SummaryMolly Aranda shares her five tips to keeping homeschooling on track with a chronic illness. With these tricks up your sleeve, you’ll do more than survive.
We’ve all been there: those times when our well thought out and well meaning homeschooling plans crash into the grind of actual life. In my case, however, the crash was head on and appeared to be fatal. Perhaps a bit dramatic in my prognosis, but the underlying emotion is the same.
In the span of a month, my family moved across states, took on a complete fixer-upper, had a mobile and overly curious toddler, and the final blow was a new diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
I had flare ups where every joint in my legs felt on fire, walking was an impossibility, and my energy was non existent. One thing all homeschoolers have in common whether caffeinated or not is the acceptance that this job takes a whole lot of energy.
How would I survive?
With five children under nine and four of them school age, I had to quickly keep us navigating the path of home education before something exploded in our face. Challenge wasn’t new to me. Two years prior, I was put on bed rest for five months with a difficult pregnancy. We made it work. In fact, by the grace of God, we flourished.
Homeschooling with a Chronic Illness
Naysayers criticized our choice, claiming it would be healthier for me if I just put them in school. Perhaps. But we would have all missed out on the most incredible opportunity for learning yet: that by focusing on one another in time of trial, our family grows in holiness and virtue.
Whether your challenge is chronic illness, financial hardships, moves, new babies, you name it, there are ways to prepare, thrive (not just survive), and move forward after a setback.
The first step for me was to recognize why I chose to homeschool and focus on that foundation.
For our family that choice was to foster a Catholic culture in which strong relationships encouraged and built virtue.
No longer was checking boxes off my homeschool “plan” the measure of success. Don’t get me wrong, I love the euphoric rush of “getting it all done,” but that’s not why I do this. It’s too hard if that’s my reason. No, the new standard of success is the relationship. In times of trial, if the relationship between my spouse and I and my children and I is nurtured, then success is in motion.
Practically speaking, here are a few of my thriving tools:
1. Daily Prayer
If I do not carve aside my fifteen minutes of daily meditation time, then the entire struggle of not being able to walk because of the pain or lying in bed for months on end takes over and detracts from my ability to mentor.
Additionally, prayer as a family is crucial. Gather everyone at breakfast and say a Morning Offering and then share your intentions for the day. Say a decade of the rosary or listen to a homily podcast and end in a Hail Mary.
All are small actions in times of trial that reap great rewards.
2. Backpacks with Independent Work and Written Out Daily Assignments
Even when my children were in first grade and I was on bed rest, there were assignments they could complete without me. I would have all the supplies in their backpacks ahead of time with a spiral notebook clearly showing what work was their independent work and what work required Mom.
When they had completed what they could independently, they would pull out their clipboard and math assignment, and literally crawl into bed with me to do our work together. We cuddled, worked through multiplication problems, and enjoyed the process despite the seemingly “imperfect” conditions.
3. Prioritize subjects.
If we try to do it all in the midst of the struggle, we are setting ourselves up for failure and guilt. Accomplishing all subjects in a day is not realistic or necessary.
In my case we often focus on math, reading, writing, and literature during the hardest times and save history, science, art, and music until after my symptoms have subsided.
We’ve been known to pick a Friday and dive into these topics head first, doing a few lessons at a time if we feel up to it or a few experiments on a Saturday.
All the mess and supplies are already out; why not just go ahead and do two while we’re at it?
4. Crock Pot
Unless creating elaborate meals every night is therapeutic for you, I would suggest stocking up on three or four basic crock pot meals that you can either freeze ahead of time or always have ingredients on hand.
A whole chicken, some olive oil, salt, and dried rosemary cooked all day takes about two minutes to prepare and provides multiple healthy meals. Maybe not so glamorous, but absolutely satisfying and easy.
Remember, we want to thrive, not just survive in the hard times.
Reading aloud as a family, not just to the young ones or non-readers, but great works together as a family, changed our family culture during the hardest times. Suddenly we were all in something together. We weren’t going our own separate ways or each bearing something apart, but journeying through a great story together. It became the metaphor for our family during times of trial.
Ultimately, we will all come to a point that challenges us beyond our strength and we feel the crash is imminent. Thankfully we have a God who provides and promises that we “can do all things in Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Lean into this grace.
By re-prioritizing what matters the most, establishing new expectations for ourselves that are based in love and not anxiety, and having a few good tricks up our sleeve, we can flourish during a trial and get back on track.
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