In the majority of homeschooling families, it is Mom who does most—if not all—of the teaching, planning, and scheduling. Mom does the cooking and the cleaning and gets up in the night with the baby. Dad contributes, the children contribute, but Mom is the one who keeps it all running smoothly.

So what happens when Mom is sick and not able to do it all? When the illness is something that can reasonably be expected to go away soon, like the flu, you can just coast a few days. Give the kids reading assignments, practice flash cards from the couch, or take a few days off. Homeschooling is not particularly disrupted in this case.

Sometimes, however, Mom is sick for more than just a few days. A difficult pregnancy, serious illness, or the development of a chronic illness can throw the best laid plans and schedules right out the window. Prolonged illness involves a lifestyle change, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up homeschooling.

Some years ago, I was given the gift of chronic pain. Trust me: This is not a gift that I wanted. If God should choose to take it from me, I will not miss it. Nevertheless, it is working out for the good of our family as a part of our total education. Through living with this challenge, I have come up with some guidelines which keep our homeschool moving forward in a positive direction.

Make Two Schedules

Post a regular schedule and an alternate schedule where they can be seen by all family members. Don’t label your schedules “well” and “sick.” Attitude is half the battle! Design your alternate schedule to pick up anytime during the day. That means wake-up time, meals, snacks, nap, and playtime are all the same as the regular schedule. If the morning goes smoothly but the afternoon is a challenge, you can just announce, “We need to go to the alternate schedule now,” or you can pick up the regular schedule in the middle of the day if your morning was rough.

The alternate schedule is just the basics: care for the small children and keep the home in running order. If you can’t do both, just take care of the children. Whether I have to go to bed for a few days or just need to rest a while, my kids know what to do on our alternate schedule, and they kick into gear and do it without me. I am still in the home and available if needed, but they can usually manage to follow the schedule without my help. The older children help the younger. Of course, if you only have very little children, you may need to call Dad or Grandma to help out. If you have a schedule posted, it will be that much easier for them to step in at any time.

Accept Help  

Let family members and close friends know of your needs, and accept help from them in whatever form they offer. If someone has a gift that can minister to you, there is no need to feel embarrassed or guilty about letting them serve you in this way. It is part of God’s grace. You have gifts that you can use to bless others also. Even if you think you can do it yourself, if help with shopping, cooking, or laundry is offered, take it. You may not see this as a part of your homeschooling, but ultimately anything that can lighten your load helps you to homeschool.

Train Your Children 

Teach your children to be as independent as their ages and abilities allow. On the days that you are well enough, take time to show them the proper way to do things that need to be done on a regular basis, like laundry. Instill the practice of doing schoolwork without constant supervision. In doing this, you are training your children to be self-motivated workers and thinkers.

When our oldest was little, she expected praise after every single problem on a worksheet. In order to teach her to do her work independently, I started giving her a roll of nickels at the beginning of each school week. After I explained her assignment, she was instructed to work independently until finished. Of course, if she had a real question or problem, I was there. But whenever she called me over to “help” without a legitimate reason, I took a nickel. When she finished an assignment without needlessly calling me, I praised her ability to work by herself. At the end of the week, whatever was left in the roll was hers to keep, and we started over the next week with a new roll of nickels. She quickly learned not to call me unless it was necessary.