When trying to figure out what my kids can do for their homeschooling, it can be very easy for me to get carried away – grand plans, high expectations and all that, and when the unexpected happens, like a sudden illness, it can feel like everything is falling apart. Finding both the energy to keep going as well as the inspiration to keep planning when I’m house-bound from a long-term illness has been a challenge, but there are things I have learned about how to manage and still make homeschooling a wonderful experience for everyone.
Here are some of the things I have done.
Put in simple plans for day to day activities
With two children who struggle with executive planning, one of the things that can tire me out quickly when I’m not well is simply refocusing and reminding the kids of the tasks they are meant to be doing – whether it’s maths or brushing their teeth. Having a basic plan in place for day to day tasks, such as when lunch/morning tea/ no TV time occurs helps the kids to self-regulate. What also helps is to have basic expectations for what the kids need to do each day – whether academic or personal.
Find activities that inspire the kids that also cover academic areas.
This includes finding games and apps that the kids love to play (like Dragon Box Big Numbers for my daughter), as well as books that they love to read (like Andy Griffiths’ ‘Just Macbeth’ for my son).
Cut down on expectations
It can be very tempting, given all the wonderful options available in a big metropolis to go to all the things. When your body has different ideas, that can be very down heartening. A few of the things that helped me were to:
Refocus on where activities could be done.
If I couldn’t go to homeschool meetups, I could still invite families around here instead. This actually removed one of the greatest stresses for us with any activity – simply getting out the door (which can take hours).
Look for local alternatives.
When I was very sick – this might just include our little garden for outdoor time, or a local park. But it also included looking for organised activities that were extremely local (i.e. just down the street). As my health improved, it expanded out to include local suburbs, but this local focus did allow me to rethink exactly how far we were willing to travel to do an activity. If the travel time (one way) was longer than the activity, it did cause us to question whether its was really to best way to spend our time, or ask whether there was something more local that might also work.
Make sure there were regular breaks between any activity.
Knowing that even if I felt good one day, I might not the next meant that even when I started to improve I did not immediately ramp up our activities. Even now, I try very hard to never have two major activities in a day, and rarely on consecutive days. When I didn’t and don’t follow this rule, inevitably the whole family suffers – both from relapses, as well as missing out of home-based destressing (which is essential for my two SPD kids).
Cut down on organizing and stream-line record keeping
Streamlining how I kept record-keeping tasks to a simpler process really did help with feeling like I was still on top of things. This was already fairly streamlined, i.e. using a simple Pinterest pin button to record websites the kids visited online, but I extended the simplicity to our day-to-day activities as well. I now use just my camera to record activities around the home, whether that’s reading or game-play, computer games or crafting. A quick photo on record helps me to remember what they have done at a later date, as well as give me many photos I could potentially use to show examples of learning. It’s also very easy to do, which is good when there is little energy spare.
On organizing things, I have put a lot of effort into minimizing our things around the home – the less stuff we have, the less clutter exists, and the easier it is to keep the house functional. It also made it a lot easier for my hubbie, who had to take on a large burden of around the house tasks just to to keep everything ticking over.
It also caused me to ask hard questions about why we were keeping certain toys. Was a toy that caused a lot of mess, was it one the kids enjoyed playing with regularly, or was it one that would just be spread out and forgotten. Also, getting rid of old toys that weren’t played with freed up space on shelves for all the toys that seemed to live more on the floor than anywhere else. Less stuff also made it easier for the kids to put away their things – it was slightly less daunting.
When you’re a parent to disabled kids, it can be very easy to just take over tasks that need to get done. It’s quicker, it’s easy to do and it can be a lot less stressful than patiently walking the kids through the same activities. But really, for daily care activities, this is not necessarily the wisest thing to do long-term.
Just being sick enough that doing it myself was much more difficult, meant that I had to step back from taking over tasks. And the kids got the opportunity – with guidance – to really work out how they would do things like put on their shoes, or prepare basic snacks. This also has helped enormously with their own self-esteem as they now know they can do these tasks themselves.
Even though I am now out the other side of my illness, I find that the experiences I have had have changed the way I homeschool and parent. I am now more mindful that adding anything can also take away from other things, which though they might not tick any ‘must-do’ boxes have become an essential part of keeping everyone functioning and happy.