God Has Plans for Us
Homeschooling Through Illness or Pain
By Julie Danielson
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
This is the Scripture that has gotten me through some very serious situations in the past few years. Let me share my story with you.
In 2005, I had surgery for thyroid cancer, followed by radiation treatments. Four months after that, I had my gallbladder removed. In 2006, my husband had prostate cancer surgery, and in 2007, he had open-heart surgery. Overwhelming? Yes, sometimes. However, through it all, we still homeschooled.
With my surgeries, I knew they were going to happen, and I prepared lessons a month in advance. I also adjusted my attitude about what I thought was really important. I knew my children couldn’t do it all without me, so I chose to focus on their reading, English, and math. I still wrote out the plans for the other subjects, but I didn’t feel guilty if we didn’t get them done every day. On the days I was able to sit up in bed and work with them, I did. I learned that if I didn’t feel up to doing it, I shouldn’t.
To get better quicker, I needed to take care of myself. I didn’t understand this right away, though. I still did the whole “guilt trip” thing at first. About two months after my surgery there was a field trip to some botanical gardens that we all wanted to participate in, and so I went. I was so weak; I couldn’t even walk around the gardens and barely made it back to the car. I’m not sorry that I went, but it did set me back for a while. Definitely pace yourself when you’re experiencing illness or pain.
Our library makes available many wonderful educational DVDs and will also order any Christian educational DVDs that we request, so during that time we used DVDs to fill in on the days I wasn’t up to teaching. I would order the DVDs online, and my husband would pick them up for us. This was something to look forward to.
Later that year, my friend and I teamed up to teach our children several subjects together. We would get together once a week to do biology, creative writing, and geography. Team teaching was really helpful to me because I had her to teach the biology while I did the writing class, and we did the geography together. It lightened my load immensely, and it also provided a wonderful time of fellowship for my children and me. If I was having a bad week, we would postpone classes until the next week, or my husband would take the children to her house.
By the next school year, I was doing much better, but then we found out about my husband. Again, I had time to prepare my household for this hard event. I had my lesson plans written up in advance, so that when my husband came home from the hospital, I could focus on him and not the schoolwork. When he had his open-heart surgery, it was scheduled within a week of his tests, and consequently I didn’t have time to really prepare much. We took it one day at a time and did what we could. Some days a lot of school got done and some days they learned other things: compassion, taking care of someone, and the power of prayer. They learned to depend on the Lord and trust in Him.
My husband’s mother has been such a blessing during all this. She would take the boys out for lunch or have them over for days at a time while we recovered. They would do schoolwork at her house, and she was available to help them if they needed it. Spending time with her was fun and provided some “normalcy” in their lives.
Schooling year-round became our way of life. It took the guilt off of me if we weren’t sticking to our preplanned schedule, and during the summer months we could make up any work that we hadn’t finished. We tried to keep to a schedule as much as possible, but if doctor appointments, pain, or recovery was the order of the day, we could take that day off without sacrificing our children’s learning.
Things are better for my husband and me now, as far as serious illness is concerned. However, like all people, we are getting older. I suffer with arthritis, and I have my good days and my bad days. Since my children are older and I’ve graduated one child who is in college now, I don’t have the responsibilities I used to have. We are still homeschooling one of our sons. I still do my lesson plans at least three weeks in advance so that I’m prepared for unexpected illness or pain-filled days. I have learned that it’s really special to curl up on the bed or in my recliner with my child nearby and read literature or go over different things together.
We haven’t always done our homeschooling the traditional way, and I certainly would have rather not had these serious illnesses in our family, but it has definitely given us all something that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Our faith and our relationship—with Jesus and with each other—are stronger.
Julie Danielson has been married to David for twenty-seven years, and they have homeschooled their two sons, Shane and Cody, for eleven years. They live in the high country of Arizona on 10 acres. When Julie isn’t homeschooling, she is writing, enjoying artistic pursuits, and spending time with her family. You can find more information about Julie at her website, www.JulieDanielson.com.
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Summer 2009.
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