Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Homeschooling a Child with Chronic Illness - Part II

Homeschooling a Child with Chronic Illness

Part II: School Needs for Chronic Illness

After acknowledging and accepting that your child does have a chronic illness and needs adaptions made to her life, including school, the next step is to determine what changes will be a benefit for everyone.

I started by looking at what we currently were doing and what parts of it did not work and what still had a positive effect.   For reference, we utilized a classical method of education as (mostly) presented in the Well Trained Mind.

Amber definitely needs a schedule that allows her to sleep up to 12 hours without causing school to be behind each day.  We had half of it right. I let Amber sleep as much as she needed, but then rushed us through the day afterwards.  We need to let the longer night sleep be the norm for her, instead of treating it like an oddity.  Given the nature of chronic illnesses, sleep should be a priority in most cases.

Amber also needs a schedule that can allow for a greater than average number of sick days (or doctor days) and for many low productivity days.  Again, I had no mechanism to allow for this. We just plodded along when we could and rushed through everything toward the end.  This is also a must for children prone to frequent sick days.

Still, having a set schedule works well for Amber.  She does have sensory processing disorder and needs a predictable schedule to follow. Even in parochial school she needed the teacher to follow the posted schedule exactly for each and every day.  The times that fail the worst around here are when I can't give her at least a sketchy outline for the day.   The problem is that when we deviate from the outline, or minutely detailed schedule that she has developed for the day, Amber gets all "bent out of shape" and doesn't function well the rest of the day. So, a balance needs to be found between a set schedule and flexibility for her FM issues.

Homeschooling a Child with Chronic Illness
This was our original school schedule last year.  You can't even see the evening activities on this graphi

Socialization is very important to Amber and even more so after becoming sick.  We have always been good at this portion, but it is doubly important now so that she can find commonality with others and not always feel so different.  Finding activities, unlike dance, that do not exhaust Amber for days after her classes are imperative for us.

The quantity of work, especially writing and notes, that we utilized with the classical education became more than Amber could tolerate.  I see this as a major contributor to our feeling "behind" so frequently.  The quality of work declined each week while more assignments were postponed.  This is definitely an area that needs to change, even though it will mean altering our style of education, again.

Associated with the quantity of work is the type of school assignments we use.  As much as Amber previously thrived with the classical education model, it is simply not working now.  She needs to have other options for education on days when she can't concentrate as well or when she feels crummy and needs something to take her mind off the intestinal situation.  Reading, taking notes, writing narratives, etc did not do that for her.  

Amber had become a much more independent learner in the past year, however this created additional feelings of isolation, even if I was in the same room.   She needs more interaction with me during her various subjects.  Her mind goes a mile a minute at times and she spent half of her independent work time worrying.  We need to concentrate on keeping her engaged on the topic of study and feeling less secluded.  Her FM issues already make her feel different and slightly alone in groups of peers, we don't want to exacerbate it with school.

Homeschooling a Child with Chronic Illness
I had yard work to do, but she was "behind" and not feeling well.  At least she wasn't totally isolated inside the house.

After reviewing our various needs, many as detailed above, I realized that it all boils down to an pretty broad generalization that would fit many kids with chronic illness.  A highly flexible daily & yearly schedule, adaptable schooling style, and positive interactions with varied people.

Those are great goals to work for, but a plan is needed to achieve them.  It is not enough for us to identify the problem areas and know what should be done.  A workable outline for change needs be created.

My big-picture, overall plan to accomplish our goals is as follows:

  1. Less work, yet more learning.  - The details for this will provide for the flexible schedule and contribute to a new schooling style all while helping with our attitude toward school.
  2. More topic application, less book work - This item should assist in creating a more adaptable schooling style, while also bringing the enjoyment back to learning.
  3. Increased personal interactions - Not just in our homeschool, but also with highly selective activities that promote healthy relationships while allowing for a flexible schedule.

In the final installment of this series, I'll detail out exactly how we are going to meet our goals for change with methods that have proven effective for us in smaller trials.

Coming Next:

Part III: Implementing Adaptations.

1 comment:

  1. It is great to be homeschooling and switch how we are doing things to meet our children's needs. I need to add more of "Increased personal interactions" to my schedule. Next year is going to be so different with a third. I can't wait for her to have sister to socialize with.