sick mama image

This is our 14th year (give or take several months) of learning at home and in that time we’ve lived through births, deaths, job changes, surgeries, interstate moves, chronic and acute illnesses. Many new homeschoolers or interested people often want to know how we have homeschooled through illness.

Having a Vision for Family

I’ve found it vitally important to have a family mission statement. Knowing why we were homeschooling was vital. Knowing that homeschooling, for us, is a lifestyle, a long term venture allowed me to homeschool throughout illness. That isn’t to say that a short term homeschooler cannot homeschool through trials- but it will look different. That’s why it is important to know why we do what we do. The answer to these questions dictated how we homeschooled throughout the various seasons of life.

Homeschooling, as a natural extension of parenting, is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve learned to ‘make hay while the sun shines‘. There are times when all is sweet and rosy: we step on the accelerator knowing that sooner or later we will encounter a speed hump or pothole. The beauty of homeschooling is that we can be flexible… we can go with the ebb and flow of the family rhythm – speeding up, slowing down yet knowing that we will get there in the long run.

Our family is a training ground. Being family based, the children have learned how to care for others, how to be compassionate… how to be a patient (Children being children have all suffered broken bones and the usual childhood injuries). Being at home most of the time has provided many opportunities for the children. They have watched me care for others, they have been the one being cared for. They have also had opportunity to be the carer. Not only did they experience being a patient but they grew in knowledge, understanding and application. Now that, is learning!


I don’t see illness or injury as an interruption to our lesson schedule. It’s all part of life. Life affords us so many learning opportunities, if only we learn to see the value in everything. There’s always something to learn. Making the most of every situation is working smarter, not harder. It’s homeschool efficiency.

Sometimes it isn’t a learning opportunity as such, rather a ‘doing’ opportunity- to serve, to be hospitable, to display empathy and compassion. An opportunity to grow, practice and develop their gifts and character: creativity, team work, work ethic, imagination, cooking skills, card making, cleaning, etc.

Older Children

If it were not the eldest children who were sick, I would have them help out as much as possible. I wouldn’t work them to the bone. I mean, they were children, not my slaves nor were they adults. But as part of training, it was very helpful all round. The girls learned how to cook and clean and look after others. I also found it helpful for each girl to be ‘a charge‘. I paired the eldest girl with the youngest son, and child two and three together. Sounds weird but it worked wonderfully throughout the years. Each girl would be responsible for helping/serving their charge. Naturally, I had to make sure that no one abused their role. When the boys had to do their hygiene, cleaning rooms, chores, etc. their ‘charge’ would help/supervise them. This gave the girls opportunity to lead, in humility and grace. This also gave them opportunity to grow and develop in patience. It was also beneficial for developing family ties.

A Time for Beauty

During times of illness, injury or trial I did not expect the children to concentrate on writing assignments, ACE paces or heavy schoolwork. However, it was the perfect time to gently nourish one’s mind and soul with beautiful things. Reading the Bible, reading and reciting poetry, listening to classical music, gospel music or hymns, watching good movies, listening to an audio book, handicrafts, outside games and activities, baking, playing board games, are all activities that can be enjoyed during these times. I have found activities that have rhythm to be especially beneficial during those times – trampolining, poetry, hopscotch, elastics and jump rope seem to have a very settling and stabilising effect on everyone and the physical aspect releases pent up energy and encourages happy endorphins.

Obviously not all those activities can be done during illness. When we’ve been ill with a flu or other such sickness all we want to do is watch old movies and listen to audio books, while sipping on Lemon & Honey Tea. I would just do what I could manage without adding stress or unnecessary fatigue. Keeping a sense of peace and harmony is important, especially during illness or trials. However when I have had surgery and am incapacitated for several weeks, I can lead up to the more energetic activities. I would sit outside in the sun, sipping a cup of warm tea and supervise the children in running races or playing on the trampoline. I found that if I could manage this for half an hour in the morning the rest of the day would be more peaceful and restful.

Keep Daily Rhythms

During some times of chronic illness or recuperating from surgery I try to keep some normal lifestyle routines puttering along in the background. This gives a sense of stability…normalcy for the children. Keeping our read aloud going, listening to classical music and Bible reading might be things that I would keep up. If none of us were up to reading aloud then I’d pop in an audio book or listen to the Bible on tape. Classical music, hymns and other soothing music are beneficial and soothing.

Getting Back Into It

Eventually, there comes a time when we had to institute lesson time again. I found it hugely beneficial to combine many subjects. Learning history via good, living books. Not only were we learning about history but we were also doing literary studies and English (Language Arts).

From the living book I would choose a passage and have the children copy it, word for word. This is known as copywork. I would also have each of the children take turns in reading parts of the book aloud as well as ask them to tell back the story in their own words, which is known as narration.

Rethink Relearn

We had only been homeschooling a few years when I had major surgery, with several months of  recovery. I’m really grateful for that time as I learned to think outside the box! I was forced to be aware of all the learning opportunities and activities that real life offers. I learned that family, friends, the Internet, books, games, maps, T.V., doctor visits, grocery shopping, dentist appointments and the like are the lesson! Our daily routine, living in this world offers much if I’m willing to be a student.

It’s easy to listen to others- family or friends and even other homeschoolers. But honestly, it doesn’t matter what others say. I learned the hard way not to be swayed by other homeschool families. It’s better to thoroughly talk things out with my husband, decide upon our family mission statement and then be guided by the Holy Spirit.

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’

Matthew 25:34-40

Do you have any tips or advice for homeschooling through tough times?