Monday 20 July 2015

Home Educating and being a Carer

This is the third post in my series about home educating in different circumstances. The first two posts were

This is about home educating whilst being a carer. 

I will primarily focus on caring for an older relative on a long term basis as this is what I know about but many of the principles will apply in other situations. We have had an older relative live with us for over eight years now. Our younger two children either weren't born or don't remember life before we were care givers. 

Why be a carer?
-We are living in a society where people are, on average, living longer. Some of those people may well be our parents and grandparents and may need help as they get older.

-If we are Christians, then the injunctions from 1 Timothy5 about caring for older family members apply to us.

Verse 4 if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

 Verse 9
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Verse 16

 If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.

Yes, for some people that may mean supervising the care of an older relative in a care home and making sure that care is optimal but for some that means having a relative to live with the family.

-Sometimes, it is easier to have an older relative close by than to try to help them from miles away. I know, we have been there!

There are many benefits to having an older relative in our own home or close by

-It is much easier to help them, for example, with doctors' appointments or with post.

-They will, almost certainly, like to see the grandchildren.

-They may be able to tell the grandchildren about the history of their lives. My children were able to hear, from their Grandmother, about her parents and their role in the First World War.

-This is a really tangible way to demonstrate love and show Christian kindness.

-Living in a family can be a remedy against loneliness.

But, and this is a big but, there are challenges:

  • Appointments can interfere with learning. OK, appointments and caring are part of life and probably learning but there is a limit! 
  • It is really difficult, probably impossible, to go on a spontaneous trip and arranging holidays can reach nightmare proportions. 
  • While you are giving children independence, an older relative may well be losing this. It is easier to judge when a child can learn to do a new task than to know when an older person is no longer able.
  • The doorbell seems to ring constantly and carers, social workers, therapists will see that your children are being educated at home. 
  • And, yes, it is difficult to keep the house clean. There is more to do, more people in the house, more possessions and more mess.
How to manage being a carer and home educating?

  • God's grace is sufficient. One of my favourite verses is 
My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12 verse 9
  • Try to arrange routine appointments outside times when you would want to be doing more formal work with children. This isn't always possible but surprisingly often does work.
  • Would a telephone appointment work for something routine? Again, a big time saver.
  • Think of other time savers. Will the pharmacy deliver? Can grocery shopping be done on line?
  • It isn't possible or even wise to clean the house before every caregiver visit. 
  • Have a plan. We front load our day with English and maths so that if things go wrong, at least that is covered. Let older children know what they should be doing so they can get on with work while you deal with the care agency review. Have something for each child to do when you are busy-this may be Duplo, a book, handwriting or whatever they can handle on their own.
  • Don't try to do everything-it just isn't possible. It is better to be relatively relaxed with a messy house than stressed out.
  • There needs to be some balance between the generations, including the middle generation! This may mean that the children can't go on every trip but it does mean that they should be able to go on trips and to home education group meetings. It means that the older generation should also have a chance to go out and that their hospital appointments are prioritised. For the middle generation, too busy is not having time to read God's Word or get to church or to the doctor when necessary. Sometimes, it is necessary to ask for help!

    I do hope this is useful. It is possible to home educate and be a carer. God gives grace and strength for the day. Please feel free to ask questions or email me.

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  1. Yes, having been a carer for almost a year now, in a completely different situation, I agree that it can be a huge challenge. Especially appointments, and especially if they are long and almost daily and you cannot leave other children at home. At times it has been overwhelming, and that is not a word I use lightly. May God bless you and give you the refreshment you need. May he keep your faith strong even in the most difficult times.

    1. Thank you. We haven't had almost daily appointments for a very long time but I do remember one September, starting back with several appointments a week and wondering how or where I was going to educate the children. Things settled and the clinic staff were helpful but it was a challenging time. May the Lord strength you too and help you to "run and not be weary" and "walk and not faint."

  2. I think what you are doing is highly commendable and indeed the best Christian response to your family. It is a powerful testimony. Often my overseas colleagues (not always Christians) are shocked by how we treat our elderly in this country.

    My question is unrelated. My boys (aged 6, 5 and 3) do not cope well at all if I have a visitor or even a short phone call. It can completely put the day off course, and they will use the fact I am occupied to try and do all the things they know they must not. In fact, I often will not answer the phone because the consequences are too much. But at the same time, I do need to keep trying, because they need to know that phone calls are part of life. It is at the point where if I actually need to make a phone call of more than a few minutes, I would need to get a babysitter in. I want to teach my children social skills - and they can be reasonable when out and about, or when I am engaged to directly supervise every interaction. But as soon as I try to have a conversation with somebody, chaos ensues. You clearly have children who can behave whilst, for example, social workers visit. How do you do this?

    1. Kondwani, thank you.

      I do think that visitors/phone calls and children are challenging. Years ago, I was on the phone arranging car insurance when my baby started to cry loudly, from upstairs. I couldn't leave the phone but was relieved that all went quiet after a few minutes. When I got off the phone, I found that my toddler had got up from his nap and put a blanket over his sister to make her quiet. Thankfully, she was fine but it did make me think!
      In terms of visitors and children, first my children are a bit older. The younger three are 15, 8 and 6 which does make things easier. I try to warn them if I know that an important visitor is coming or if I have to make a phone call. Obviously, the 15 year old can just get on with his work. The younger two need clear directions about what to do and I try not to ask them to do anything complex. The eight year old often has to do handwriting or look at a book and the six year old is best with some play based activity: K'nex or Lego if I'm otherwise occupied. Sometimes, Reading Eggs has kept both of the younger ones busy. They have to be told not to interrupt unless something important happens e.g. you can interrupt to tell me that you have a nosebleed but not because you have lost your pencil. They aren't perfect by a long chalk but it certainly helps. It might be worth practicing for a short time so that they know what to do. Hope this helps.

  3. Thanks - yes that does help. I think when we discuss ahead of time what is going to happen and what is expected, it does make things easier. It's more the unexpected (and also exciting) ones that cause a bit of chaos, and I waver between remembering that they are 'just children' and at the same time that they do need to learn social skills. I suppose this is one area where home education actually makes us teach better social skills than might be acquired in a classroom, even though it feels hard at the time. We want the children to be able to function in a range of settings and to know where appropriate boundaries lie. Thankfully our friend this morning was very understanding (and possibly didn't even really notice the boundaries that were being pushed!)

    1. I think that we are more aware of our own children's behaviour than others are. This is probably how it should be!

  4. We have a slightly different situation to yours. Gary and I felt called back from Ireland to be near to mum. Our house sold two weeks after my dad died and we were able to buy the house next to mum's. This has brought so many blessings, as well as time for mum and I to discuss her wishes for the future. Mum has crippling arthritis which is getting worse, especially in her spine. She is finding walking harder and harder but is so determined not to give in to old age that she still takes the dog for a walk each day! I adore being so close and really enjoy watching my children form very deep relationships with her. One of my daughters already cleans her house and helps with her animals. I realise it will only get harder but we are exactly where God wants us.
    I enjoyed reading this post. You always do such a great job of showing all the sides of a situation and offering wise advice.

    1. Thank you-I love the way that your Mum is able to help you with home education as well as you helping her. I have been talking several times recently about thinking about old age in advance and realising that at 50, I need to start thinking about this!