Can Learning Go On While Caregiving? Crisis Schooling for Homeschoolers

“Your children may not remember what you do, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.”

Caregiving and homeschooling can work together.

Caregiving and homeschooling can work together.

Can learning can go on while you’re cargiving for someone who is elderly or disabled? I want to reassure you that it can, but it will be different from what you might expect. If you can align your expectations with reality, make adjustments that keep you sane, and focus on priorities and essentials, you’ll be able to homeschool while you’re a caregiver. You may not achieve the picture-perfect homeschool you envision, but your family will learn many valuable lessons, and can even thrive.

Be Realistic

The first thing to do is to be realistic. You’ll need to balance the needs of your husband, your children, and yourself with the demands of caregiving. If you’re in a short-term caregiving situation, you can make big, temporary compromises in your focus and survive in the short term. If you’re in a long-term caregiving situation, you’ll need to focus on overall lifestyle changes and enlist help when you need it.

For example, in the last year of my grandfather’s life, we were dealing with his Alzheimer’s disease, my grandmother’s difficult adjustment to living in Virginia, plus four boys, ages 1, 3, 6, and 8. Between having to pack up the boys to go and hunt up “Gampy” when he wandered off (sometimes more than once a day), selling our house and building a new one where the grandparents could live with us, and coping with meals, laundry, and all the varying physical and emotional needs, it was a challenge to get more than the very basics of a math lesson and a bit of writing done. Some days we weren’t even able to do that much. [Read more…]

I was fortunate enough to have been a very focused learner all through my childhood, and I realized that most of what I’d learned had been through independent reading (that is still my most important learning method). During that crisis year, I made sure that the boys had a lot of good reading material, lots of audio books and music, and an occasional video documentary. I also gave the two big boys one of those giant supermarket workbooks that contain short lessons in every subject, and let them work on those when I was feeling that they needed something more.

The important thing was that I realized quite early that there was no way I’d be able to keep up all the beautiful plans and orderly schedules I’d mapped out for our homeschool. The physical needs of the moment made it impossible, and it was more important to preserve and build relationships in our family than to have a perfect homeschool. I knew that we had many years ahead to balance out anything they may have missed, and their year-end test scores were as high as they had been in previous years. If you have a crisis when you have older students, they’ll be more able to self-direct, and should miss even less than young ones.

Make Adjustments

The second thing we had to do was make adjustments to keep ourselves sane. If you’re going to be caregiving, you’ll find that it’s physically and emotionally draining. If you’re a wife and mother, the most important thing you must do is to love your husband and children (Titus 2:4), and keep them at the top of your priority list. The most important adjustment you can make is to eliminate things that absorb too much time or energy from priorities. If you find yourself stressed and being crabby with your husband and children, it’s time to step back and refocus.

A good way to decide what to eliminate is to look at what causes you the most stress. I found that when I was overtired from going out too much, I didn’t have the physical or emotional ability to meet everyone’s needs. The answer was to become more home-centered and eliminate most evening outings. We found that slowing down our life and eliminating too much running around had many benefits, including better family relationships, better overall health, better-quality learning, and much more relaxed and pleasant days. You may find other things to eliminate, but be sure to eliminate what doesn’t contribute to helping you fulfill the most important priorities in your life.

You’ll find it helpful to make practical, physical adjustments, too. If you need to add adaptive equipment to your house for the safety of your caregivee, don’t hesitate to do so if it’s financially possible. You’ll usually find many health-related items sold cheaply in the classified ads of your local paper. As my grandmother’s balance has gotten progressively worse, I’ve had to begin wearing sport sandals with a lot of traction to keep myself stable when helping her. I’ve also had to work on increasing fitness, as she’s requiring more and more physical assistance. It can be a real challenge to equip yourself and your home with what you need, but it can help you avoid accidents or injuries, and that’s important.

Stay Focused

The final thing to do is to remain focused on priorities and essentials. Your family must not only be fed physically and academically, but they must also be nourished with love and tenderness. There will be times when you must compromise on the physical in order to meet the emotional and academic needs of each one. It’s more important to spend time on things with long-term benefit than on things that last only for a moment.

Your children are likely to remember that you spent time with them, even if you were eating peanut butter sandwiches rather than a full-scale dinner. Learning to read is more essential and will last longer than having a perfectly decorated and maintained house. Being loving and nurturing is more important than maintaining a perfect homeschool schedule. (Again, if you find yourself feeling overtired and crabby, it’s probably time to eliminate a non-priority or perhaps get your hormone levels checked–your physical needs must be met so that you are able to care for your family.)

There are seasons of life for each of us, and you’ll find that in each season there are different priorities. The common denominator of each priority is that it’s usually related to people, not things. We’re called to work diligently and be good stewards, but we’re also called to love and nurture our family first. During the parenting/homeschooling season, raising and teaching children and building a strong family becomes a top priority. When you add caregiving into the mix, it usually slots into the priority list right below spouse and children. Everything beyond that becomes negotiable, because there will be other seasons when caregiving and family responsibilities are over, and you can focus elsewhere.

Learning will continue to happen as long as you focus on priorities, eliminate distractions, and keep a long-term view. Remember that you’re not required to do everything in every season of life, and it’s important not to become discouraged by comparing yourself or your family to others. The reality of parenting, homeschooling, and caregiving is that you do the best you can with what you have at the moment, and pray that the mercy and grace of God will cover all.

“Your children may not remember what you do, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.”

Addendum: The boys are grown now, and those less academic years don’t seem to have harmed their education. They were surrounded by books, art, music, nature, and love, and that’s the core of creating a learning lifestyle in which learning will happen, with or without structure. If you create the atmosphere, they’ll learn!

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

(Charlotte Mason)

Other posts in this series:

1- Caregiving for Homeschool Families: Don’t Go Into It Lightly

2- Advice for Friends of Caregivers

1 Response

  1. Becky Kelly says:

    Bless you for all you have shared and all you have given to your family. Grandma stayed with us short-term 2 years ago and we lived through similar experiences.

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