissions and Avila’s frequent hospital admissions, and other things that are sent to try us. Throughout it all there is the hovering guilt, “I am not doing enough with them…”

I have read the excellent little ebook See I Told Me So last year or sometime earlier so I know that keeping the children educated even through a really long term problem is possible. I know single mums who have home educated even through the divorce process and of course my friend who kept up the home ed through a year of chemo.

But my situation is slightly different. My illness is long-term¬†and it is getting slowly worse. There are more things to deal with all the time and the process of keeping on top of the children’s education is harder on me than it was.

The way I have managed things this week is to do what can only be called “skeleton HE”. The children have done stuff that doesn’t involve me moving around too much. The workbook¬†based stuff has been straight forward enough. I can’t read anything aloud so we have gone to Story Nory for some traditional tales such as The Snow Queen and something else I can’t remember.

There are what the children call “funny people” on the BBC schools sites and Heleyna still has More.Starfall which has the massive advantage that the computer does all the talking. Then Ronan will get books and read them either to the girls or just have a quiet reading time.

We’ve done music and Songschool Latin because I don’t need to speak or move around for any of that either.

Thankfully now Ronan is old enough he and the girls have done some unsupervised cooking and  craft. They clear up after themselves and they do an end of day tidy up before TV and play computer time.

I have managed to do small bits of housework but to be honest Iona has taken over a lot at the moment. As soon as I move around even a bit the coughing and wheezing starts.

I think Charlotte Mason’s insistance that in the “pre-school” years the children need to learn how to learn, how to form the right habits of learning and taking care of themselves, is very wise. You never know when your children will need to show their independance and trustworthyness – if you haven’t done the training in the gentle days, the difficult days could prove to be far worse than you would otherwise have to deal with.

Four the last 5 days I have been on a liquid diet. Soup and yoghurt mainly. Anyway ages and ages ago I ordered some FibroResponse¬†to see if it really would do anything. It arrived yesterday. Marvellous, I thought, perhaps it can start work straight away. Well the tablets are the size of bricks! Even on a good day I am not sure I could swallow. The makes obviously hadn’t figured in the swallowing difficulties so many of us have on a “good day” let alone when it’s all gone to pot. ROFL!

The boys are hoping to engineer a way of grinding them down. Fun for all. They do get good reviews so here’s hoping.

Unfortunately my lack of breathing ability (and sleep) have caused me to cave on my new year’s resolution of “No More Doctors”. Sigh.