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Can You Hope to Homeschool With a Chronically Ill Child?

Homeschooling can be especially challenging with a chronically ill child in the family, but if the Lord is calling you to do it He will also provide a way.

Our son Eric was diagnosed with leukemia in July of 1991 when he was 16 months old. That was the year our oldest daughter was to start school in the fall.

For years we had been praying about and planning on homeschooling our children. We knew several families with children older than ours who were homeschooling and we liked what we saw happening in them. We had waited two years to purchase our home because we wanted something in the same neighborhood where several families from our church lived. Most of them homeshooled and we wanted to be close so we could be supported in our efforts, since we were new to this adventure.

Now here we were with a critically ill baby. The thought of trying to homeschool seemed more than just a little overwhelming at that point. But we really felt that it was something the Lord was calling our family to do, so we prayerfully sought him during that summer.

In the end, Eric having leukemia became the deciding factor. We knew he would be healthier (if you can talk about being healthy while you have leukemia) during his treatment if his sister wasn’t bringing home a lot of childhood illnesses from her classmates. So the decision was made: We would homeschool!

Now we just needed to figure out how to do it. Our days were very unpredictable. The world of leukemia really ran our schedule. In addition to our regular weekly and sometimes bi-weekly visits to the clinic there were many different reasons that would prompt an unexpected trip to the clinic or hospital. If Eric had a temperature over 102 degrees, it was an automatic trip to the clinic. If he had an allergic reaction to one of the drugs, which seemed to happen on a regular basis, off we went. One time he woke up from a nap and his catheter had somehow fallen out. That time it was a hospital stay and unplanned surgery to replace the catheter.

In addition to that, our children were only five, three and one.

We needed a plan. We really wanted school to be fun and interesting. We were excited to be teaching Emily, but having mom all tense and nervous about what wasn’t happening didn’t sound like much fun to any of us. And that’s about where I was – tense and nervous because I didn’t see a way to make this work. I had visions of just getting started and being interrupted to take Eric to the doctor. That in addition to the normal interruptions of a one year old and a three year old really made it look impossible.

But God…

As we sought God in this I believe He revealed His plan to us. It must have been His plan because it worked so well.

Some of the verses He used to guide us were:

1 Corinthians 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Psalm 1:6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous:

Psalm 18:32 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.

Psalm 25:9 The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.

Psalm 25:12 What man is he that feareth the LORD? Him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.

It was a simple plan. Isn’t that so like God? I quit trying to fit in school at home. I packed a bag with all the things I would need to teach Emily. As we sat in waiting rooms, emergency room, and hospital rooms, we “did school”.  Rebekah and Eric listened in as I read to Emily. They watched as she learned to read and watched her write in her new workbooks. Soon Rebekah wanted to know when she could have her own workbooks. It became something everyone looked forward to whenever a doctor’s visit was necessary. One of the girls would always grab the “special” bag as we headed out the door.

Not only did it work – and work well – but it was such good use of what otherwise would have been a lot of down time, time spent just waiting! I would have been looking for ways to entertain bored children, but instead they all looked forward to watching Emily do school.

Now I can see that from God’s perspective everything was in order and working as planned. Sometimes we have to step around a situation that we see as a problem and get God’s perspective. What is His plan in all of this? How does He see us in this situation?

This taught us a valuable lesson that we used often during our 18 years of homeschooling. When things get tough or difficult or even seem impossible – we don’t look for a way out. Instead, we ask the Lord to help us get His view – His perspective. He’s the best consultant available – and He’s always ready and willing to help.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Homeschooling can be especially challenging with a chronically ill child in the family, but if the Lord is calling you to do it He will also provide a way.

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Finding Joy in the Journey,
Phyllis Sather
Proclaiming God’s Faithfulness at:
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