Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae
My family, with our seven kids ages 7, 7, 6, 5, 3, 1, and Not-Quite-Here-Yet are currently in a season of Not Normal Life.
For the last 14 weeks of my pregnancy, I’ve been on various levels of bed rest and high levels of medication. This means that I have about an hour and a half of teaching and talking time in the morning before I head to the couch or my bed with a whimper.
We have just enough time to do our reading aloud for history and literature, a quick grammar and spelling lesson, and maybe some phonics with my early readers. Or, if it’s a math day of the week, I teach the new math lesson. My older kids do their book work in the afternoons while my little people nap.
Our situation is certainly unique, but it’s not unthinkable that homeschooling families will have Mom/Teacher sidelined on a long-term basis at some point. And when the children/students are home all day every day, this has an even greater impact on the family.
Here are a few tips for when Mom takes a long, unexcused absence:
Even though we school year round so we have lots of flexibility in our schedule, we wanted to save most of our break time for after our baby is born. This means that, as much as possible, we have soldiered on with school.
My husband agreed school was what he wanted me to use my energy on, no matter what happened to the house, the laundry, or the meals. Deciding on our priorities has eased the frustration and guilt that so easily comes in these situations.
We also made this goal and our reasons clear to the kids so they would understand how and why we spent our days.
Take Advantage of Your Curriculum
I chose my curriculum for its flexibility and, for the most part, my curriculum has stood up to the test. Because my mental faculties are somewhat diminished on my current medications and I can’t always sit up to work on a computer, I had to give up my detailed lesson planning style. Instead, I have relied on the ability to “open and go” with our books each day of school.
There have been a few items I’ve given up on until I am better able to plan and prepare. Our science curriculum, which wasn’t really working for us anyway, has fallen by the wayside. Instead, I am supplementing with a lot of cool science books wandering around the house and episodes of “Mythbusters”, “Good Eats,” or “Rocket City Rednecks.” (Please note: I watch these with my kids and recommend doing the same, for both educational and character reasons.)
Say Yes to Any and All Offers of Help
I don’t really have people beating down the door to teach my kids’ math or spelling lessons, but I do get offers of help with meals, laundry, and housework. I always say yes. Saying yes means I can devote my time and energy to the job that no one else can do: parenting and school.
This doesn’t mean that someone else does all the housework and all I do is school. What it means is, sometimes other people do the housework and sometimes it just doesn’t get done.
Raise The Bar For Your Kids, Lower Your Standards of Perfection
I’m not a perfectionist, to say the least. But as mothers and teachers, we all have those little ways of doing things that we are persnickety about. This season of life means I’ve had to swallow my pride and “let it go.”
My children have learned new ways to help at home since I got put on bed rest. I realized they could do more than I was giving them credit for. They often make lunch for each other now, and my husband and I just close our eyes to the peanut butter globs and extra crumbs on the floor.
In school, I’ve discovered the beauty of letting my older boys do the reading aloud. I don’t have the lung capacity to read so many words, so I let my second graders take over. It helps them learn to slow down, sound out words they don’t know, and process information as they read. I sit beside them to facilitate discussion.
I wouldn’t have thought to give them that responsibility if it hadn’t been a necessity. I also ask my boys to read to their siblings more, which is helpful in terms of both education and affection.
Letting our kids take more responsibility for our home and their school doesn’t mean we’ve created perfect children that can now do quadratic equations and a load of laundry without any input from me.
We’ve created more independent kids, certainly, but I hope we’ve also taught them about choosing what’s important and using time wisely. We’ve taught them the value of helping each other and what our family can do as a team.
And while this may not have been the method I would have chosen to learn those lessons, I’m absolutely positive they have more value for my children than any knowledge of quadratic equations!
Show of hands: Have you ever been sidelined from your schooling unexpectedly? How did your family find a new equilibrium while Mom was on a leave of absence?