Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Homeschooling with a Chronic Illness - Real Tips

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In trying to connect with other Moms who homeschool despite having a serious chronic illness, I've exchanged emails with a few homeschoolers like me who have more than a working knowledge of prednisone and unmentionable medical procedures.

I've been struck by how optimistic they are and how committed they are to homeschooling their families despite the stress it puts on their bodies. And they do it gladly; they are happy to make the sacrifice for their family's greater good. They are literally laying down their lives for their children. 

Not many mothers are willing to do that. I'm not saying that if you don't homeschool you're not sacrificing, not at all, my kids have also attended private and public school and I know that is no piece of cake either. But homeschooling requires a certain physical, mental, and spiritual stamina that few mothers possess. 

I've received tips for streamlining breakfast - set the table completely the night before, even putting out the food(except for milk and fresh items, obviously) - since most often fatigue is the worst in the morning.

I've been reminded of the tip to buy/rent/borrow more audible books. The kids get to hear beautiful books read aloud, and I can listen from my spot on the couch. 

I had to give up a strict Charlotte Mason approach because I simply could not do all the reading aloud that the style requires. I had these romantic images of reading aloud by a roaring fire no less for hours at a time, both before and after dinner, while my children sat enraptured by the story. This rarely happened in my home and many nights I cannot physically read aloud for very long before my throat gives out. 
Dryness and hoarseness are side effects of many of the medicines I am on, and because the Remicade makes me more susceptible to upper respiratory infections, I am often suffering from a cold or allergies that turned into a sinus infection - making reading aloud for any length of time unbearable. After giving up on Charlotte Mason I tried to become a workbook/textbook homeschooler and that lasted about 4 days in my house before my kids revolted, so we ended up sliding backwards and upside down into unschooling by default. It's taken me this long to feel like it's an educational style that is acceptable and is actually showing demonstrable results in our children. Though I still have to fight the compulsion to 'check' on where we are too often.

When I'm in the middle of one of those "are we doing enough?" attacks I try to remember what the kids Waldorf preschool teacher told me once:

If you keep pulling up the plant to see how the roots are doing, the plant will never grow. 

Actually, the plant will die, won't it, but she was too nice to say it so harshly. I love that - and don't we always want to do that as mothers? Even if they're at school all day we want to know, what did you learn today, how did it go, did you have fun, who did you sit next to at lunch? On and on we mothers question our children and then we wonder why they start to clam up as they get older. 

Maybe they clam up because as they mature they realize that they have a right to their own thoughts without us constantly interrupting and interrogating them and they finally grow into the courage to say no to us, or at least to ignore us until we stop asking so much, so often.

So that's my homeschool take-away for the week: streamline breakfast, check some audio books out of the library, and just let them be - without constantly pulling up their roots.

*Please don't bother to tell me about how Waldorf is SO not Catholic. I know, I've read the Church's documents on it and on Steiner, and I did a lot of reading on Waldorf while my kids were in preschool there. There's a reason they no longer attend Waldorf schools. But that doesn't mean that they weren't right about some things some of the time. 

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