By Melisa Marzett
More and more parents are choosing to homeschool their kids, both preschoolers and schoolchildren. What determines the desire to educate students at home? Often this is a necessity if the child has a severe chronic disease that precludes attending school. In the choice of training, a lot depends on the state of health of the child, and the degree of his/her problem, as each student is unique.
Regular public schools may provide special needs services that will assist with both in-school programs and after-school events. However, children with chronic illnesses can fall behind in school from too many doctor appointments and not feeling well, so an out-of-the-box education solution may be required. There are special schools for children with disabilities. It also happens that many parents can be confident that at home, they will be able to give the child more in terms of development, education, and health, than the child would receive at school.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, ten to twenty million children and adolescents – including over 12 million teens – have some form of chronic illness or disability. “Chronic” refers to a health condition that lasts anywhere from three months to a lifetime, affects one’s normal activities, and requires hospitalizations and/or extensive medical care and/or home health care. Chronic childhood health conditions include asthma, cerebral palsy, congenital heart defects, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, epilepsy, hemophilia, immune deficiency, leukemia, lyme disease, and spina bifida.
Federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) state that every child should be allowed to attend school in the “least restrictive” setting possible. The choice of the form of education depends mainly on the health and condition of the student. Psychologists and social workers can work together with teachers to help parents choose the best educational option individually for each child, along with the proper organization of the curriculum, nutrition, and psychological support.
What may be the options for homeschooling chronically ill students?
Home Learning Options for Students with a Chronic Illness
- Teachers are engaged with the child at home, and the child passes review works and tests at a school.
- Visiting teachers teach the child at home, and knowledge is also monitored at home.
- The child is allowed partial attendance at school, or vice versa, partial non-attendance of classes in some subjects.
- Most often, parents teach the child or s/he studies with the help of parents at home.
Benefits of Homeschooling Chronically Ill Students
- Compliance with the daily routine. Parents provide continuous monitoring of the health status, nutrition, and regime of a particular child. In diabetes, this would include control of sugar levels, and adherence to a special diet.
- Individualized training. Thanks to parental control over the distribution of load and rest, increased fatigue is prevented while learning takes place.
- Psychologically favorable atmosphere. In a familiar home environment, children can get a full-fledged education with the support of people close to them.
- Safe environment. The risk of infectious and viral diseases is reduced by limiting the number of contacts with peers and adults.
- Parents can provide control over the child’s choice of friends. This reduces the likelihood that the child will be stigmatized or bullied for being different.
A lot can be written about the advantages of homeschooling and education, but we also note the disadvantages of homeschooling.
Cons of Homeschooling Chronically Ill Students
- Children homeschooling are not able to compare the results of their activities with the rest of their peers. The desire for a better result is often absent, as well as lack of faith in one’s own strength because a parent will always come to the rescue.
- A narrow circle of a child’s communication can lead to impaired communication and decreased self-esteem. Attachment to parents over the years becomes stronger and the child grows dependent on their opinions.
- A child who has been at home for a long time can grow up like a hermit, a “bluestocking,” or “Johnny Head-in-Air,” although the opposite also happens and such children are eager to meet new people and adapt to new activities.
Weighing all the pros and cons of homeschooling should lead parents to a conscious choice of the form of education that’s best for their child. When choosing a type of training, consult with the child’s doctors, psychologist, and teachers. If the child is old enough, you can even ask their opinion about the type of schooling they would prefer.
12 Tips for Homeschooling Chronically Ill Students
- Study your child. Only the parent can know their child well enough to better understand what they are capable of doing given the circumstances, their learning style, their state of health, best time of day, and energy level on any given day.
- Do not perceive your child’s illness as a tragedy. In such cases, the children themselves begin to consider themselves sick, hopeless, “other,” and this leads to severe violations of their psyche and physical development.
- Work through the bad days. A child with a chronic illness can’t take a sick day every time he/she has a bad day because there are too many of them. A fun and interesting lesson can actually help distract them from their pain or discomfort.
- Keep it simple. Don’t try to do too much or feel obligated to follow a certain schedule. Every little bit of progress helps, even if it’s only reading a book or watching an educational video. Just take it easy and do what you can.
- Stick to the basics. Never mind the extracurricular activities and events if he or she only has enough energy for the core subjects. (Although some outside activities are healthy so your child can interact with his or her friends. And, if necessary, rehab and therapy should of course be part of the regular routine.)
- Make learning fun. If they have a favorite subject or topic of interest, find ways to revolve more lessons around that. Incorporate games into your curriculum. Take a fun field trip from time to time. The goal is to make homeschooling as enjoyable as you can (for both of you!).
- Take one day at a time. It may be difficult to predict what will happen in the future, so don’t plan too far ahead. Focus on what you can do today.
- Be flexible. There will be ups and downs, unanticipated events and setbacks, so be prepared to switch gears and go with the flow. It’s best not to enroll in formal classes that have set schedules, due dates, and time restraints, but rather to let them learn at their own pace.
- Be patient. There will be times when your child doesn’t feel like doing anything, and that’s okay. Don’t let it get you frustrated, but be watchful so you will be ready when your student does feel well enough to work.
- Don’t be overprotective. Some parents try to protect their child from everyone and everything in the outside world. Parents of chronically ill teens often resist the child’s efforts to act independently, but you must realize that this will make it even harder for him or her to break through to adulthood. They want to be able to live a full life in spite of their illness.
- Find support. Find a local or online support group for people who have the same chronic illness. If your child can meet other kids who look and feel like they do, they will see that they’re not alone. Moreover, a support group provides an opportunity to learn from others’ personal experiences.
- Talk about it. Share information and teach your teen how to manage his or her own health; this gives them a sense of autonomy as they learn to take greater responsibility for their own wellness. Seek the counseling services of a mental health expert if the child exhibits denial, regression, or self-destructive behavior.
It sometimes happens that as soon as a child with a chronic disease has difficulties at school, s/he is immediately transferred to homeschooling. Parents, do not rush; first find out the cause of trouble or challenges in mastering the school curriculum before jumping to a conclusion. The final decision should be left up to the parents because they know their child best. However, remember that this decision will affect the future life of your child.
Do you have any advice for homeschooling chronically ill students? Please leave a comment!