My husband and I have been married for 32+ years and have five sons, ranging in age from 32 to 17. We’ve moved quite a bit as a result of his work in the biotech industry and have homeschooled in California, Texas and now Delaware.. I became a Christian after our second son was born, and since then we’ve been active in volunteer ministries, mostly working with children and youth. I’ve been able to be a stay at home mom all along, though when our older children were young and one was facing serious medical problems it was not easy. We’ve led a small house church in our home for the past seven years and are fairly active in conservative politics.
Why did you decide to homeschool?
Our first two sons were square pegs that didn’t fit into anyone’s round holes, for a variety of reasons. I was not a mom that started out thinking it was a good idea; it was born more of desperation. Once we started, i realized what a blessing it was, and have continued ever since.
How long have you been homeschooling?
We’ve been homeschooling since the oldest entered 3rd grade in 1987, with a ‘sabbatical’ after ten years when I went through an especially rough time health-wise..
What are your kids doing now?
Our oldest is married and doing software technical support for medical information systems. Our second son is also married, a director of catering services at the local university and serving on his church praise team every week. Then our 3rd son is a junior at Liberty Univ, majoring in communications with a minor in government. The 4th is a sophomore at Messiah college with a double major in Anthropology and Philosophy. Lastly our youngest is a high school junior, still homeschooling and taking classes at the local umbrella school.
What do you like best these days about homeschooling?
I’ve always been excited about how homeschooling gives us the freedom to equip each child in unique ways and the close relationships that come from shared experiences. I’ve also always appreciated that it means I don’t have to wake up as early in the morning as parents using conventional schools!
What things are most difficult about homeschooling?
For me, consistency. We functioned for many years without any outside accountability [such as umbrella schools or state guidelines] and it took a lot of energy to stay accountable to every child on a regular, day in and day out basis.
Tell about your chronic illness.
Physically, I have COPD, which is a chronic, progressive lung disease that limits my ability to use oxygen. I was diagnosed 10 years ago, and have been on supplemental oxygen full-time for the past 4 years. I get out of breath easily, and have less energy for everything. There is a great essay using spoons as an analogy that sums it up pretty well: well you don’t look sick. There is no cure for now, short of a lung transplant at some point in the future. Emotionally, I’ve been diagnosed with an alphabet soup of mental illnesses, but chronic depression, mood disorders and PTSD are the ones that keep life fascinating. There are other issues, like diabetes, that have less of an impact on my daily life but are still always there. I really hate having to fill out health questionnaires…
What helps you balance homeschooling and managing your health?
Pacing myself. I have learned to ‘work a little, rest a little.’ Some days I rest a lot, but on days when I have more energy I take advantage of it. I’ve also gotten over my pride about pretending i have it all together with my kids. if we do math lessons while I’m in bed, so be it. I’ve also worked very hard to teach the boys to be independent learners, using weekly contracts and other tools. My husband is a huge part of why we can still homeschool. As my limitations increase, he has picked up more of the household stuff so I could focus on educating our sons.
How has your relationship with God helped and/or grown since your illness was diagnosed?
I couldn’t imagine facing this alone. Knowing that God loves me and has a plan in all of this even when I don’t get it makes all the difference in my attitude. I know He is at work IN me and THROUGH me to accomplish His purposes. I am just along for the ride. When i first went on oxygen I felt very fearful and vulnerable, but over time He brought reassurance and peace. I definitely pray more now, and spend more time in the Word than I did when I could be more physically active.
How has your homeschool and Christian community been part of your life?
I am not close to my family of origin, so my brothers and sisters in Christ have always been my family, in both homeschool and church communities. Connecting with other believers on a regular basis is an important part of maintaining my emotional balance. I’m actually an introvert and find time around people tiring, but it is absolutely essential for me to make that investment. Serving others brings me joy, and its impossible to do that if I live as a hermit.
What advice would you give other homeschooling parents who are experiencing chronic illness?
Don’t try to be a lone ranger. Admit you can’t do it all alone and ask for help, first in prayer to your heavenly Father who provides ALL you need, and also to those around you. Give your kids the chance to be independent, and to help you. I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t cooking, but guess what? My son loves to do that now that I got out of the way! The blessings can be missed if you focus on the loss. Acknowledge the loss of health, freedom, whatever it is for you, but then move on. if you’re still here, God has work for you to do! It won’t be the same as what you would have done if you were healthy, but it still matters. A hard thing for me is managing expectations. I tend to think I should be able to do more than I actually can, and then I beat myself up. Learning to accept my limitations without feeling defeated is a conscious choice I have to make each day.
What do you hope will happen for people who read your prayer journal?
I hope they will be encouraged, that they will know they still have much to be grateful for and to celebrate. I pray they will find hope for their own future, and increase their trust in God to lead them each day. Living with a chronic illness is hard, but is not too hard for God, and He has promised not to abandon us if we truly seek Him.