“How can being home all day with a sick
mother be the best thing for the children?”
I’ve never been an anti-classroom zealot.
That’s why it surprised me to hear the
Spirit’s prompt to continue homeschooling
when I became ill.
I argued with God. “Let’s be reasonable
here,” I said. “How can I homeschool when
just getting up in the morning is a struggle?”
“With difficulty,” came the answer, “And
with help. ” It is not the best thing
for every child. But I somehow knew God
wanted this for my children, at least
for a season.
I started homeschooling, I never imagined
that I would become homebound with illness.
In the fall of 2000, I served on the board
of directors of Tampa Bay’s largest homeschooling
co-op, started and ran a local curricula
lending library, published a homeschooling
newsletter and website, homeschooled my
five children, and volunteered in my church.
I enjoyed the busyness of life and planned
to expand my homeschool ministry year
by year. By 2001, I needed a walker to
go to the bathroom. Unrelenting pain and
dizziness took me off guard. My already
poor eyesight grew dimmer until I could
no longer drive. Crushing fatigue kept
me from the things that I loved to do.
With frustrated plans and an uncertain
future, I had to start over again with
a new set of rules. Life was not supposed
to go this way. It took some time to realize
that God had a plan for my children’s
education, and His plan included my illness.
those early days, I prayed for, and expected,
total healing. The kids took a break from
schoolwork as I looked for a solution
to my health issues. I imagined a doctor,
or a medicine, or an herb, or a diet,
would fix everything. Then I would praise
God for miraculous healing, and we would
pick up where we left off.
passed. No magic cure dropped from heaven.
It became evident that God had a different
route for my journey than I anticipated.
Now came the hard decision: How could
I tackle my children’s education when
everything I knew was changed?
tears and time, I understood that God
was not sleeping when I became sick. He
didn’t look down one day and exclaim,
“Oh no! I didn’t realize…!” No matter
how out of control things seemed to me,
knew my children’s futures and the role
that my illness would play in their overall
development. He committed to their long-term
well-being before I ever met them. He
educates the whole child. Academics are
important. But God is also interested
in their spiritual, emotional, and character
a glass half-empty kind of gal. I tend
to think about how things should be, or
how they might be, if only. That kind
of thinking, however, paralyzes. It’s
as if I walk out to the edge of the diving
board and freeze, afraid that the pool
of God’s grace is somehow not deep enough
to safely receive my failings.
a frustrating time of trying to pretend
that sickness wasn’t really an issue,
I learned some basics about how to work
within my new situation. Maybe some of
these suggestions can also help you work
with the challenges of your illness or
two schedules. Make one schedule to follow
when you are well and another for days
that are more challenging. Wake up and
bedtimes, mealtimes and naps should be
the same. Post the schedules where everyone
dressed everyday. Get up. Get dressed.
Wash your face. Brush your hair. If your
illness prevents you from wearing regular
clothes, invest in some housedresses or
sweat pants, and comfortable slip on shoes.
Getting up and dressed signals to your
children and to yourself that it is a
school day and you are ready to accomplish
on the things that only you can do. Anyone
can grade papers, clean house and cook
dinner. Only you can tease your husband,
rock your baby, and say that same old
joke in that irreplaceable way that you
do. Only you can pray for your family
with the earnestness of wife and mother.
Use your limited energy to be the person
God made you to be. That’s the person
that your family needs the most.
short cuts. For schooling, use pre-made
curriculum, teacher’s keys, and a calculator
for checking math. Do reviews orally,
so grading is immediate. Use a slow cooker
for dinner. Serve salad from a bag. Conserve
energy wherever you can, so you have more
strength for the things that are important.
Don’t valiantly push through housework,
only to snap at your husband when he walks
through the door. Don‘t scrub the bathroom
tiles, and then send your kids to bed
angry. In ten years, your family won’t
remember if you kept the appliances shiny,
but they will remember if you had a kind
word and a smile.
help. If the kids offer to make PBJs for
dinner, if your sister picks up a few
groceries, if your mother-in-law does
a load of dishes, accept these gifts with
thanksgiving. You have other gifts that
you can use to serve. Anything that helps
you conserve energy helps you homeschool.
is homeschooling. Homeschoolers have a
tendency to discount learning activities
not done during “table time”. If you have
a conversation about politics with your
teen, write it down. If your little one
plays a computer math game, write it down.
At the end of the week, you may be surprised
how much you get done if you approach
homeschooling as a lifestyle of learning.
Put your kids to work. On better days,
teach your children to help around the
home. Even little ones can wash fruits
and vegetables, fold towels and put away
their toys. Expect it of them. Having
responsibilities gives kids a sense of
accomplishment and belonging.
moving forward. Homeschooling is not all
or nothing. On days that you are very
ill, and not able to do your regular lessons,
get creative. Call out times tables. Play
twenty questions. Review parts of speech.
Tell history stories. Ask your child to
read to you, or watch an educational video
together. You don’t have to sit at a table
to do schoolwork.
the kids out of the house. You may be
homebound, but your kids don’t have to
be. Let trusted friends and relatives
take them to classes and events outside
of the home. Sign up for sports at the
Y, classes at the community center and
youth activities at the church. It takes
faith, and sometimes tears, to relinquish
a role that you had hoped to fill for
your children. Do it anyway. You’ll still
date your lesson plans. Dating lesson
plans only reinforces the feeling that
you can’t keep up. Don’t try to be where
you “ought” to be in the school year.
Be where you are. Date the assignment
after your child finishes it, for your
A classroom school year is 180 days. Homeschoolers
have 365. If you lose a chunk of time
due to illness, just pick up and start
again where you are. It really is OK.
Don’t fret over being “behind”. That just
discourages your children and you both.
I gave up the drive to restore my lifestyle
to the way it used to be, God revealed
a new exciting life. As long as I mourned
the loss of weekday co-op activities,
my family remained isolated. When I became
open to a new direction, the children
joined sports teams, music lessons, church
activities and library youth clubs in
the evenings and weekends, when they could
get a ride. As long as I pouted because
I couldn’t take my teenager shopping or
teach her to drive, our relationship remained
I was able to thank the women who filled
that gap in her life, I learned to communicate
with my daughter in a way that no other
woman can. As long as I was angry that
I could not push my baby on a swing in
the park, I felt like a bad mother. When
I learned to embrace the great fun of
belly blows and lullabies, I reveled in
my little guy’s unconditional love. When
I made the choice to jump into the water,
I found God in the pool ready to catch
me. His grace is sufficient.
Kathryn Frazier is a freelance writer
and homeschool consultant.She lives joyfully
with her husband and five children in
Tampa, Florida.You can reach her at Kathryn.firstname.lastname@example.org