Let’s be honest: if your child suffers from health concerns, a traditional school may just not work. Even with a school’s best effort to accommodate your child’s needs, there are situations in which a classroom may not be the most enriching or most healthy environment. If this is the case, homeschooling might be your best choice. Offering a flexible schedule in a controlled environment, homeschooling can help to ensure your child continues to progress academically even when the realities of his or her condition make school impossible.
That said, homeschooling is not easy, requiring skill, effort and commitment from both you and your ill child. With the care to make a plan and the realism to adjust it, you can help your ill child learn, grow and thrive to the best of his or her ability. Here are some tips that can help to make homeschooling with an ill child successful:
1. Broader Goals
In addition to setting realistic academic goals, parents with an ill child might need to look at the bigger picture of how homeschooling can affect their child’s quality of life. Sure, academics is great, but what about helping an ill child find enjoyment in learning? What about using homeschooling time to teach and reinforce life skills or work through emotions surrounding your child’s condition? Start with the question, What do I want my child to understand? And then seek to shape your instruction around these broader goals.
2. Think Outside the Book
Even in traditional school settings, good teachers know that textbooks are only one tool in their toolbox. Maybe your child loves reading textbooks and answering questions. But if that’s not the case, consider other ways you can help your ill child learn. Can you go to the zoo or to a local natural area to study animals and nature? Or maybe you can integrate wildlife live-cams? A simple carpentry project can be a fun way to work on math skills. Thinking outside the textbook can make your child’s homeschooling more fun for you, too. Teaching through activities rather than through assigned readings can be a valuable opportunity to connect with your child.
3. Ask For Help
Just because you’re homeschooling doesn’t mean you have to be in charge of your child’s entire instruction. If you know and love science but hate math, keep science for yourself and consider hiring a tutor or trading with another homeschooling parent to help teach math. Many parents who homeschool choose to only deliver certain pieces of their child’s education. Homeschooling support groups in your area should be able to help you find the resources you need to give you and your child a break from all-parent, all the time.
4. Be Flexible
This goes hand-in-hand with being realistic – when you ill child isn’t feeling well or can’t meet the day’s demands, ask yourself if another time might be better. But flexibility is about more than giving yourself permission to skip lessons. It’s also about finding flexible ways to help your child add instruction when possible. Can you listen to a nonfiction book on tape on your way to an appointment? Could your child learn about an unfamiliar culture while doing an ethnic art project in the hospital? Flexibility means letting go of instruction when you have to and finding new times for instruction when possible.
Garth Sundem is a parent, husband, and author of books including “Real Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change”.