Sometimes we experience the perfect homeschool day where everything goes smoothly. On other days our perfect plans are interrupted by those who need our help. Is there a hidden gift in caregiving and homeschooling?
One of the things I always told my children is that we will work on our school, and we will follow our routine. But sometimes there are more important things that will come into our day. The most important is when a family member needs us.
Do you have a loved one who needs you? Are you wondering how you can live your life, and yet still honor and care for that loved one who has cared so much for you through the years? Is caregiving and homeschooling possible?
Caregiving is a job in itself. There are so many responsibilities to consider. However, if we rely on the Lord, He will see us through. Phil 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.” I am so thankful that I have the Lord walking my journey with me. I have witnessed how He has supplied our every need over the years.
My Caregiving Story
I remember my grandmother getting very sick. She was still living at home and had been caring for my bed-ridden uncle in her home for several years. She had eight children, making our extended family very large. I was a young homeschooling mom at the time, and our family lived about two hours away from my grandmother. The family requested that I create and maintain a family-help schedule.
My mom, her sister, and her brothers took turns going to help my grandmother on the weekends to care for my uncle (their sibling). They could help with things my grandmother couldn’t get done around the house, as well as running errands in town during the week. Some of my cousins also pitched in. I kept up with the calendar and schedule for all of them. Only a few lived close by, and the others would travel home when it was their turn.
When my grandmother had her stroke there was a need for round-the-clock care for her and my uncle. I was the stay-at-home mom. I wasn’t working. I had the time. Cough, cough . . . I loved my grandmother so much and wanted to help, BUT I also had a husband and four little ones. HOW could I possibly help? I was homeschooling (and we all know that is work!).
Then it hit me! Homeschooling! Teaching! Training! LIFE SKILLS! One day I will need help! I knew then that I needed to step up and use that time to teach my children what it means to honor those older and wiser than us. As I thought through the situation, I realized that I just needed to be there for a few weeks to hold things together, allowing my grandmother to recover from her stroke. Thankfully, homeschooling is portable. So I packed up the kiddos and off we went, after making sure my husband was set for the week. He planned to join me on the weekends until Grandma was back up on her feet.
Education and Life Skills
I set my kids up at the kitchen table to do their school each morning, and then I went from my uncle’s room to my grandmother’s room—back and forth, caring for each of their needs. My children who were old enough to read would go into each room and read aloud their assigned stories and history chapters. This kept them moving along with their schoolwork, and all the while they were learning about caregiving! Boom! They didn’t even realize what they were learning. As local aunts, uncles, and cousins came in to help, the kids also experienced the value of teamwork—of family coming together to care for their loved one.
Fast-forward another year down the road. My grandmother got sick enough that she actually had to move to Tennessee to live with my mom. She was not well, and my mom and her siblings were trying to decide on a facility for my uncle and my grandmother, as she had been diagnosed with dementia. In the midst of our grieving, the family also again wanted to honor and care for her. My aunt took in my uncle for a time until a facility opened up for him. My grandmother came to my mom’s, but had to go to a rehab facility for a little while that was close to us.
Every day my kids and I went to the facility to be with Grandma, so she wouldn’t be alone. After a few weeks, we brought her home to mom’s, and then once again we devised a schedule. Mom hired some in-home care so she and dad could go to work. But here again, I was always on call, as the only family member close by. When Granny locked herself in the bathroom and the hired help couldn’t get in to help her, she called me. I packed up the four kiddos and headed across town for the rescue. Once I got there and got the door open, I had planned to return home to finish school, but the in-home caregiver had had enough and walked off the job. So you know what happened next! The kids and I stayed with Granny, played games with her, and cherished the moments we had with her.
Mom found another in-home caregiver to help out Monday through Thursday, but every Friday of that year, the kids and I packed up the schoolwork and took off to mom’s house so we could care for Granny while my parents were at work. As the kids came in, my grandmother would sit straight up on the couch and say, “Tell Daddy I don’t want to go to school today, ” or ask, “When do we start school? I am ready.”
The children not only had their backpacks with their books, but they also had their video course DVDs. As they were coming in and getting organized for the day, they would put in a DVD. While I taught some subjects myself throughout the week, that year the video course teachers were my substitute teachers every Friday. My grandma especially liked watching the first-grade videos with my youngest. Thank you, Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Lawson. Thank you to all the video teachers over the years for being there to enable me to be in the moment with my grandma. For ten months during that year before my grandma went to heaven, my kids learned the skill of caregiving and showing honor to that family member who needed us.
Be the Caregiver
It isn’t always the elderly either. It could be a young person; it could be a widow in the church that you have taken upon yourself to help. Don’t let these beautiful moments slip by you. School is important. The academics are important. But don’t forget there are tools like the videos that can help you to keep going during these hard times. Use the tools. Don’t feel like you have to always be the teacher. Be the mom, be the daughter, be the granddaughter, be the caregiver. Didn’t they care for you?
We have heard the saying God will not give us more than we can handle, but that isn’t true. God will not give us more than HE can handle. He will see you through this time period. Cherish the moments. Teach your children the importance of caring about the loved one who needs you. Whether they are in your home, another family member’s home, or in a facility where you need to visit often, take the time to make these teachable moments memorable. Remember we are not promised tomorrow, so let’s do today what we hope one day our children will do for us.
I leave you with just a few tips. If you are caregiving, think about these:
- Rely on the Lord first.
- Lighten up on the school workload.
- Use the video course for at least some subjects, if not all, for the time period.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Thank your children for helping, reading aloud, and for every effort they make.
- When others offer to help with meals, laundry, or housework, receive it graciously.
- Realize that the task is too big for one person.
- Ask people to pray for you.
- Cherish every single moment.
- Trust God to show you the beauty in this season of life. He will!
The greatest lesson my children learned during this time was what it truly means to honor and care for loved ones. Now as married adults, they are all jumping in without a second thought to care for a family member who needs them. As I sit back and watch them help and coordinate with each other to be there for this family member, it makes me so proud of them. I am also thankful that the Lord enabled me as a young homeschool mom to not get flustered while caregiving, but to live in the moment, cherish it, and teach my children how to honor their loved ones.
Not every homeschool day will be a perfect day that goes smoothly, but every homeschool day will be a teachable moment to cherish always.
So, what is the hidden gift? Do you see it? Share with me in the comments the hidden gift you see.