4 Moms: Homeschooling through pregnancy or chronic illness

4 Moms, 35 Kids

This week, we four moms of many are talking about how to homeschool through chronic illness or pregnancy.  If your morning sickness is bad enough, the two may sound and feel like the same thing.

If we’re talking about things that bring daily school to a screeching halt, we could also add interstate moves to the list.  We had a beautiful daily schedule when we lived in Ohio, and I had 6 children under 10 at the time, expecting #7.  Once we moved, things were never the same again.

I expected our move to change things, but I did not expect the change to be permanent.  For this reason, I spent several months waiting for our lives to fall back into order naturally.  It didn’t help that I was in the midst of my worst pregnancy ever, with non-stop vomiting, suspected gestational diabetes, little or no control over my diet (we were not living in our own home at the time), and several other major and inescapable sources of stress around us.

When our lives didn’t quickly and naturally slip back into something resembling the old order, I spent several months sinking into a slow motion panic, afraid that the brains of our children were turning to mush while I watched helplessly from my miserable place on the sofa.

See?  Pregnancy isn’t always a breeze for moms of many.

But I learned something along the way.  I learned that not all education happens at the table with a pencil and a textbook.

It doesn’t even always involve a book, though it almost pains me to say so.

As long as children are not spending their days plastered to the television, immersing themselves in video games, or otherwise indulging in wanton purposeful brain damage, they are probably learning new things.

That’s not to say that you should let them quit school and do what they want for the rest of their days.  Just don’t panic if school isn’t happening the way you envision it while you are sick.

Here are some ways to keep educating your children even when you can hardly crawl out of bed:

  • Read to your children, and encourage them to read.  Read together in your bed, if that’s where you spend most of your time.  That is where reading lessons happen in my house even when I’m well.
  • Make sure you provide plenty of good literature and nonfiction, and not too much “brain candy.”  Children who read twaddle will quickly come to crave it just like the child who has been raised on breakfast pastries will crave that morning dose of sugar.  It sometimes takes self control and extra effort to develop a taste for what is best for us.
  • Have your children narrate back to you when you read aloud to them.  Encourage them to tell the story in their own words.  Very little ones often show a desire to do this naturally, like when your toddler wants to “read” you her favorite book.  I have also let the young ones narrate to each other to help “catch up” when one misses a chapter of a book we’re reading together.
  • Encourage the independent pursuit of hobbies and interests.  Urge your children to dig deeper into what interests them, and to learn fun or interesting new skills.
  • Talk to your children, and with your children.  This is huge!  Explain difficult concepts, even if you think they’re too young to completely grasp what you are talking about.  You are planting seeds and concepts.  Answer questions.  Ask questions.  Include them in discussions, even if they’re too young to really participate.  Engage.  Don’t sell your children short: everything is fair game at every age.
  • Use videos judiciously.  Work hard not to create an atmosphere where videos are the default method of entertaining children or killing time.  Non-fiction and educational videos abound.  Use them as a basis for discussions rather than just time-fillers.  Let the kids watch a familiar/favorite video but require them to use the foreign language track rather than English.  My kids groan, but never decline.

So much learning can be self directed and self motivated, but often our children miss out on that aspect when we are strong and healthy enough to hover over them and manage all aspects of their day.  It’s not  good to leave a child to himself (Proverbs 29:15), but I do think that we are sometimes inclined to manage their days a little too closely.  The inability to do so can sometimes provide new opportunities for growth and learning that our children might have missed otherwise.

Here’s what the other 3 moms say:


Upcoming topics for 4 Moms:

  • May 3 – Cooking with leftovers
  • May 10 – Favorite frugal tips
  • May 17 – Q&A
  • May 24 – Homeschooling when in a rotten temper

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  1. ShellySinAZ says:

    Thank you for including an interstate move in this post. In the past 9 months we’ve added baby #7 and moved twice (once across the country, once across town). I keep waiting for things to get “back to normal” but I am slowly coming to realize that probably isn’t going to happen. I was glad to see things were never that same for you again after a move too. Makes me feel a bit more normal.

    I kept telling myself we’d catch up with school this summer because it’s so hot here in AZ we can’t do much else, but it seems I left my motivation back in WI. Hey, we did drive through Texas on the way so if you see it somewhere let me know! 😉

  2. Only a 60% chance of gestational diabetes in subsequent pregnancies? That makes me so sad to hear… that is one of the main reasons one of my dear friends stopped at 2 kids… and it’s a permanent decision!

  3. Love your blog! And awesome post! Just curious, you mentioned possible gestational diabetes. With my last 2 pregnancies I have developed gd. Do you still get it with each pg? If not how did you avoid it?

    • melissa,
      I had all the symptoms with that pregnancy, but never since. I’ve read that there is about a 60% chance of recurrence in subsequent pregnancies.

  4. These tips are great for non-homeschooling moms too!

    So many school children come home and plop down in front of some cartoons to ‘wind down’ from a busy day…yet in my experience, real learning only begins after school. And on weekends.

    We’ve all reached points where letting them veg out will buy us a few minutes peace. I cringe at the thought of how many times I did this this week alone, on the verge of battling a mini-depression and having a very rebellious, and LOUD (i.e. complaining) 4 year old at home with me. I was exhausted and uninspired and the weather didn’t help, bla bla blah, so I let her watch cartoons. 2 hours later I wake up from semi slumber and kick myself for damaging her precious brain.

    Your tips help to keep them from doing that. Other tips, like getting them involved in the dinner preps, are magical (once they stop complaining, usually right when they realize that they get to hold a sharp knife all by themselves, or pour olive oil from the big bottle without assistance). Gardening, no matter how simple (pull a week, plant a seed) usually gets them exploring all on their own. Sending them outside…the list goes on.

    Thank you for the reminders. And all the best with the rest of your pregnancy!

  5. harmonyl says:

    I do the foreign language track thing, too! 🙂 It only takes about 5 extra seconds of set-up time, and I don’t feel *quite* as guilty about turning on the TV.

    I will say that I use TV much more often than I should. My (almost 3-year-old) daughter continues to refuse to play by herself the vast majority of the time. The poor girl is a huge extrovert, and the idea of having to do something other than watch TV by herself inevitably sends her into tears. When we go over to my sister’s house, she’ll play happily with her cousin for hours on end, but at home it’s just me and her. And when I’m sick (which is often; I have a semi-chronic illness), I just can’t play with her. Even going outside, she wants me to help her dig in the dirt or what-have-you. So I’m ashamed to say that when I’m feeling bad, I lean very heavily on TV because that’s the only way I can get any rest.

    So if anyone has any suggestions (other than ‘just turn off the TV and make her leave you alone, she’ll learn’ – because that doesn’t work unless she has a playmate) I would be very grateful. 🙂

    • I have used PBS quite heavily to teach the children drawing/painting and cooking. The drawing and painting in the afternoon and the cooking show are back to back in my area and each show being half and hour takes up one hour in the day. After watching those shows, the children are required to go to the table and get out their art boxes and paper and render the art lesson. They have produced some really fun art work and one time we went right into a very nice set of stationery for their grandmother. Each child had to do three ocean scenes. (the art lesson was on painting water and waves) I have 5 children and that was a nice set of cards and matching envelopes and it’s all about doing something for someone else, etc.
      We then for dinner, had to use something about the cooking show for dinner. Whether it was the recipe itself (thinking how to substitute in a tasty fashion for ingredients we didn’t have), or vegetable chopping techniques, or what ever we had to translate the show somehow to that nights dinner.
      The art and cooking shows are back to back every weekday. So, art lessons and cooking. 5 days a week. We did that for one summer. It was fun and we all enjoyed it and all of you can immediately see the many benefits all around. It is also a fun way to pass the weeks up here where winter is from January to April can be muddy and wet and cold outside.
      Have fun and think of ways to use television shows that don’t just breed a sense of entitlement, entertainment and selfish/self centered pursuits.

    • My oldest just wanted to play by herself, with me close at hand, my next is like your daughter and does NOT want to play alone. When my oldest went off to school I had a young child who clung to me, all she wanted was someone else s attention. 24/7 I solved some of this with giving her “school” work. We played school, I let her “pretend” to read to me, and gave her simple worksheets. Not saying it was perfect but it really did help.( I should note this is also a child that would put herself into time out when she got mad, and set her own bedtime way earlier than I would have put her to bed. conversely waking up hours before I was ready), oh and any task I set her to “helping” was a blessing she would do her part happily giving me the space to get the rest done.
      Yes we did tv, it is not always an enemy the key is what they watch.

      Kim, thanks for this post! I have chronic IBS and my girls know that some does just don’t go as planned because I can’t leave the house. I actually picked my curriculum with the knowledge that life happens and schooling can happen anyway! When class work is heavy on reading and discussion, other subjects can just fall into place around those things. The hardest to cover is math I feel like I am relearning it all over again as I figure out how to augment the books explanation to make it stick in my kids heads.

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