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Homeschooling with a Baby in the NICU


rainbowmama
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We just had an ultrasound that showed that our baby might have a significant congenital defect. If the baby has the condition - and we still are hopeful that he doesn't - and if the baby's condition isn't so severe that it's incompatible with life, the baby will likely have a lengthy stay in an intensive care nursery, somewhere between 1.5-12 months. 

 

I have never had a baby with a NICU stay, not to talk about long term hospitalization. Should I be planning to put my older kids in school? Can you homeschool with a hospitalized baby? I already feel like this high risk pregnancy (and the stillbirth we suffered over the summer) has led to a lot less schooling than I had envisioned. On the other hand, the baby is due near around end of the school year for our public schools, so the baby might possibly be out of the hospital before school would resume for the next year.

 

Has anyone been in this situation and can offer some advice?

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I think the deciision would come down to what the drs think when baby is born as far as hospitalization timeline and how old the kids are (can't see signatures on my phone so not sure if you have them posted). Personally if i had a baby that was going to be in hospital that long i would put the kids in school for the yeat so that they would have that stability and schooling happening during an emotional, turbulant time. And it would give you the time each day to be at the hospital to focus on baby without feeling guilt of not schooling the others. Ps may not be the ideal overall, but it would serve a decent purpose here, especially if you go into ut thinking just take one year at a time, you can always homeschool again whem things stabilize after baby is born and out of hospital.

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Your emotional and mental capacity will be tapped out during this process. There's the baby's birth (prepare for an early delivery- babies with birth defects are often born before their due date), the NICU stay, then the homecoming, which is a huge adjustment in general, but adding in multiple doctor visits and possibly therapies... it's a lot.

 

I would think in terms of outsourcing. If not school enrollment, then online classes or tutors. Do you have anyone in your life who could take on homeschooling them for an extended period? Another homeschool family, maybe?

 

How old are your other kids? 

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How old are your other children? 

I ask only because that will make a big difference in what can be reasonably expected of them spending the majority of time in a hospital waiting room. 

If you have older kids, I would pare down to math, a library card and some independent craft projects. 

If you have younger kids, I would expect to need to find alternate child care for the majority of the day. Whether that's a public or private school, or family/friends would depend on what you can expect from your support systems. 

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I've BTDT.  I was hospitalized myself during the pregnancy for a month, and then we had a month of NICU.  I also homeschooled through my dd's terminal cancer and some other significant longer term stuff.

 

How old are your children?  What's your support network like? When is baby due? (During RSV season, most hospitals won't allow children under a certain age (12, 18) into NICUs or pediatric units.)

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Baby is due end of April. I think if I post the specific condition, I'll be too identifiable, as it's a very rare condition, but it's a lung issue where that generally does not affect the baby during pregnancy, just once the baby needs to breathe after birth. The plan would be to induce as close to full-term as possible (so as that all the necessary doctors are there for the birth, not because the medical condition needs induction.) I have family in the area, but I don't know if they'd feel up to teaching.

Edited by rainbowmama
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We posted at the same time!  Since you are due near the end of the school year, I would just play it by ear.  You'll get a better sense over the summer as to what you need to do.  

 

As to how to homeschool during extended hospitalizations, I'm totally happy to talk about that with you.  In both instances, I had family step in with childcare and homeschooling.  They were limited in what they were willing/able to do with re: to homeschooling, but it worked out well each time. We did year round homeschooling the following year each time, and the basics of math, handwriting, and phonics happened during the extended times I had to be away.

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Hugs, Rainbowmama. 

When I was in a similar situation, kids 9, 7, 5, and 2, I looked into the neighborhood schools while pregnant so that I would know if that was an option. Knowing that I could send them there if needed gave me a sense of peace. I knew friends who would help with the littlest one during the day, but asking one person after another to take care of 4 kids, in my community, would have been hard. I had always had a bad feeling about our neighborhood school, but when I visited the kindergarten, everyone was incredibly polite (including the 5th grade boys who opened the doors for me!), they were hatching chicks and butterflies in K, there was a garden growing, there was a creative play center, etc. This gave me a sense of peace so that I could focus on the coming baby. My little one died, so I never needed the school. But knowing it was an option was useful.

 

My little one had Trisomy-18. 

Emily

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Emily, I'm so sorry for your loss.

 

My oldest child attended kindergarten at the local public school, and it was a very negative experience for us, which is why we chose to homeschool. Obviously it's an option, and it might be the best one, but it's not a choice that gives me peace.

Edited by rainbowmama
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Emily, I'm so sorry for your loss.

 

My oldest child attended kindergarten at the local public school, and it was a very negative experience for us, which is why we chose to homeschool. Obviously it's an option, and it might be the best one, but it's not a choice that gives me peace.

:grouphug:  :grouphug:  :grouphug:

 

I think deciding on whether the public school you had a bad experience with before would still be a bad experience would depend on WHY it was a bad experience.  If it was a bad teacher, then that issue might not be an issue any longer.  If there are learning challenges that your child was dealing with, then getting evaluations and starting the process for an IEP/504 now might mean that adequate supports are in place before you might have to enroll the children.  If there is rampant bullying and severely substandard academics, well, that's another story.  

 

Since the baby is due in April, you have time to do solid research.  I would be working to seek out places that the kids could be educated, just in case.  Since there are a lot of unknowns, seeking out options right now, as in going and visiting places, seeing if the issues you found at the local public school are still in existence, seeing if enrollment at another public school if the one you are zoned for is not an option might be a possibility, even looking at charter schools and private schools that might have scholarship offerings would possibly give you peace of mind that there is a course of action you can take for your older kids.  Having a back up could be a huge relief.  

 

Considering, though, that you may be facing a long summer where you need to be in the NICU and your kids won't have public school as an option, I would also be looking long and hard at what could be done for the summer.  Is there anyone that you could trust to watch the kids?  I would try to have several options since other people may have emergencies or scheduling conflicts, etc.  If you don't know anyone, maybe start networking now.  Get babysitters to come in once in a while so you can test them out and see if they are a good fit.  Have a list of people that could be on call for emergencies.  Look into local day care programs, take a tour, meet the people running them so you have an idea of what they are really like just in case you need something like that.

 

Any summer programs that you could enroll them in?  I would be heavily researching that as well.

 

Why not start a notebook and keep notes in there, research results, contact numbers, websites, whatever you are finding that might help or not help?  Note the things you don't like, either, and why.  It may be hard to remember everything further down the road.  Having that notebook specifically dedicated to this could be a lifesaver.

 

Once the baby is born you will have more to go on, but having already done extensive research could help tremendously if you are in crisis mode and also dealing with the exhaustion of child birth.

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With needing to find care for the 3 yr old regardless, and it being near the summer (so also needing to find care for the older kids), I would consider other options.

 

I hs'ed through a NICU stay of 7 wks, then in-home therapies for 2.5 yrs after that, and monthly research study for the first 6 months, then less often from 6 mos to 18 mos. My older boys were 7 and 4 when the youngest was born. We did very little school for those 2.5 yrs -- math, reading, and anything else was extra.

 

It felt like nowhere near enough, at the time, but now with my oldest in college....it didn't hinder him, long term, at all. My next oldest is in highschool, and again, no harm, no foul. So...while it feels horribly little, the schooling during something like this, long term...it works out okay. Just to assure you that whatever you decide, it will be okay.

 

Other things to consider -- how far away is the hospital? Your local hospital may or may not have the level NICU you need, so check on that. Our NICU was 1.5 hrs from where we lived, and children (siblings) were only allowed to visit on specific days, 2x/week. We had no child care for them, as we lived 1.5 hrs or more from family as well (and were too new to the area to trust anyone where we lived), so we ended up with me spending the days at home, and picking DH up from work in the afternoons, going to the hospital, and tag-teaming visits with baby during the evening, then heading home. We would leave our house at 3:00, and get home at 11:00. The hospital had no sibling facilities, so DH and I were never bedside with baby together, but DH would take the older boys to do stuff near the hospital, we had hospital bags we packed for them, etc., and the hospital had a Ronald McDonald Family Room where we could cook and eat dinner. Still with all that being what it was, we went up roughly every other day; we just couldn't work it out to be there more often. This was our 3rd NICU baby, though, so we knew we could trust the hospital care for baby and our older kids needed us, so...we did what worked for us, at the time.

 

I share all that to say...consider many things. If we had the kids in school, likewise it would have only been the oldest, and then if we could have found care for the 4 yr old, I could have been at the hospital but DH would then have had to work around the school schedule, and he still would have wanted to be up at the hospital too, so that still would have left evenings, so...."daytime care for the older kids" wouldn't have really solved much.

 

If you decide that hs'ing your older kids provides you the best flexibility, continue. Truly. Nothing is going to be ideal, and nothing will be so terrible as to harm them later on. Do what best meets the mental, emotional, physical, psychological, whole needs of the majority of the family. For us, keeping our boys home, and juggling the NICU as best we could, made the most sense. We had only recently moved, and adding more upheaval on top of an already "upheaved" time wouldn't have made sense, we felt. Suddenly starting a new form of school, or new childcare situation...for us, we thought that was a bad idea.

 

Anyway, none of us can decide this, and there's no wrong or right answer. There will be pros and cons no matter what, and none of it will be easy, at all. A NICU situation pretty much sucks, no matter what, and I can't imagine it being due to a life threatening condition. (((((Hugs and prayers))))) I am so sorry you're facing this, and will pray for you.

 

With re: hs'ing, do what feels right or comfortable to you, and ignore anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. For me, the comfort of normal was a balm at times, and I know it was also to our boys. (((Hugs)))

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We just had an ultrasound that showed that our baby might have a significant congenital defect. If the baby has the condition - and we still are hopeful that he doesn't - and if the baby's condition isn't so severe that it's incompatible with life, the baby will likely have a lengthy stay in an intensive care nursery, somewhere between 1.5-12 months. 

 

I have never had a baby with a NICU stay, not to talk about long term hospitalization. Should I be planning to put my older kids in school? Can you homeschool with a hospitalized baby? I already feel like this high risk pregnancy (and the stillbirth we suffered over the summer) has led to a lot less schooling than I had envisioned. On the other hand, the baby is due near around end of the school year for our public schools, so the baby might possibly be out of the hospital before school would resume for the next year.

 

Has anyone been in this situation and can offer some advice?

 

 

Is the defect such that the baby will stay continually hospitalized?  Or is it such that the baby will be in the NICU for now and then hospitalized for care off and on?  An online friend of mine is a heart mama - her baby has serious heart issues.  He is constantly in and out of the hospital and they juggle it with many kids.  I'll be the first to say that she amazes me, but she might be able to tell you more about what it looks like.  I am a little awe struck by her grace through all of this.  Her precious boy is in the hospital again now (he's three) and the love she has just shines from her.  These special needs kids, they take a lot of love, but it seems to me they are like little sponges, they soak it all up, but then they are so saturated that it can't help but drip out of them to everyone who comes in contact.  (((((Hugs)))) This is a hard spot for you.  

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If I were in your place, I would just plan on taking a break in the spring when homeschooling becomes too much. Your kids are young enough that I wouldn't worry about taking a break from school. Once you have an idea about what the situation will be long-term, you can decide whether to do light homeschooling again in the fall or enroll them in school. So much will depend on the length of the NICU stay, your distance from the hospital, how you're needing to divide your time between home & NICU, how you're coping emotionally, etc. 

 

I might visit your local elementary school and/or make some rough plans for how you can homeschool lightly in the fall, but there is so much you can't plan for at this point.

Edited by MinivanMom
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I would say it would depend on how far you are from the hospital when it comes to getting kids on and off the bus. Our level 3 NICU is 45 minutes away and the 4 is closer to an hour, so needing to be at home at 3:15-4 every day would be hard.

 

I think you'll have to consider your state requirements, what you're going to do for childcare for the current youngest child and how flexible your DH's job is. Do you have family or close friends who could care for the youngest, and would they be willing to supervise schooling or help with the end of school day? I think it would depend on what your helpers would be willing and able to help with. Is cyber school an option for you? That might make it easier on whomever is watching your 3yo to also supervise schooling.

 

I am so sorry for your earlier loss, mama, and I sincerely hope your baby is healthy. I can imagine you are feeling a lot of emotions and swirling thoughts right now. I agree with PPs who say that none of it may be ideal, but your schoolkids will adapt to whatever is the best temporary solution for your family.

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How often will you actually be allowed to visit the NICU? Trinqueta was in the NICU for 2 weeks and we were only allowed in once a day for about 15-30 minutes. This was in another country so things might be different here, but I'd check that. There is really no reason to hang around the waiting room all day if you'll only be allowed in for short visits.

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rainbowmama--are you now seeing a perinatologist? I might talk with them and your ob about where you are likely to deliver and where the baby is likely to stay.  NICUs have different ratings based on the skill set you need your neonatologist to have.  From there, I'd ask to go on a NICU tour (they offer them) and find out the details on facilities, care routines, etc.   Our NICU wanted us to be very hands on, and there were decent facilities for me to hang out in during the day. It was an hour away, though, so it wasn't like I could bop over during the lunch hour.

 

I'd also look at other ways to prep:

1. meal stash in the freezer

2. having a friend set up something like a meal train closer to delivery

3. talking openly and honestly with family and what they are willing to help with

4. working with perinatal hospice to coordinate photos, hand/foot castings, and palliative care decisions if necessary (and I really pray it isn't)

5. coming up with a school plan

 

I think once you have a better sense of what your support network is going to look at, you'll have more information about which option will be best for you.  

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:grouphug: I still am not sure how old your kids are. If you have other care for them or if they're old enough to be on their own for a couple of hours, and if school feels like a negative choice (which it sounds like it does) then I think it's okay to let schooling go for a few months if you need to. A year feels like a long time, but I it's okay to change your choice too once you have the lay of the land. It sounds like there's a lot of uncertainty. Deciding about schooling is probably something you feel you can do at this point. But deciding might just be making a plan for them to go and then not sending them until it's necessary. Maybe making a plan is just defining for yourself when it's necessary.

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Emily, I'm so sorry for your loss.

 

My oldest child attended kindergarten at the local public school, and it was a very negative experience for us, which is why we chose to homeschool. Obviously it's an option, and it might be the best one, but it's not a choice that gives me peace.

Yuck.

 

My friends had looked at the school previously and had bad impressions but the school has been improving over the last 5 years. So, just because something was awful a few years ago doesn't mean it will be anymore, necessarily. 

 

Emily

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  • 2 weeks later...

Emily, I'm so sorry for your loss.

 

My oldest child attended kindergarten at the local public school, and it was a very negative experience for us, which is why we chose to homeschool. Obviously it's an option, and it might be the best one, but it's not a choice that gives me peace.

 

If nothing was happening would you resume homeschooling in August/September? I think nobody will come to harm if you wait that long to evaluate the situation. After one or two months medical personnel may be able to give you a more accurate picture - and there is always the chance they are WRONG and everything is fine.

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