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5 Essential Sick Day Strategies for Homeschoolers - Patricia Purcell

5 Essential Sick Day Strategies for Homeschoolers


We know that sickness can be disastrous for a homeschool schedule. Homeschooling mom, Patricia Purcell, shares her strategies to minimize sick day damage.

No matter how carefully schedules are planned, and how painstakingly we stick to them, it’s bound to happen…someone gets sick.

In families with multiple children, a simple virus can spread, turning a few off days into weeks of some family members operating at less than 100%. All that time away from studies can wreak havoc with a homeschool.

Be prepared with some sick day strategies to keep germ warfare from wrecking your school year.

1. Judge Fitness for Schoolwork

None of us like to think that our little darlings might be capable of malingering to get out of doing schoolwork, but as any experienced mom knows, it sometimes happens.

My own kids have been known to sporadically suffer from such ailments as Math-it-is, Spelling Fatigue Syndrome, and Handwriting Induced Finger Paralysis. Before I issue a pass on getting work done, I first check for symptoms.

If the patient has a fever or vomiting, he gets a sick day; otherwise, it becomes a judgment call. In that case, I ask myself if I would send them to activities in their current state of health, and if I would want a child with their symptoms around my kids.

If the answer to either question is no, then we spring into sick day mode.

2. Get Some Work Done on Sick Days

When your kids are in the early grades, losing time to an occasional bout of sickness is not such a big deal. You can give everyone time off and dedicate yourself to caring for the sick ones (and de-germing the house). Once they get older though, it’s a different story.

Unless you really want to spend the entire summer playing catch up, it’s important to get back on schedule as soon as possible.

The easiest way to do that is not to get too far off track in the first place.

If the patient is not completely knocked out by sickness, there is often an opportunity to fit some learning in, even if it is not what is on the regular schedule.

A sick day offers a rare opportunity to slow down and fully focus on one subject, which can lead to a greater interest and understanding of the topic.

Put things like math and memorization aside if your student is not up for them, and instead concentrate on areas that are more suited to a day on the couch.

  • Reading: A sick day can offer a perfect time to catch up on reading assignments. Try taking turns reading chapters aloud with your student or discussing some of the finer plot points. I’ve often found that discussing books with my children helps them retain their interest, especially with older, more long-winded literature.
  • Movies: Often the classic books that students are assigned have been made into movies. The rule in my house is that we complete the books first, and then we can watch the movie version. Watching a dramatized version of The Merchant of Venice, or The Yearling can both bring cheer to a sick day and enhance your student’s understanding of what he’s read. Even if the screen version varies greatly from the text, your child will be challenged to form an educated opinion about the adaptation.
  • History: Because history begs to be discussed (and at times debated), it is a perfect subject to tackle during a sick day. Even if you have to read the lesson aloud to your patient, having a lively discussion about a historic personage or time period offers a way to get some academics done despite being under the weather. He may also feel up to listening to an online history lecture or watching a related documentary.

Science: The same holds true for science. Your student can listen as you read the lesson and show her the wonderful pictures that are usually contained in science books. It’s possible that she may even feel up to conducting a simple experiment (if you assist with the set-up).

3. Keep Well Kids Working

It’s especially important to keep healthy kids working at their regular pace as students get older and the work gets more demanding. Keep in mind that they may be the next to succumb to the virus.

In fact, while the sick child rests, you may have a chance to offer more individual attention to your healthy students. Take advantage of the unexpected time to help them finish a task that is more challenging for them: help them study for a test, revise a report, or master a math concept.

Most kids have at least one area where more parental attention can make a difference.

4. Let Them Rest

A little extra TLC for the patient can go a long way toward a timely recovery. It’s okay to allow a sick child treats (such as cartoons or an ice pop) that would ordinarily be off limits.

To make it easier for me to transition between sick care and teaching, I usually set up the patient(s) in comfort on the couch in the family room. There, they have access to the TV and are within easy sight or calling distance of me.

I can check on them easily as I go about my day, and conversely I can monitor to ensure that well siblings are still working.

5. Remember it Will Get Better

Being a homeschooling parent is a hard job even on an ordinary day. Having the extra burden of caring for an invalid can be exhausting.

Your school day is likely to be interrupted with trips to the doctor and pharmacy, as well as extra housework as you attempt to combat the spread of illness.

As tempting as it may be to treat a sick day as a day off for everyone, for the sake of your schedule it is better to forge on and get as much work done as possible.

Try to focus on the future and be thankful for the good health that your family usually enjoys.

How do you handle sick days?

Header photo CC: Adobe Stock:  Rob

About Patricia Purcell

Patricia Purcell
Patricia Purcell is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. She now lives in New York state with her very patient and handsome husband and their three active, homeschooled children. After teaching and shuttling kids to activities, she spends her time writing, reading, attempting to garden, and cooking. Not content with turning only her own children into bookworms, she manages book clubs in hopes of turning their friends into booklovers too.

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