Public and private schools often have specific rules about when a child must stay home sick: vomiting within 24 hours, a fever in the last 24-48 hours, obvious measles or chicken pox spots, etc. The rules vary, depending on the district. Then there are the common sense rules, such as sending your kid to school with a drippy nose is kinda rude (unless it’s allergies, of course, in which case I say, people can deal with it).
With homeschooling, however, we don’t have the concerns over whether we could get other people sick from going to school sick. And while we can figure out easily that if we, or our child, is vomiting or running a fever or otherwise too sick to school, we should skip school that day, sometimes the lesser illnesses can leave us conflicted. A sore throat, runny nose, hoarse voice – they’re all inconveniences, but we think “hey, it doesn’t really inhibit doing school.”
We haven’t started our school year yet, but I woke up on Thursday with a sore throat. Having stirred up a lot of dust the night before (and being allergic to said dust), I hoped it was just allergies. But as the day wore on, and I got a headache, stomachache, and began to feel just generally rundown and icky, I had to admit I was sick. I caught a cold, probably from our Not Back to School party with our group at a local children’s entertainment center.
Because we haven’t started school yet, I was able, for the most part, to rest and try to recover (it still took a few days, of course). But it did remind me that schooling when sick is something we all have to think about.
So, what do we do in this house? Well, it depends on who’s sick. If it’s me, most of the time, we take at least the worst day or two off, because I am not a good sick person. I have no patience, and usually my voice is awful, so it’s just easier and better on all of us if I don’t have to do anything beyond normal parenting. The kids will do some of their independent reading, and if they have other work they can do alone, they sometimes do that and leave it for me to check when I feel better. Once I start feeling better, we start easing back into things and work on getting back on track.
One exception to this is if I have anything recorded for school. Even if it doesn’t directly relate to anything we’re currently working on, if I have some documentaries or something recorded (or available on Hulu, etc.), sometimes I’ll put those on and let the kids watch them. It keeps them doing something educational (rather than getting into a totally relaxed, no school mentality that we then have to pull out of), while taking the pressure off of me.
When the kids are sick, it depends on which one, and how sick. I have one who doesn’t mind pushing through as long as he isn’t running a fever or vomiting, and he’ll happily keep working even if he’s sick. The other one, though, tends to be a bad sick person like me. He has little patience, he can’t think very clearly, and he definitely can’t focus. So working is wasted on him. How sick also factors in, because if we’re talking just a runny nose, I say grab some tissue and let’s power through, but if we’re talking a fever or something like that, it’s not worth trying to force it.
Sometimes, though, you feel guilty taking the day off. Whether it’s your illness or your kids, whether you’re prostrate in front of the toilet or just feeling a little bit blah, you might feel guilty about not accomplishing something. So, how can you accomplish something while still nurturing the need to rest and recover from illness? There’s actually quite a few ways you can do this:
- Watch documentaries or TV shows that have educational value. Hulu and Netflix are two great options for finding documentaries. You can also check out the History channel, Science and Discovery channels, TLC, Nat Geo and Nat Geo Wild, BBC America, and others (if you have them), for documentaries, mini-series, and TV shows about everything from how the states got their shapes to what the last days in Vietnam were like, and so much more. Even if it doesn’t directly relate to what the kids are currently learning, they can still learn something.
- Reading. This one may not be ideal. If you’re sick, and your kids can’t read on their own yet, this may not work for you. But if the kids are the ones sick, you can read to them. And regardless of who’s sick, if the kids are old enough to read alone, then this is a great way for them to occupy the day. Books, magazines, whatever – it’s quiet, it’s educational, and it requires no effort from the sick person.
- Games. Scrabble, Yahtzee, 20 Questions, Monopoly and Beat the Parents are just a few games that can be educational, and don’t require a lot of effort to play while sick. But even if you don’t want to play those, Uno, Apples to Apples, Candyland, or Chutes and Ladders can also be fun, taking everyone’s mind off the fact that they’re sick, and they’re still learning about good sportsmanship, taking turns, playing fairly, and for little ones, fine motor skills can even come into play.
- Compromising with some easy to do, mostly independent work. Worksheets, things to read, small projects – if there’s some stuff that the kids can do that can be done relatively quickly, with little to no help from you, and don’t require a ton of effort, a good compromise can be to have them do that work, and then call it a day.
- Ask for some help. If you’re the one who’s sick, asking a friend, relative, or babysitter to help out can also be a way to go. Especially if you would be going to work if you weren’t sick, you can see if the babysitter will take on some responsibility for a little school work and drop them off anyway. Sometimes, friends or relatives will be happy to help out when it’s only for a day or two. If you’re organized enough to stay ahead and have the work all prepped and ready to go, and can basically hand them a ready-to-go package of work, they might be even more willing.
The main thing to remember, whether you do anything at all while you’re sick, is that you have plenty of time. You can tack on days at the end of your school year to make up if you feel you need to. You can school year round to allow for taking time off as needed, whether for illness or just because. You have years to teach your child everything they need to know, so a missed day here and there won’t hurt them. It’s okay to take the time off to rest and get better.
So what do you do when you get sick? Do you push through and have school anyway if you’re not too sick? What about when the kids are sick?