My Experience Homeschooling with Chronic Disease
When I was pregnant, I remember grabbing up as many books as I could on parenting styles, homeschooling and raising kids. I even came up with a huge list of fun activities for kids that I hoped to do someday. My husband and I spent hours discussing everything from medical choices to textiles, baby carriers to cloth diapers, Montessori to Waldorf. What we never could have prepared for was how drastically our parenting would be altered by me, yet to be diagnosed, autoimmune diseases.
A Journey to Diagnosis
Six years before my son was born, long before I was engaged or thinking much about children, I was sick. I saw twelve different doctors in a two-year period and never got any real answers as to why I was feeling the way I was and experiencing some difficult symptoms. My last year of college included two urgent care and one ER visit. As my grades slipped, so did my health. I was extremely active on campus and plugged my way through all the while feeling terrible. Two weeks after graduation was my wedding, I was so sick that I took medication right before I started walking down the aisle.
Four years after I started seeking answers I was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. One year later I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy and soy intolerance. My health was better, but not great, when my son was born.
It took another four years, a lot of doctors and footwork to finally be diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases when my son was four. By the time I got an accurate diagnoses, I was dealing with such intense fatigue I could hardly get out of bed some mornings and so much pain that I could no longer pick up my son. We had been doing a Montessori-based homeschool preschool for two years and really enjoyed it. The thing with chronic illness, is sometimes you feel great for a long time and then out of nowhere WHAM it hits you like a ton of bricks.
One year after my diagnosis, I came down with a bad case of mono. I spent about 6 weeks in bed. My thyroid tanked again, and all my illnesses got much worse. I was so sick, we made the difficult decision to stop homeschooling for a bit, so I could focus on getting better. My son spent two years at an amazing afternoon program at a local Montessori charter school while I focused on resting and healing.
Why Homeschooling Is Best For My Family
While my health isn’t, and likely never will be, 100% I have more good days than bad now. People often suggest keeping my son in school instead of homeschooling.
Honestly, homeschooling works SO much better with chronic disease (at least for our family)
No joint pain or headaches while I sit in carpool lanes. No fear of having a Raynaud’s attack (a circulation disorder which causes me to lose feeling in my fingers and toes during chilly weather) and not being able to get to school on time. No more getting sick constantly from the bugs my son brought home from school. Sending him to school for a time was absolutely what we needed to do. It was the right choice at the time, just like starting to homeschool again was the right choice at the time.
There’s a great analogy written about life with a chronic illness called the spoon theory, written by Christine Miserandino. In the spoon theory, Christine states that when we wake up we only have a limited number of spoons to use to get through our day. People without chronic diseases can have as many spoons as they want. We get too tired, too sick, have too much pain, and our spoons run out. Homeschooling through this experience has taught me about time management, being transparent with my family, and asking for (and accepting) help. It’s helped us to develop my son’s empathy, given him a chance to develop and become independent, and grown us incredibly close together. While none of my illnesses are life threatening, there’s something about being sick all the time that makes you reevaluate your priorities. I spend more time learning myself, sitting with my son during his school time, and finding fun opportunities to explore and learn together.
Life with a chronic autoimmune disease is never easy. It is possible to homeschool and thrive at it. I’ve also found new friends through the journey of other mom’s dealing with chronic disease while at home schooling. If you have a chronic illness, please feel free to reach out and let’s chat about making a homeschool plan that works for your unique needs and situation.