Homeschooling While Caring For Elderly Parents {The Sandwhich Generation}

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Sometimes our life commitments are a tug of war for our time.

When I thought about writing this article I thought about several things that would qualify as difficult to contend with while homeschooling. Some things have lasted a short time and then we were able to move on, but we have one that is a frequent source of pressure for me. That pressure comes from us having to care for my mother-in-law. When you have to deal with a person who is continually angry, critical or upset, it starts to take its toll. My husband and I have often said in the last decade that it’s like having another toddler to care for, but one that doesn’t reciprocate with any love, hugs or sweetness in return. You see, we are part of the “sandwich generation.”

Sandwich Generation: “A generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible for bringing up their own small children and for the care of their elderly parents.” In America the best estimates suggest that 9% of the population fall into this category. In 1981, Dorothy Miller coined the term sandwich generation. Specifically, Miller was referring to a segment of the middle-aged generation that provides support to both young and older family members yet does not receive reciprocal support in exchange. Miller emphasized the unique stressors of multigenerational caregiving that included emotional needs, financial needs and lack of time to meet those needs.

ID-10066174During most weeks caring for her doesn’t take away from our actual homeschooling. Most things she needs can be scheduled into our daily life. We also visit her frequently at the assisted living place where she lives to bring her things and so she can see her grandkids. Where I have found it becomes difficult is when she relentlessly calls me 5-6 times a day about a single, arguably trivial thing because she wants us to stop everything we are doing and tend to her right that second. Many times I have to let the phone go to voicemail so we can keep going with our day and get back to her later.

When she broke her hip last October we ended up not doing any real school for two weeks. School would have been impossible because we were going to the hospital 2-3 times a day for 10 days and our entire family was worn out. Then for the first month she was in rehab we went to see her nearly every day while also trying to accomplish everything else in our lives. Ultimately we didn’t meet all the goals I had for homeschool. But that is where homeschooling was so beneficial to our lives; we were far enough ahead in our work that even if we weren’t doing something official, I didn’t have to worry that our girls were falling behind.

This has also provided us a chance to let the girls be a part of serving people in a real life way. Their grandmother isn’t always the kindest person, but they are seeing us serve her anyway, because that is what God would have us do. As our girls grow into adulthood we hope that they will learn from this experience that sometimes the things we have a duty to do are not fun or fulfilling, but that doesn’t excuse us from doing them.

Homeschooling Through Difficult Times Series

Homeschooling Through Difficult Times: You are NOT alone.


Louanne lives in Texas with her awesome husband and two daughters. She loves Jesus, cookies, reading, crafting, laughing a lot and baking. She homeschools her girls and also runs a mentorship program for at risk children in a local elementary school. Louanne also enjoys documenting her family’s adventures through photos and blogging, finding coupon deals and making gifts for family and friends. Louanne blogs over at www.dwimble.com and you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.


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  1. I am so glad to see this post. I am in this same situation. I have three young elementary age children that we homeschool and also care for my elderly father in law. Until last July he had been living with us for 6 years but moved out into an assisted living center. Along with being stubborn and angry a lot, he is rapidly progressing into dementia. I have experienced more stress and trial from this one situation than anything else in my life put together. Its hard for me to emotionally deal with it all sometimes. But it has brought our family closer together as we all struggle with this together. Homeschooling has brought us so much flexibility to deal with the issues that arise and not have to worry about typical school hours.

    Thanks for sharing this. It is heartening to know that I am not alone.

    1. Rachel – I am so glad that you commented and my hope was that I would offer comfort. It’s hard when you feel like you are alone in these sorts of situations.

  2. I know exactly what you are saying and thank you for this post. I do not homeschool, but we do take care of my mother-in-law in our home. She has dementia. when the kids come home from school, there are days when I cannot spend much time with them or help them with their homework because she is demanding some kind of attention. We, also, are trying to show our kids about serving. My MIL is not the kindest person and there are times when she really doesn’t know who anyone is. She also does some pretty gross things to the kids and around the kids. We continue to tell our kids that we have to love her anyway and that this is what God has called us to do. Thank you for expressing your feelings in this post.

    1. Darcey – if I could give you a real life hug I would. I know that God uses all these things to stretch us and teach us, but some days it’s just hard.

  3. We took care of my father-in-love for ten years as he was suffering from constantly increasing dementia. Here on the farm there are so many dangerous things. He would get into any number of hazards and often try to involve the children. We had two older girls homeschooling at the time and had four babies through the process. It was a crazy and frustrating time. He lived right next to us, so he wouldn’t just call, he actually came in the house several times a day for those trivial things. He would happily demand everyone’s attention just long enough to totally distract us all. I learned to Homeschool on Faith during those difficult years. Those older two have now graduated and while they didn’t accomplish all I wished for them to, they have a love of learning and are continuing their educations plus building their own businesses. They have a great relationship with their grandpa and mostly good memories. Looking back, there are so many things we can laugh about and lots of fun stories to tell the little ones. I lived those years on Prayer! Great Post! This is a topic I had NO help with. Mom’s need to hear this! Thanks Louanne!

  4. This is a very informative and awesome post. I find it interesting and helpful as well. Thank you for sharing this.

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