Thursday, May 12, 2016

Homeschooling With a Sick Mama

One of the biggest reasons we hesitated to start homeschooling Cadence when we did was time - my time. I would love to devote it all to educating this eager, bright young mind, but the simple fact is I can't. I didn't feel like I could give her the education she deserves by myself right now. You know, the right now that involves a four year, a two year old, and me being completely incoherent for three solid months, followed by being very physically limited for another nine months. But when it came down to our choices, it was made pretty obvious - stay where she was and learn nothing, plus grow progressively more sick and anxious, or come home and learn a little, and more importantly, regain her love and thirst for learning. As it turns out, that love and thirst came back fast, and combined with abruptly becoming a fluent reader, meant that she has soaked up massive amounts of learning in spite of my lack of time, because she reads so much.

It definitely has not been the school year I would have envisioned for us, but it has turned out well, and has had surprisingly positive impacts on our family.

Some things that helped us survive and shape our routine with a sick teacher:

1. Don't worry about how much you are doing, or sticking to a schedule - one of the blessings of homeschooling is that you can have a light 'school year' and then do more school work in the summer if needed. Or you can have 'the principal' do school in the evening. Or you can take a month off (well, if your kids would let you ;)) and call it summer break. Or whatever. As long as you do what you can, when you can, there is little chance of falling behind in the long run. 
2. Use an interactive, computerized program for part of your curriculum. Now, I hate the idea of having a video game teach my kid - we just don't do screens around here. Period. But this has been a life saver. The bulk of her math and reading are on the computer, and the program is very adaptive, so it keeps pace with her almost perfectly. If she gets something right, she moves one with little to no repetition, and if she doesn't, it has her practice it in a variety of ways until she demonstrates understanding. Which means that she's being challenged for an hour every day, without me lifting a single finger to plan, prepare supplies, teach, or even speak. I can lie on the couch and doze, just being available in case she needs help or the computer messes up. 
3. Call in reinforcements. Our state (OK) has an awesome online charter school called EPIC. We are loving it. It is free, comes with a 'learning fund' for each enrolled student that covers curriculum, supplies, classes, lessons, activities, and basically anything you can think of for enrichment. Best of all, it comes with a teacher. That's right - we get to guide the pace, scope, and sequence of everything our student does - and a teacher comes to our house to give her what I can't right now. She gets one-on-one time with her teacher for an hour almost every week, that they spend reading, brainstorming, learning, playing games, and learning about anything they want. Our teacher has also been a huge help in planning and pointing us to resources. She also gets all of her same grade students together once a month to do a class together, so they can play games and learn with other kids their age. We ADORE her teacher!
4. Call in more reinforcements. Some weeks I let her go on nice long playdates with her kindergarten (read: half-day) age BFF/cousin in the afternoons. Sometimes she goes and reads to a grandparent for a while, or to the library to read to therapy dogs, or to the zoo to have a class. All these things fill her bucket, and give me time to either rest or spend some time with just the younger kids. Or both :)
5. Relax. I'm not sure how explain this one - but let it go. Let go of any big plans, let go of crafts, detailed lessons, etc. Young children learn so much from play, and older children learn so much from reading. Cadence happens to be right in the middle, so she still pretends and plays, but also likes to read. It's been good for this year, that's for sure! One thing that helped me emotionally was realizing that all the things Cadence was 'missing out' on because of me being sick - she'll still be interested in those things a year from now. We can sew, and cook, and do elaborate science projects next year. Which takes pressure off of me to give her every experience in the book right now.

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