327 | Caregiving and Homeschooling: Can Learning Happen? (Janice Campbell)
Learning while caregiving — is it even possible? Can learning can go on while you’re caregiving 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.
Janice Campbell, a lifelong reader and writer, loves to introduce students to great books and beautiful writing. She holds an English degree from Mary Baldwin College, and is the graduated homeschool mom of four sons. You’ll find more about reading, writing, planning, and education from a Charlotte Mason/Classical perspective at her websites, EverydayEducation.com, Excellence-in-Literature.com, and DoingWhatMatters.com.
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Janice Campbell [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Janice Campbell and I am one of many hosts here on the podcast. Each week we bring you an encouraging conversation from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. While the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we do not pretend to have the answer to every question related to homeschooling. It is our hope that this podcast will point you to Jesus Christ that you may seek His counsel as you train your children in the way they should go. We are so glad you have joined us for today's conversation. Before we start the episode, I would like to thank the sponsor of the Homeschool Solutions Show, Medi-Share. Medi-Share is an affordable and Biblical health care alternative. Find out more about their ongoing support of homeschooling families just like ours at mychristiancare.org. And now on to today's show.
[00:01:09] Hi, I'm Janice Campbell. And today we're going to talk about homeschooling while caregiving. For many homeschoolers, life centers around family. But living immersed in family sometimes means that you end up caregiving. It might be for a family member who is ill, or it might be that grandma and grandpa are too old to live alone anymore. Whatever your reasons for caregiving, there's no question but that it will impact not just your homeschooling, but also your family life.
[00:01:37] Let's talk a bit about caregiving and homeschooling. I'll tell you a bit about my experience and offer just a few tips for making the journey as stress free as possible. I was raised by my grandparents, so caregiving arrived early for me. Donald and I had been married eight years when my grandparents moved from California to Virginia to be near us. My grandfather had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and so we cared for him from 1989 until he passed on in 1993. My grandmother continued to live with us for 18 years. It was a challenging time, but it was filled with blessings as well. Our four boys grew up knowing their grandparents in ways that wouldn't have otherwise been possible, and my husband and I learned to work together through some very difficult situations. If you can't laugh together about dementia, diapers, dentures, all those things, you're just going to have a harder time. So a sense of humor is a really helpful thing to have when you're caregiving.
[00:02:44] But we found that caregiving for older relatives involved many hard choices, and it changed our lives in ways that we couldn't foresee. It was a time of great difficulty, but I'm glad we did it. It was the right thing at the right time for us. So our four boys ranged in age from 1 to 8 when we began caring for my grandfather and we had just started homeschooling. One of my biggest concerns was what would happen to our older boys' academic progress. Could learning go on while we were caregiving? Just in case you're facing a caregiving situation and wondering the same thing, I want to reassure you that homeschooling can go on. It'll be different from what you might already have been doing, but if you can align your expectations with reality, make a few adjustments to keep you sane, and focus on priorities and essentials, you'll be able to homeschool while you're a caregiver, and I think you'll be glad you did. You may not be able to fit in all the things you were hoping for or planning, but with some basic commitments to priorities, your family can still learn a lot. Not only that, they can thrive.
[00:03:51] So the first thing I learned is that I actually had to be realistic. When you're caregiving, you end up balancing the needs of not just your husband, your children, the academic life and yourself, but also the person for whom you're caregiving. If it's a short term caregiving situation, such as hospice or recovery from a major surgery, it's possible to make big, temporary compromises just to survive in the short term. But if you're in a long-term caregiving situation, as we were, you'll need to focus on some bigger changes and think ahead about finding outside help when you need it, because chances are you will need it sometimes.
[00:04:30] In the last year of my grandfather's life, we were dealing with a whole bunch of things at once. There was not only his Alzheimer's disease, but also my grandmother's difficult emotional adjustment to living 3,000 miles from her home state. Our boys were so young, one of them still a baby, so when Gampy wandered off, as he frequently did, I had to pack all the boys into the car and drive around hunting for him. In addition, we were selling our house so that we could have one built with space for the grandparents. If you've ever had to keep a home with four small boys ready to show every time a real estate agent called, you'll know how much fun that was. But it was all of that on top of meals and laundry and the varying physical and emotional needs of a household of eight. It was such a challenge to get any school done at all. Even getting a math lesson and a bit of writing done was sometimes more than we could manage.
[00:05:26] But, you know, the thing was, I had been a very focused learner all through my own childhood, and I remembered that most of what I had learned all through my life so far had been through independent reading, writing and thinking. During the last crisis year of my grandfather's life, the most I could do was to make sure the boys had a lot of great books to read, audiobooks and music to listen to, and access to art supplies and tools for constructive, and sometimes destructive, play. For the two big boys, I also found a big grade level workbook that contained enrichment level and lessons in every subject and they'd work on those just to keep up pen and pencil skills. We survived that very difficult year and their scores on standardized language arts and math tests that were required by the state remained high, even though I felt we hadn't gotten a lot of school done, they had learned. Academics weren't the only thing, though. The second thing we had to do was make adjustments to keep ourselves sane. If you're going to be caregiving, you'll find out that it's so emotionally and physically draining that if you're a wife and mother, you have to keep those priorities in view. The most important thing you must do is love your husband and children and keep them at the top of the list. The most important adjustment you can make is to eliminate the things that absorb too much energy or time from what your priorities are. If you find yourself stressed and crabby with those you love, 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 or takes the most time. For me, it was spending too much time away from home, especially in social activities I didn't particularly value. I found that when I was overtired from going out too much, I didn't have the physical or emotional energy to meet everyone's needs. The answer was to become more home centered and eliminate most evening outings. Often I would stay home and my husband would take the boys to a church gym night or other activity. That was great fun for them and a wonderful oasis of quiet and peace for me. We discovered that slowing down our life and eliminating excess running around had so many benefits, including better family relationships, overall, better health, better quality learning, and much more relaxed and pleasant days. We never did go back to running around a lot. You may find other things in your life to eliminate, but be sure to eliminate that which doesn't contribute to helping you fulfill the most important priorities in your life and those things that don't bring you joy. You might find it helpful to make some practical physical adjustments too. If you need to add adaptive equipment to your house for the safety of the person you're caregiving for, don't hesitate to do so if it's financially possible. You can usually find walkers, wheelchairs and other health related items used via Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. You can even often borrow things like that. You might also find yourself making strange personal adaptations. When my grandmother began to have difficulty with her balance, I ended up wearing sports sandals with a lot of traction to keep myself stable while helping her. It can be a real challenge to equip yourself and your home with what you need, but if it can help you avoid accidents or injuries, that's incredibly important and it really does cut down on stress. The final thing I would suggest is to remain focused on priorities and essentials. Your family must be fed not only physically but academically, but they also must 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 that have long term benefits than on things that last for only a moment. Learning to read is essential--it'll provide more entertainment, and it'll last longer than having a perfectly decorated or maintained home. So if you'd rather read or teach your child to read then vacuum every single day, feel free. Because those are long term wise activities. Your children are likely to have fond memories of family tradition of dinner together, even if some of those nights featured peanut butter sandwiches or hot dogs rather than pot roast and veggies. Being loving and nurturing is more important than maintaining a perfect homeschool schedule. Again, if you find yourself feeling over tired and crabby, it's probably time to eliminate something--whether you think you've eliminated all the non priorities. Perhaps it's time to get your hormone levels checked. Your physical needs have to be met too, so that you're 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 and not things. As humans, we're not only called to work diligently and be good stewards of our resources, we also have a higher calling to love and nurture our families. During the parenting and homeschooling season of life, raising and teaching children and building a strong family culture becomes 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. For our family, it was important to keep church on Sunday, always having a faith life that was vibrant and nurtured us in so many ways. Learning will continue to happen as long as you focus on priorities, eliminate distractions, and keep a long term view. Remember, 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 in each and every moment, and pray that the mercy and grace of God will cover all. Your children may not remember what you do, but they will remember how you make them feel. I hope you found that helpful. You can connect with me, Janice Campbell. Check out my Excellence in Literature curriculum planning booklets, McGuffey Readers and other resources at everydayeducation.com. If you'd like to read more about reading, writing, planning and homeschooling, and an eclectic blend of Charlotte Mason and classical tradition, my blog Doing What Matters has quite a few years worth of posts. And finally, my excellence-in-literature.com website is filled with articles and resources for people who are learning and loving great literature, because reading well can change your life. Thank you for listening and goodbye for now.
[00:12:47] Thank you for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solution Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at homeschooling.mom. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. While you were there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you to connect with our community. Finally, tag us on Instagram @homeschoolingdotmom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of the great homeschool conventions? The great homeschool conventions are the homeschooling events of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at greathomeschoolconventions.com. I hope to see you there.