Children with serious illnesses

By: Miles Hector

For children with serious illnesses, recovery will always be definitely the first priority; however, many parents are also concerned about their children falling behind in school while they receive treatment. 

Luckily, there are a couple of resources you can use as parents to make sure your child stays on top of their schoolwork while they recover. Keep reading for five education options parents with seriously ill kids can take advantage of.  

Individualized Education Plan 

An Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, is a tailored plan for students that require special instruction. IEPs are formulated to address specific areas in the student’s life such as behaviour, health issues, or learning disabilities. 

IEPs are generally created by a team of specialists including health care professionals, teachers, and guidance counsellors so your child’s best interests are always in mind. A great benefit of IEPs is that they can be implemented at no extra cost to parents. 

To get an IEP set up for your child, talk to an in-school counsellor or contact your local school district.

Online Learning   

The recent global pandemic has forced a lot of students to continue their studies outside of the classroom. This marked a major change in the way education was delivered for all parties involved. 

Online learning is a great option for children who are unable to come to school because of their illness. Because online learning can be adjusted daily, lessons can be scheduled around appointments or saved for evenings and weekends. Essentially, parents and children won’t have to choose between school and treatment. Online learning allows kids with serious illnesses to learn at the time most convenient for them. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, most schools already have the necessary framework and resources needed to facilitate online learning. The availability for online learning is pretty much anywhere students have a reliable internet connection and laptop. 

Hospital Schooling 

When a child’s serious illness leads to an extended hospital stay, hospital schooling may be the best way for them to continue their studies. This can be a great option for parents who are unsure of how long their child will be in the hospital or for families who have frequent extended stays in hospital during treatment. 

There are two different types of hospital schooling so check with your child’s hospital to see what’s available. 

Bedside Schooling: Bedside schooling is instruction that happens right in the patient’s hospital room. Kids who do bedside schooling are usually too ill to sit through regular schooling or have compromised immune systems. 

Classroom Schooling: Larger hospitals with many patients will often offer instruction in a “classroom” setting. Kids who are well enough to leave their rooms but are still required to stay in hospital can benefit from group learning in an onsite classroom. 

Whichever option you go with, rest assured that hospital teachers are fully licensed like any other teacher and can teach various subjects in the K-12 curriculum. Hospital staff will likely communicate with your child’s regular teachers to develop an IEP. 

Homebound Schooling

What options do you have if your child has been discharged from the hospital but isn’t well enough yet to go back to school? Homebound schooling is a process where your child’s school district sends a teacher to instruct your child at your own home. Typically a child must be absent from school for longer than around a month to qualify, but requirements vary. 

Hospital homebound teachers work regular school hours and communicate with your child’s school to provide coursework. The teacher will keep your child from falling behind by helping with homework, projects, assignments and regular school work. 

Keep in mind that there must be a supervising adult present for instruction to occur. When the time comes, homebound teachers can help make the transition back into regular school much smoother. 


Tutors are another great way to support your child’s learning as they recover. The best thing about tutors is the flexibility they provide. A tutor can be a friend, classmate or older sibling and tutoring can take place almost anywhere at any time. Another benefit is that tutors usually utilize a one-on-one approach so your child receives individualized attention. 

Think of tutoring as a supplemental teaching tool. While you shouldn’t expect tutors to cover the entire curriculum, they can focus on common challenges and prevent your child from falling behind. 

Since tutoring isn’t as structured as traditional classroom learning, kids often can be more relaxed while they learn. With the stress of medical treatment, minimizing stressors in the learning environment is a must.