Monday, January 24, 2011

Some weeks ago...

I decluttered my reader subscriptions and was on the quest for fresh material. I do not remember how exactly but I came across the Five J's. She writes primarily about her homeschooling journey and features great resource material for homeschoolers on her site. I have enjoyed going through her archives and would definitely call myself a new fan.

Five J's recently posted a question from a commenter on how you homeschool when Mom is ill. She invites readers to comment with suggestions or links to help that mama out. I left a comment but thought I would address the question further on my own blog.

I have not been ill per se but having two major back surgeries in three years while homeschooling three boys has not been without its challenges. The process has not been without its blessings either.

Three years ago I had two sons in fourth grade and one in first grade. When we realized that January that I had back trouble, I did not think at first about the effect on our homeschool. Until the doctor put me on bedrest. For weeks. Combined with the medications to control the pain and swelling that all featured dizziness as a prime side effect, then I began to worry about our homeschooling.

Fortunately we had started school in June and taken a 12 month approach. Our first help was in being able to think through how to accomplish 180 days in 12 months instead of cramming those days into a much tighter 9 month schedule. We were over two-thirds finished and were able to take some days off when my treatment or medication plan required much more sleeping than teaching.

Our second help was in having willing family and friends to come into our home and take care of the daily needs like meals and laundry and housecleaning. I realize that moms struggling with chronic illness may not have regular help but I would encourage them to consider using the idea of a mother's helper or even monthly housecleaning help if that's in the budget. During more intense periods of illness perhaps your church or a group of friends could provide that week's meals. With both surgeries we truly experienced the mercy of friends and family.

The third help was the queen size bed. Seriously. Since I was on bedrest, I literally had to be in bed, almost flat on my back. We turned our downstairs guest room into the "sick" room and that is where we did our school. The boys would bring their workbooks, papers, journals, notebooks and textbooks into the bed with me. I would read aloud and together we discussed the material. I gave oral tests instead of trying to keep up with all of the papers. Problems were worked in notebooks instead of on the whiteboard. The boys had independent work they kept up with as well and then one at a time I would go over those studies with them.

Since individual attention for each boy was one of our key reasons for homeschooling, my forced bedrest actually drove home the point of why that time was so valuable.

Fourth, I depended on my most excellent homeschooling friends and support group for helping with taking the boys on field trips. They didn't get to attend every possible opportunity but even if I had been up to full health, that would not have fit our lives either. All in all, they ended the year with excellent results and we finished all of our curriculum successfully with our yearly goals.

This time around the boys are of course three years older, making them two 7th graders and a 4th grader. The level of responsibility that they can take is greater, their understanding of all that is going on is greater and their ability to work independently is greater. But we have still depended upon some of these same helps with this surgery.

Homeschooling while ill required a very close look at all of our priorities. Simplicity from the beginning made refining choices later an easier task.

At one point I worried about the overall effect of having a "sick" mom in their lives during these years. However, as God has shown His faithfulness in all of these events, He has particularly blessed the boys with growth, maturity, deeper compassion, a truer willingness to help, eyes to see what is needed and a heart to meet the need along with a sweet thanksgiving for what they have been given. 

Do not misunderstand me, they are not saints. But Husband and I are blessed to see them taking affliction in stride and understanding that the Lord has the right to send difficulty as well as blessing. Receiving both from His hand helps us know more about how sweetly He intervenes in our lives with provision and grace.


  1. Thanking the Lord with you for His provision and His grace. Though I haven't experienced the same sort of difficulties as back surgery, I too can see the Lord's faithfulness and grace in the lives of my boys and I am both overwhelmed and humbly grateful. He is good and He is faithful!

  2. I'm sure your boys will remember those years with fondness because of the time you spent together. I had a friend who eventually passed away, but for a while after her cancer surgery, she had her bed moved to the school room. That time was precious, and I'm sure yours was, too.

  3. "He has particularly blessed the boys with growth, maturity, deeper compassion, a truer willingness to help, eyes to see what is needed and a heart to meet the need along with a sweet thanksgiving for what they have been given."

    All these things are blessings, for sure, but they are also a result of these wonderful young men growing up under your (and your husband's) influence.

    God is good. All the time.