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?
Thanks for sharing. Your honesty amidst such difficult times is encouraging and comforting.
We are a family of seven, two of our older kids have flown the nest leaving a mum, dad, older sister 22, a son 8 and another daughter 3 at home. My husband and I have chronic health problems and disability and so does our son – he has type one diabetes that is very unstable and the consequences of this are far reaching. As a result we often have to change our routine to reflect our current combined health status.
In the fall of this year we went with a Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum that focused on living books, our son is a prolific reader and when all else fails he is often found with a book in his hand. The books are inspiring and the illustrations beautiful. So when sickness takes hold we reach for a stack of books, watch history, geography and science documentaries and down tools at the desk until “normality” resumes!!
I try hard not to feel guilty when I cannot come up with the goods and am always humbled and amazed, that when he’s left to his own devices, the learning process continues. No wonder proponents of autonomous learning shout out that, it really does work!
Let’s face it education truly is more than just number crunching and the regurgitation of facts. Holistic learning incorporates the whole person – body, soul, mind and spirit and you rightly highlight that working together as a team and caring for one another is a valuable life skill.
Wishing for you peace in your days until this babe puts in an appearance.
San’s latest post: Another Productive Day
I have just hit my first season of bed rest which promises to last the rest of the homeschool year (June for us). I was very happy to read this today, it was very encouraging to me as I haven’t been sure how I am going to finish out this very long year!
Jen in al
This is great! Thank you for sharing! really good advice. We have had our seasons of Mommy on bed rest usually recovering from surgery. It was certainly interesting and we learned a lot. I know this post will be a blessing to everyone who reads it! Blessings, Jen in al
Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable
I love the transparency of this post! Thank you so much for sharing:) I once had a friend who experience a very similar situation. She lives in a state that requires testing for homeschooled children and they all tested above grade level that year!!! Homeschool, no matter what, is always the better option:) You are an inspiration!
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Jen @ anothergranolamom
I really enjoyed your post, especially the part about letting your kids help out making lunch for each other and doing the reading aloud for your curriculum. I am a strong believer in families helping each other, and I think that is one of the things homeschool teaches best.
Last year, after 10 years of being a stay at home full time homeschooler, I had to return to work part time. My work schedule was crazy, but we really wanted to keep everyone at home. I had to let go of some of my expectations. I had always prided myself on how far ahead my children were compared to their peers, and let’s just say we gave the peers a little catch up time. My two oldest (15 and 12) stepped in and filled the gap in many ways, even doing math with my two littler ones (9 and 6) at least one day each week. Thank goodness Saxon math is scripted!
Since then, I continue working but my schedule has settled down somewhat. The two oldest were enrolled in an online charter school which I have been satisfied with as a good substitute for mommy school, and they are still at home building good relationships with their siblings and working on other projects that interest them (they are both musicians.) Although my kids may not be getting quite as much school as they did before, they continue to learn at their own pace and following their own interests, and they are in a safe, nurturing environment all the time.
I am so glad we did not give up in the hectic pace when I first started working, but continued plodding along until the seasons changed and we were able to fall into a satisfying routine. I know that time will come soon for you. Also, remembering that the seasons do change, and what is happening in your life ISN’T the rest of your life helps.
Best of luck with growing your new baby!
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Thank you for this post – it gave me perspective! In the last two years we had a new baby, a trans-continental move, long-stay house guests, and another move, and we have limped on in school. Looking back it is good to be reminded how much they have learnt!
Blessings as you rest!
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Thanks for sharing. I don’t officially homeschool yet but was homeschooled myself and plan on homeschooling our two-year old. I was on strict bedrest with her for 16 weeks and have wondered how I’ll deal with possible bedrest when we get pregnant again and have a small child. Thanks for the encouragement and peek into how you’re making it through this tough season.
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I too am a homeschooling mama on bed rest. I LOVE some of the suggestions. My oldest daughter is in 2nd and my son is in kindergarten and I have a 1 year old and 2 stb. I never would have thought to have my oldest read to her younger siblings! I am SO STEALING THAT! 🙂
and my husband is also taking over so much more in the way of laundry and cooking and cleaning. God bless the men in our lives who step up when we need it. 🙂
I have been on bedrest with all of my pregnancies and meds to stop labor and meds for high blood pressure and meds for high blood sugar and I have multiple sclerosis… but my longest bout was seven months with my fourth daughter. I used Learning Adventures curriculum during those seven months, and it was so easy to do, even lying on my bed (on my left side as prescribed). Of course we skipped a lot of hands on projects, but I’ve never been a fun mom as far as projects go, anyway. 😀
Yes, a lot of things went neglected, I didn’t have help and my husband traveled a lot. The kids learned to fend for themselves (dry cheerios!) but we got through it. My next youngest at the time was a year old, but I kept her in the room with me and made sure it was completely toddler proof!
Thanks for sharing your perspective. It gives a sense of encouragement that if and when hard times comes school can continue.
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I don’t homeschool, but I needed this post! At 32 weeks along, I’m under strict orders to take it easy by my doctor. It’s not quite bed rest, but it’s still a tough pill for this busy girl to swallow.
I agree, priorities are essential, as well as spousal support on those priorities. I’m still cooking and recipe testing, and taking care of the kids, but house work has gone by the wayside.
Thanks for the encouragement!
(written from my bed. 😉 )
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Amen to the high value of the family learning to help EACH OTHER and work together as a team! It is good to counteract our culture’s over-emphasis on self-sufficiency and individualism.
Thank you for being open, and telling the truth about choosing priorities- it does bring such freedom!
I was on bedrest with my third child and although we weren’t homeschooling a 3 and 1 year old, they did require my attention. It’s encouraging to see that a bedresting momma can still homeschool her children if she prioritizes her life.
I also had someone from my church come each morning to help, which was wonderful. They brought me 2 meals a week and we were able to keep up with the rest.
I hope you have a safe delivery of that new little one 🙂
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Living the Balanced Life
I never had to be on bedrest, but when we were homeschooling we had a family business that took us out of the home several full days a week during the spring and fall. We learned to utilize the time in the car to do some work and discussion, or we would listen to audiobooks. We typically had to drive an hour or two each way so it gave us plenty of time to talk and discuss.
I had to learn to lighten my expectations of what they would be able to get done during the busy season. We basically schooled year round with lighter loads during those busy seasons.
Each and every family has to do what works for their situation. Homeschooling is awesome for its flexibility!
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Oh… I’ve been there! It’s amazing what your kids can do when you need them too! Workbox systems work really well when you have several children to keep on task. Just google Sue Patrick workboxes for a start.
I just have to say, what totally caught my eye, as I’m past bed-rest days (my youngest is 4) was the All About Spelling box and book! Made me smile! I could just tell from the colors. 🙂
Last year I spent 20 weeks on bed rest (on lots of medication too). I can really relate. Thanks for your site. I am busy starting my own site of twaddle free books, so I was glad to see your book list for preschoolers. I couldn’t agree more.
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I homeschool my 17 and 12 year old daughters. Only a week into homeschooling kindergarden I was put on 6 week bedrest. We were able to do most of our FIAR curriculum with alot of “Nana School”. My mom would come over almost every day and do the hands on actitives I was unable to do and entertain my 5 year old.
I’m pregnant with our 4th child, and this pregnancy is a whole lot harder than the other three. I wase in bed for way too many weeks, but my kids have been so helpful towards me and each other. My eldest (6-yrs) made breakfast for our toddler. Luckily we live in a small apartment, so I could always have my eyes or ears on them.
It’s gotten better now, thankfully.
Thank you so much for this. I just found out we’re expecting #8, and our others are 8, 7, 6, 4, 4, 2 & 1. I’ve been struggling a lot with managing to school consistently, even before I found out I was pregnant. My kids do a lot around the house, but they really could do more, and I should expect more of them.