It’s been a little over a year since we made the decision to pull our chronically ill teenager out of school to try and get her healthy. The strategy worked because she was able to return for half-days two months later. Unfortunately, life has thrown her lots of curve balls the past year when it comes to her health so she’s back home with me, although it’s different this time as we have help from the school district.
As parents of chronically ill kids will tell you, school is a challenge. If I had a crystal ball and an unlimited amount of money, I would’ve homeschooled my child from the start as she learns well in an unstructured environment. But, I didn’t so it was difficult for my child to adjust to not being at school because that was the world she knew. Last year, we tried it all- a K 12 program (too rigid for a child with migraines), putting together our own curriculum and supplementing school classes with our own. Sitting here year later, I can honestly say it was successful. I can also say that I learned a lot about myself through this journey and hope that by sharing, it will help another family that’s struggling through the same kinds of issues. Here’s a little of what I learned last year.
Classroom education is often a big waste of time– Between corralling kids, dealing with different personalities and everything else, there’s a lot of time wasted in a traditional school environment. When you have a sick child, they don’t really have any time to waste because a traditional school day is LONG when you don’t feel well. In three hours, we can accomplish a lot on a good day because there are no distractions.
Children absorb more when they’re taught according to their learning style– Everyone learns differently. Some kids are aural and have to hear a lecture. Others visual so they need to see the PowerPoint to grasp the concept. My daughter is a hybrid so sometimes she needs to hear, see and touch to learn. We have to switch gears at times to help her comprehend and retain information and if she was fighting a migraine, I’d have to be flexible to help her out.
Putting together a curriculum is not easy– There are some great resources out there online like Khan Academy and Time For Learning but there isn’t one that does it all unless you’re in a K-12 program. We’d pull a little from here and there, add in some videos for science and social studies and we tried to stay on track with the books they were reading in school so she could return. Honestly, homeschooling is not easy when you’re trying to stay on track with traditional education. Now, unschooling, that’s a different story (and a totally different blog).
Time of day is everything– Every sick kid has their best hours of the day. Ours are between 1-4. When were were homeschooling and doing our own thing, that was easy. Back in school, it’s not simple because that’s only a third of the day. Since we’re home bound, our school work focus is in the afternoon because she can’t read well or retain anything in the morning.
Self-pacing is important– In a traditional school day, you get an hour or so of each class and have homework. When you’re at home, you have to make hay while the sun shines so I had to learn how to be flexible. That means if Rosie is on a roll with Language Arts, she just needs to forge ahead and she can do math on another day. Even now that she’s home bound and the lessons come from school, we still self-pace. She learns better and is more efficient.
Adults only retain a fraction of what they learn in school– I’m shocked at how many times I’ve said, “I don’t remember” the past year. I was well aware going into this that I was not going to be able to teach my kid math, so I didn’t even try. However, I thought language arts would be a snap. Guess what? It’s not. I may write every day for a living but when it comes to remembering literary devices or how to diagram a sentence, I have no clue.
Planning is everything– If you have a child like mine that’s dying to be at school and can’t make it all the time, it’s important as a parent to have everything in place that they need to succeed. That means comprehensive 504 planning, meeting with teachers and administrators and getting to know the school nurse. Our kids deserve the same educational opportunities as others.
It’s up to us to fight for our kids– School districts have processes and rules and they can’t always accommodate sick kids quickly. If you need something for your child, get on the phone and call the counselor or the 504 planner. Don’t wait otherwise, it’s not going to happen. You also have to ask because if you don’t lots of options won’t be presented.
So, that’s what I learned and it’s a constant process. We’re trying to work our way back to school full-time but when you have an ill child, there’s still a lot you have to do at home to support their education and make sure they stay on track. How do you handle all of this?