Homeschooling with Cancer

By Carol Gary

Article appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of the Arizona Home Education Journal

Gary Family

Our oldest son, Evan, has always had a natural affinity for math and science, enjoys playing the piano, reads several historical fiction novels every month, and engineers interesting creations with Legos and other building materials on a regular basis.

But one week in October of 2010, he was not feeling well and presented several unusual symptoms that prompted us to take him to the pediatrician. Subsequently, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia and our normal lives suddenly came to a halt.

Evan required months of mostly in-patient chemotherapy and then later on relapsed and required more treatments and procedures. Yet, even though he continues to fight to get back into remission so he can have a bone marrow transplant, he and his two younger brothers are not just surviving but thriving in their respective studies. By setting reasonable expectations, staying flexible on where and how we “do school,” and incorporating a lot of oral vs. written work, they have managed to make remarkable academic progress while growing in their relationships with the Lord and with each other.

Essential to our coping with this challenging season in our lives is being able to rely upon trusted neighbors, friends, and family members who come to our aid, providing practical support and services we just cannot perform ourselves.

One year into Evan’s illness during the fall of 2011, we relocated to another state to prepare for his transplant. We temporarily resided at a Ronald McDonald House within walking distance of the hospital, and my husband was able to work remotely so he could continue to support us while allowing us to remain together. Later we travelled to two additional, internationally-known healthcare facilities, following much of the same arrangements as before. In all, we were away from home for nine months. Even now, we continue to help Evan in his fight to be cured.

We are very grateful to the Home School Foundation and the HSF Arizona Ambassador Program for the financial gifts we have received. They have allowed us to address Evan’s medical expenses while continuing to homeschool our boys.

Our local HSF Arizona Ambassador, who raised funds to be matched by HSF during 2011, has been a particular blessing to us as she took it upon herself to submit our family’s name for financial assistance and continued to pray for Evan and follow his progress on his Caring Bridge page. HSF’s assistance, along with additional help from friends and family, will help us meet the new year deductible for Evan’s medical care and stay on course in homeschooling our three sons.

Mark Twain once said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” This distinction has been made absolutely clear in our lives as the boys have learned so much about health, communications, logistics, responsibility, generosity, and ministry. So, although our boys’ schooling plans aren’t packed with all the extras of what we originally envisioned for them, we recognize that they are all getting an education beyond anything we could have conceived on our own. For that and for the many people God has placed in our lives to bless us during this most difficult season, we are sincerely grateful.

Phoenix residents Grant and Carol Gary have been married for 21 years and have homeschooled their three boys from the very beginning. For up-to-date opportunities to pray for Evan in his fight against leukemia, visit his Caring Bridge page.


Update November 28, 2012


The above article in the Winter 2012 issue of the AFHE Journal shared the Gary family's homeschool journey while their son Evan, age 14, was undergoing treatment for cancer. We are grateful for the support the Gary family received from the Arizona homeschool community as well as from the Home School Foundation. Here is a short update from HSF about Evan. Please join us in praying for the Gary family as they grieve the loss of this remarkable young man.

Since December 2011, the homeschool community at large has been praying for the Gary family of Phoenix, Arizona as their son Evan Christopher Gary, 14, fought a lengthy battle with leukemia. In his mother’s words, “Our sweet, precious son went home to be with the Lord” on the morning of November 28, 2012. Evan was mature beyond his years and had a servant heart. His curious nature inspired him to explore the world around him. He is survived by his parents Grant and Carol, two younger brothers, and other extended family.
- Ricci Black, HSF Ambassador Program Coordinator

WEBSITE: for more information about the work of HSF