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Homeschooling When a Rare Disease Attacks

When my youngest daughter was in Pre-K, a rare autoimmune disease revealed itself. It was sudden, and caught us by surprise. The disease’s offset was fast and furious-within weeks, my baby couldn’t walk. Luckily, we were homeschooling and could nurture her emotionally, physically, and academically. Since then, we are on our way to remission and she’s able to attend a local private school with ease, most days. Although we no longer homeschool, I continue to prepare lessons and enhance her learning at home.

This is her just before the disease revealed itself

If you are new to homeschooling, I can help you ease the burden of the science curriculum. If you have been homeschooling for a while I can help you enrich your science instruction, the chillaxscience way. Subscribe to my blog, I can be part of YOUR village!

New? What’s next?

Once your family decides that homeschooling is the best choice for your child, you need to verify your state’s schooling rules. Since each state is different, I won’t bug you down trying to explain the how to unenroll your child from school and enroll in homeschooling. Please, visit the Department of Education website for more information: https://www.ed.gov/

How to Start?

Step 1: Science Curriculum Detox

The beginning of homeschooling, specially if started in the middle of the school year, is ackward and overwhelming. I recomend starting with a science curriculum detox period. That is, doing some science related things that your child never got to do or wish did more. For us, it was doing nature walks, observing egg-laying hens, and cooking. That gave me plenty of opportunities to care for my sick child while the oldest had lots of fun.

My oldest playing in the mud

Step 2: Is HOMEschooling!

One of the biggest mistakes I often hear parents talk about is trying to replicate a traditional school at home. That often looks like dumping a heavy load of expectations into a child’s day. That can be equally boring, disingenuous, and perhaps even a turn off for science learning. We want the opposite! With the best intentions, we often crave the need to have a curriculum and go and spend money. Don’t get me wrong, curriculum IS necessary and you may have to do so but just not yet!

Ask your child what he/she wants to learn about. If your child is similar to my children you will get the response I got, “I don’t know.” If that’s the case, choose something YOU as the adult are interested in. If you choose something that you are interested, you will get your child excited about learning and you will model how to learn in the context of being at home.

If your child suggest something, then start learning with that one topic that your child choses. Then, start adding subject specific lessons that center about that topic. For example, my oldest child chose wanting to ride horses. We used our newly found time to go to a horse farm twice a week and started doing reading, writing, science, and history all about horses. Suddenly our day was full of learning and my daughter was thrilled that it all had to do with what she loved most-horses. On the other hand, my sick child was happy to tag along, learn on the sidelines and be cuddled for long periods of time.

Step 3: Plan with your child

One way to know what motivates your child is to talk with them. Knowing topics that your child likes will make homeschooling easier for you and your child. If your child is shy or not talkative, go on an “intentional walk” to the source of their interest. For example, my daughters love to go on nature walks. So, we took one and as we walked (sick child on my back!) we stopped multiple times to discuss what we were observing. When we got home I asked them what they wanted to know more about. And without them noticing they started ‘spitting’ out their wonderings.

There! I had it, I had a focus for our science unit. My youngest was curious about the stream and my oldest wanted to learn about how the bay formed. You see, they gave me a very specific topic and it made my job much easier. We went from horses to streams to bays. And in the process so much chillaxscience happened. Go with your children on their “walk” and ask questions, lots of questions!

Step 4: Put Together a Unit

Go with the chillaxscience one rule. Choose one craft, one experiment, one book, one writing project, one geography connection, and one historical timeline development. Friends, you GOT a chillaxscience unit!

Oldest daughter engaged in a chillaxscience unit through a Montessori material

Step 5: Start Doing & Documenting

A final key to a successful homeschooling experience is to document the science learning and experiences. I started with grandiose ways of documenting but quickly realized that they took away time for caring for my sick child. So, I decided to utilize the technology at my finger tips-my phone. I took photos, videos, and notes all in my phone. That my friend, was plenty of work and documentation.

Step 6: Repeat

At the end of the science adventure following the chillaxscience ones rule have a frank conversation with your child and discuss what went well and what didn’t. Negotiate and compromise. I hope this first chillaxscience attempt got your whole family inspired to learn new topics!

Enjoy the homeschooling ride!

Published by Reizelie Barreto, PhD

Reizelie is a former homeschool parent and a trained science and Montessori teacher with a passion for curriculum development. She loves learning and teaching and on her spare time she helps families create home environments that enrich a child's learning. Reizelie has a PhD in science education and has been working in the field of education for the last 19 years. She loves helping teachers, schools, and homeschooling families improve their science curriculum in ways that are authentic to scientists' work.

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