How BookShark Helps Me Homeschool Even with a Chronic Illness

a stack of readers and read-alouds sits by a window

“Oh, I could never homeschool!” I hear that a lot, as most homeschool parents do. When given a few moments of thought, it’s usually the reaction of most people. They imagine the time they’d be giving up, maybe a job they’d have to leave. Insecurity strikes, and we suddenly feel like we don’t know enough to ever have graduated high school, let alone teach our children. Time and patience and finances—homeschooling can certainly require a lot of us as parents.

Those requirements, though, can feel downright impossible as a parent with a chronic illness.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis several years ago. It’s an autoimmune disorder that causes, among many other things, severe fatigue, brain fog, and physical pain. It’s a burden to bear, for sure, and it absolutely affects my life every day in one way or another.

Homeschooling with Hashimoto's

How BookShark Helps Me Homeschool Even with a Chronic IllnessTo be honest, I hadn’t yet thought about how the Hashimoto’s would affect our homeschooling when we first began. I feel the effects of the disease every day, but since homeschooling hadn’t always been on my radar, I’d never considered what it would be like to homeschool with a chronic illness. Now that we’re two years in, though, I’ve got some thoughts on the subject. In short, it’s hard.

Not every day is hard, true. But not every day is great.

Some days the fatigue or pain are so great that I feel pretty useless.

Some days I overextend myself, and I know the next day will hurt.

Some days I’m okay and just need a few breaks.

Some days I compare myself to the moms whose health isn’t an issue, and feel like I’m ill-equipped and failing.

Some days I’m really proud of myself for what all I’m able to do in spite of this disease.

Some days I keep the field trip plans to myself, just in case I’m not feeling well enough to go.

I rarely know what kind of day I’ll have, but I can always be certain that homeschooling with a chronic illness means I’ll need to be patient with myself and flexible with our plans. This is exactly why BookShark's 4-day, literature-based curriculum is perfect.

A Relaxed 4-day Schedule

There is, of course, the more practical reason that BookShark works so well with our lifestyle and my health, namely the 4-day schedule. Having a flexible plan that doesn’t call for work every day of the week is an enormous relief, a safety net.

Sometimes I have doctor’s appointments. Sometimes we took it easy that week and need that fifth day to catch up. Sometimes my body rebels, and I just need a day off. Whatever the reason, knowing that we’re learning more than enough in four days takes an enormous weight off my shoulders and keeps me from drowning in panic when I wake up in pain.

The Luxury of Reading Real Books

The best and most meaningful reason that BookShark’s program works so well for us, however, is the literature-based model. We are readers. We love to lose ourselves in a story and soak up information from the written word. We remember what we learn because of how we feel when we’re reading it, so a stack of books is much more useful than a stack of worksheets in our home. I’m also a purist. I love actually cracking open a book, turning the real pages.

Reading, for us, is an experience, a comfort, and in an over-scheduled society, it’s a luxury. We love reading.

Reading is a luxury.

Our homeschool day doesn’t require my standing in front of a whiteboard. We have the luxury, the enjoyment, of learning together on the couch, on the porch, in the yard, in the car, and sometimes on the heating pad in my bed.

Those are the days I could potentially feel like a failure, the days I might feel like I wasn’t cut out for this homeschooling gig. The days when I wake up and ache. The days when my legs barely work or my thoughts are clogged and fogged. The days when I’m just so tired when that alarm goes off, but I know there’s a little boy waiting on me, depending on me to teach him.

These are the days I’m most thankful for a literature-based curriculum, because we can pile into the bed with a stack of books, find a comfortable spot, and travel far back into ancient history as we read together. These are the days that could easily destroy my confidence, but instead give me memories and victories as we learn together, adapt to the circumstances, and never miss a beat.

Filling the Moments with Loving Memories

These are the days he’ll likely remember most—not because I was confined to my heating pad, but because I was next to him, reading to him, listening to him, and experiencing this thing called learning with him. These are the days when our relationship is fed as much as our minds.

Homeschooling with BookShark has given me a relief, a dignity that wouldn’t be possible if we used a program that required more filling in the blanks than filling in the moments. I’m able to snuggle next to my boy and teach him, learn with him, enjoy him, regardless of my energy level. I have plans scheduled and printed for me and quality literature selected for me. I have a flexible schedule and an adaptable curriculum. I have a chronic illness, but I can homeschool, no matter what kind of day awaits me tomorrow.

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About the Author

Jennifer VailJennifer Vail proudly lives in the great state of Texas with her very handsome husband and three very funny children. All three kids are educated in three very different ways according to their very different needs, which is exhausting but fulfilling. Jen's hobbies include naps, 90's pop culture, Netflix binges, buying books with the best of intentions to read them all, photography, and extroverting. She holds a degree in counseling but has found her calling by writing for and spending time with families of differently-wired, outlier kids—the square pegs of the round world.

She stays up way too late and drinks way too much caffeine, but has no intention of changing either. She is the community manager and contributing author at Raising Lifelong Learners where she writes about homeschooling gifted, anxious, and otherwise different kiddos, but also rambles at This Undeserved Life from time to time. She feels compelled to mention that she still very much loves the Backstreet Boys and rarely folds her laundry.