Sunday, October 03, 2010

Homeschooling the frequently-sick child

"Homeschooling the chronically-ill child" flows better as a title.  But chronic illness implies a diagnosis, and a name for the disease.  I don't have either, and I don't want to think of my child as chronically ill.  But...

My family is recognizing an anniversary this month.  It was in October of 2009 that we took our boy to the doctor to check out an upset stomach that wouldn't go away.  Not just an "I don't feel so great" upset stomach, but nausea so severe he sometimes felt unable to do anything for days at a time.  Sickness so bad he skipped fun activities, including two highly-anticipated and desired Scout campouts.  That's pretty sick.

In November he was diagnosed with a sinus infection and allergies; those were assumed to be the cause of the nausea.  After many rounds of antibiotics  and other medicines (and no relief), he had sinus surgery in April.  It wasn't till June that he seemed finally to be getting a little better. August brought him long stretches of feeling great. We thought it was over!  Then, a few weeks ago, that bad feeling started again. 

Many children have serious chronic illnesses; more serious than my child's.  As far as anyone can tell, he hasn't any life-threatening condition.  He's just sick a lot, and we can't figure out why. But we have to live with it, and adjust to it, while we try to determine what's going on.

I wonder what it would be like if he went to school. Would we force him to go when he felt terrible?  Would he miss enough days that the school would give him a private tutor?  He'd have to make up missed work, and he might get held back at the end of the year.  I suspect that's what would have happened last school year, since he was sick so much.

But we don't have to do that.

We can work when he is well, and take things easy when he is not.  We can focus on reading and talking when he isn't up to anything else.  We do a lot of talking; talking is a great way to learn.  We can do things that engage him to the point he can forget being sick for a while.  We can work together on a math lesson so I can be sure he understands the concepts, even if he doesn't do all the problems. We can watch a science documentary, talk about it, and do some research. 

And even if he is too sick to "do school" we encourage him to attend other activities he enjoys.  That seems backward, doesn't it?  I should say, "if you can't do school, you can't do the fun things," right?   But even kids have responsibilities beyond math homework and history tests. He is a patrol leader in Boy Scouts; he has to be at the meetings.  When his robotics club is getting ready for a competition, he has to show up to get the work done. So he might miss his writing class (he can make up the work later) and feel too sick to do much other work, but he'll "push through the sickness" to fulfill these obligations.  Yes, they are fun, and it's easier to push through when something is fun.  But they are also important. 

It's not the way I'd like to run my homeschool.  But it's the way I have right now.  When I want to feel sorry for myself and my kid, I think of families with devastating illnesses who are carrying on the best they can.  We may have a kid who is sick a lot, but we are so blessed in so many ways.  One of those is our ability  to homeschool in a way that works for us during this time of sickness.

How do you handle frequent sickness - chronic or otherwise - in your homeschool?

6 comments:

wayside wanderer said...

It sounds like you handle this well. We don't have frequent illness but the year my father was diagnosed with cancer was very hit or miss for us schoolwise. When I look back I am so thankful my children were home with me. They got to spend so much more time with him, and they learned things that no school book can teach about loving, caring, serving, grieving, trusting .... the things that really matter in life.

Kerri said...

I'm sorry he's about the sickness. I hope he can figure out what causes it. :(

We aren't sick too much, but we do get "chronically interrupted". But I think we deal with it about the same way you described.

nebby3 said...

My 8 yo has type 1 diabetes. In some ways it as not as limiting as other illnesses but it is life-threatening. Type 1 is a balancing act. We struggle to balance food and insulin to acheive the right blood sugar numbers so she is healthy and feels well. If her blood sugar is low or going low, I can definitely tell in her math work. She will just not get things that I know she knows. At home we can stop and treat her and then continue with her work. In school kids often get poorer care. Or tey have to leave class constantly to go see the nurse. I just can't imagine how even a bright kid doesn't start to fall behind. And then there would be more absences for illness and doctor's appointments too. We didn't homeschool because of the diabetes but it sure helps.

Maria said...

Chronic illness feels "in the way".

My 8 year old has a physical challenge that interrupts alot of things in her world and I think keeping a positive attitude (mine) helps her keep plugging away. That's different than chronic illness, though, and your outlook inspires me, esp. today when we were sidetracked with a doctor's appt.

Like Nebby3, my oldest daughter also has type 1 diabetes,dx'd at age 5, and is away at college. She missed tons of school because of illness, appts., etc. So, we would play catch up at home, kinda like homeschooling school,haha. It did teach her skills to work around the interruptions, know when to prioritze and when to call it a day...and she is pretty darned resourceful.

So far, 5 weeks living away, she's doing impressively well managing independently.

Your teaching him more than just the three R's.

Marbel said...

Thanks, all, for the comments and well-wishes. There are a lot of people out there working through difficult times!

Barbara Frank said...

So sorry to hear your son has been ill. Hope you find a solution soon.

One of my kids, like me, has IBS. It made her cycle worse so she'd be sick for 4-5 days along with the normal menstrual cramps.

When she was homeschooled, we worked our schedule around her. If she was having an attack, her worst time was in the morning, so she often didn't start her schoolwork until after lunch. She'd do a lot of her reading in bed if she had to. She couldn't stand up to practice her violin so she'd just practice longer when she was feeling better.

The flexibility of homeschooling is a big help in so many situations.