Homeschooling Through Chronic Illness (when mom is sick)

I have a secret about my homeschool and it's finally time to tell it. Okay, I have a few secrets...

I don't know much more about how to successfully homeschool today than I did at the beginning almost 20 years ago. I don't really go to homeschool conferences. I don't belong to a co-op. I know a lot about homeschooling and I've read all the books and purchased all the programs... but my days... they've been uncertain and long. And I've spent more than a few of them battling chronic illness.

I guess that's not the most flattering picture to paint of myself but... that's not the secret that I came here to tell anyway.  

This post is really about the secret that I discovered while slogging uphill for this dream and for my family. It's about the real gift beyond the details of these days and what I want to be able to pass on to every homeschool mom I know...

Truly successful homeschooling is never about how much material we can stuff into a kids' brain, it's about lighting a fire in their very souls. And there is no one best way to do that. It is much more about trusting the process than about planning for perfection. Success isn't for the perfect, it's for the persistent.

I clearly remember the time I kicked an American Doll horse in anger and broke my toe. That's often what my version of "persistence" looks like...

Fail, wail, move on, stop kicking toys.

That toe has never healed completely and that's frustrating but it makes for a great story that the kids love to tell. And in a strange rubber-meets-the-road-on-Calvary kind of way that usually only homeschooling moms can understand, I think I can call that a success.

The family is made to nurture body, mind, and soul. We were created to do this. We don't really look like a school. We often look like a first class mess. But that is the gift... 

That God allows us to become nothing so that the flame of His Love might rise and become a blaze in the heart of the family. 

One of the best lessons I ever learned about homeschooling was from a local mom who faced a life-threatening illness and was sick for an extended period of time. She told me that she spent many days resting in a hammock on their enclosed patio while the kids pressed on, more or less, with their homeschooling. Her kids told me how they used to pretend to work or study and they laughed and teased each other about what they really did when they were supposed to be working. She told me (with a smile) that she never doubted their decision to continue homeschooling even when she wasn't able to do a thing. Because it wasn't about her. She knew their decision was right and she trusted that God had a plan for her illness. 

Her kids are all grown now - successful, happy, smart, faithful, and all good friends - and I've never forgotten what she told me. She successfully homeschooled imperfectly from a hammock. And joy grew out of that. 

When I went through my own early years of chronic pain, illness, and fatigue, I didn't call her. I didn't really know what was wrong with me and I thought I was just a loser homeschooler. I didn't think that anyone was as lousy at this as I was and I imposed a kind of isolation on myself, determined to figure it out on my own.

But I wish I would have called her. I wish I would have let her see the tears. 

Six years ago, God allowed me to set down my cross of illness for a time. Since then, I have been on a journey of healing; not just my body, but also my battered mind and soul. And while I have never doubted for a moment that homeschooling was a worthwhile journey and blessed by God, I have never stopped doubting my own role in that beautiful dream.

Why did He make these beautiful children and then give them this wildly inadequate mother? 

It's all about the secret:

The mess is part of the gift. It is the stripping down of ego until we can see nothing but the grace of God. 

That is the secret, the gift of chronic illness. That through all the pain and struggle, we are presented with the reality that we, in ourselves, are small.... and that it is God who stands in the gap and enables us to rise. Thanks be to God.

John 12:24–25
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.

How Essential Oils Helped Me Overcome Chronic Illness

If you would have told me 6 years ago that I would be living today without pain and chronic illness, I'm not sure I would have believed you. After all, 20 years is a long time to suffer. A very long time. I figured it was just my lot in life... my particular cross...

Until the day I learned that it wasn't.

I'll get to the essential oils in a bit but here is the background story...

I had spent thousands of dollars seeking a cause and a cure and had been diagnosed and medicated incorrectly multiple times. I was given antibiotics and steroids and shots and diagnosis that I still can't spell correctly. I was told I had diseases... and then told that I didn't have them. I remember breaking down in tears after one visit where a condescending specialist told me I was the picture of health. He thought I was lying. He told me I was just tired. That was my diagnosis: fatigue.

I was surviving but getting sicker every year... and losing hope. Eating was extremely painful. I stopped playing sports with my family because my inflamed joints were getting injured frequently. I ate mushy cereal for every meal since it was all I could tolerate. In spite of my supportive family, I felt isolated. I struggled with depression. I had forgotten how to dream of thriving.

I accepted my cross and wasn't seeking perfection; I only wanted to be well enough to serve my family with joy. And I was struggling with that. 

Over those years, I had beautiful babies and homeschooled and tried to be an attentive wife. I truly loved my life and could not help but be grateful for every blessing, but there were many days when I would wake up in the morning and my eyes would fill with tears... because I wasn't sure I had the courage to fight through my own limitations all over again.

I woke up to pain and went to bed with pain. I watched the moms in my community run from one activity to the other and I wondered what kind of superhuman powers they had that I didn't. 

One day, I hit bottom... and through my groans and tears, I made a desperate resolution: I would finally take the advice of a good friend and try an elimination diet. You can read that story in more detail elsewhere but I'll skip to the end for you now... 

I cut out every possible inflammatory food and ingredient and replaced it all with real, fresh food...


And my life changed immediately. 

Within three days, I was able to move one  injured and swollen joint in a way that I hadn't been able to for FIFTEEN YEARS. When people tell me that I must have amazing will power to stay on a clean food diet, I know they are wrong. It isn't difficult for me to choose to live pain free. It isn't difficult to pass up a donut in order to wake up and go to bed with hope. To have health and freedom for the first time in two decades and throw it away on a pastry? I don't think it's any superhuman virtue on my part which allows me to answer an emphatic NO. 

My body was nutrient starved and fatigued from years of struggle. So I kept going with the changes, adding supplements and new foods and eliminating anything that would tax or suppress my immune system. 

Essential oils inevitably made their entrance into my life when I sought natural solutions to things for which I would previously just pop a pill. My immune system was compromised by many years of antibiotic use, so I sought natural anti-bacterial solutions. I learned that ibuprofin is an immunosuppressant and hard on the stomach, so I researched alternatives for pain relief and anti-inflammatories. The list goes on. 

If I have to go to the doctor? I go. Natural solutions and modern medicine make a great team. 

My long-term relationship with essential oils started with oregano. I was extremely sick and pregnant and did extensive research about antibiotic alternatives and ways to support my body through this crisis. I call the results a "miracle" but I know that isn't strictly true. A miracle is when the laws of nature are suspended. But in this case, the effectiveness of this oil was not an atypical result; rather it was a natural result designed by God to bless His people. 

I've also been able to replace a number of household toxins with essential oil recipes and to finally (FINALLY!!) use pampering skin products which don't cause burning or hives. 

Once I got over the false idea that essential oils were some kind of snake oil voodoo, I was awed by the way God had designed plant oils for our benefit. For my benefit. Further evidence of His love for me... and a great consolation on my healing journey.

The journey is not over. I have sustained much damage from years of illness and I do have periodic flare-ups of symptoms (particularly during times of stress). I don't come to these pages as a model of success or perfection as much as I come as a friend seeking to support and to be supported.

I have recovered hope. And I want to offer you hope.

Is it dramatic to say that essential oils have helped to give me that hope? Perhaps... but it's true. It's no more dramatic than saying...

There are nights when I lie awake in bed just to marvel at the experience of being pain-free. 

Thank you, Jesus. 

UPDATE: 

I have finally been diagnosed with Lupus... and while that is not the diagnosis I was hoping for and flare ups are difficult, I continue to manage successfully with natural solutions alone. My hope is to continue to stay off chemo, immunosuppressants, and steroids unless necessary to save my life or injury. And if I do ever need them, I will continue to incorporate natural wellness solutions as my primary approach to health and healing. 

I continue to learn new ways to incorporate oils into my healing; to support my body through periods of immune depression and also to help calm through immune hyperactivity of autoimmune flares. 

For more information on what essential oils I buy and where you can purchase them, click here: GETTING STARTED WITH ESSENTIAL OILS.