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Chronic Illness - Chronic Pain Articles Available to Read and Reprint

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When Mom is Sick with a Chronic Illness

By: Kathryn A. Frazier

In the majority of homeschooling families, it is Mom who does most, if not all, of the teaching, planning, and scheduling. Mom does the cooking and the cleaning and gets up in the night with the baby. Hmmm, I think this is probably true for most families, not just homeschoolers. Mom is truly the Keeper of the Home! So what if Mom is sick, and not able to do it all? When the illness is something that can reasonably be expected to go away soon, like the flu, you can just coast a few days. But pregnancy-related or chronic illness is more of a lifestyle change. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to give up homeschooling.

Some years ago, I was given the gift of chronic pain. Trust me, this is not a gift I asked for! If God should choose to take it away, I won't miss it. Nevertheless, it is working out for the good of our family as a part of our total education. And because I've been given this challenge, I can share with you how we manage when I am too sick to do all of the things that some other homeschooling moms do.

Here are a few "tips and tricks" that have helped our home school survive chronic illness:

1. Make two schedules.
Post a "Regular" schedule and an "Alternate" schedule where they can be seen by all family members (don't say "well" and "sick". Attitude is half the battle). Our alternate schedule is designed to pick up anytime during the day. That means wake up time, meals, snacks, nap and playtime are all the same as the regular schedule. So if the morning goes smoothly, then the afternoon is a challenge, I just announce, "We need to go to the alternate schedule now." And my kids kick into gear.

Our alternate schedule is just the basics: keep the little kids clean, dressed, fed, and happy, give them a nap (happy and nap don't always go together), load the dishwasher, and keep the ever-present pile of laundry moving. Teaching comes with Dad in the evening or independent study during nap time. Sometimes the older kids do school work in shifts. Mary will watch the little ones while Elisabeth does her lessons, and vice-versa. The older ones sometimes like to do educational things with the little ones, like review letters, numbers, etc., during the regularly scheduled "preschool" time, but that's up to them. Whether I have to go to bed for a few days, or just need to rest a while, the kids know what to do and do it without me. I am still in the home so they can ask questions, or in case of emergency.

Of course, this only works because I have two older children who each could run the house by themselves, if need be. It wasn't always that way. Before our older ones were old enough, my husband and my mom would take turns caring for the kids if I couldn't. That brings me to the next point.

2. Get help. Let family members and close friends know of your needs, and accept help from them in whatever form they offer (childcare, cleaning, cooking, shopping). "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." (1st Peter 4:10). If someone, even your own child, has a gift that can help you, don't feel embarrassed or guilty about letting them serve you in this way. It is part of God's grace. You have gifts that you can use to serve, too.

With four out of five of our children, I was bedridden for part of the pregnancy. Again, thankfully, both my husband and my mom were able to take off work at times and care for things. With our fourth child, the oldest was twelve, and able to pretty much handle things on her own; but we didn't want to place all of that responsibility on her shoulders, since we knew it would be a few weeks. We also wanted to be able to save my husband's vacation time for after the baby was born. So we hired our teenage niece to come in and take care of the kids and keep the house picked up. Our oldest, Elisabeth, helped; but the "sitter" had the responsibility. She just followed my schedule until my husband came home from work and could take over. When the kids needed me, they could come in and talk to me in my bedroom.

3. Train your children. This is discussed more in depth in the section on Scheduling [in Homeschool Survival Kit]. Basically, you want your children to learn to be as independent as their age and ability allows. On the days that you are well enough, take time to show them the proper way to do things that need to be done on a regular basis, like laundry. Practice giving them assignments and letting them do their schoolwork on their own, only asking questions as necessary. Don't feel guilty about this, it's good for them. You are training them to be responsible people.

4. Take acceptable shortcuts. Yes, you can figure out the answers for third grade math, but if you buy the teacher's key, it will be easier. If that's not affordable, you can use a calculator to speed things up. My favorite short-cut is buying precut veggies and salad in a bag. I know it's more expensive, and it doesn't take that much time or energy to wash and rip lettuce (when you are sick or in pain, though, washing and ripping lettuce seems like a monumental task). It encourages me to know the salad is already made. Some things you can't cut short: Bible reading, prayer, time with your children and your spouse. When you don't feel well, cut time and energy corners where you can. Prioritize, and do the important things, letting the rest go. The more time you free, the more "well" time you will have with your family.

5. Focus on the things that only you can do. Use the energy you have for the special things you can do. Anyone can wash dishes, make dinner (PBJs are OK sometimes), clean house, grade papers, etc. Only you can give that special look to your husband, that word of encouragement to your child, make that silly joke. Only you can rock your child to sleep in that special "mommy" way. Only you can pray as earnestly for your family as a wife and mother. Your talents and abilities are not limited. They are as God gave them to you. Use what He has given.

6. Get some sunshine. "Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun." (Ecclesiastes 11:7) Some studies have suggested that exposing the eyes to sunlight (not looking directly at the sun, just being in the sunshine) increases the production of the chemical seratonin in the brain, which helps people feel more healthful, cheerful and energetic. This is important for everyone, but especially when you are not feeling well.

7, Nurture a cheerful heart. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine" Sometimes when I am feeling especially ill or discouraged, and I retreat to my bedroom, my husband or children will come in and just be silly. They make me laugh in spite of myself, and I feel better. Maybe you don't have anyone to be silly with you, but I hope you do. You can always sing praise songs out loud or in your heart, think about happy things, listen to uplifting music or watch a funny old comedy on TV. It isn't just a platitude. It makes a difference.

8. Take it a day at a time. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34). Don't fret over a few missed days here and there. The standard number of days in a school year is 180. You have 365 to work with your child. Just do today the best you can. If you allow yourself to worry about it, the stress could make your condition worse, and you'll end up missing even more days, causing more stress... This is often where homeschool survival is threatened: not by a true inability to do the job, but by the worry that you won't be able to do the job. If you have to take some time to rest, just pick up where you left off, and press forward.


  • Keep fresh lemon or orange wedges in your refrigerator. Take a sniff when you are feeling nauseated.
  • If cooking smells make you sick, you can fill a slow-cook pot in the morning, and plug it in on your porch. Just be sure it isn't where children can get burned. Add salad and bread, and you have dinner ready, without the smell.
  • Ginger tea can help with the nauseated feeling.
  • Taking small sips of very cold (with ice) Coca Cola helps some women. Our pediatrician told me it can't be Pepsi, or any other cola.
  • Something about Coca-Cola. You can buy Coke syrup, without the carbonated water, at pharmacies, and keep in the refrigerator, to use as a medicine.

Taken from Homeschool Survival Kit, copyright 2001, Kathryn A. Frazier, all rights reserved. Used with permission. Visit Kathryn's Website Precious Privilege.





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