When we were newlyweds, my husband did a short stint of substitute teaching. The way it worked was simple – you applied for the position. You attended a short workshop to learn the in’s and out’s of the district. Your contact info was added to the directory of substitutes. And then a teacher could call you at 6am when they woke up with a raging stomach bug or whatever ailment was going to keep them out of the classroom that day.
As a homeschooler, I have often fantasized about that magical list…
What a luxury to be able to call in an alternate?!?
Granted, if you’re a relatively healthy person, maybe sick days don’t bother you. As long as they are few and far between, you may be content to throw on some Netflix documentaries and call it a day.
But what happens when sickness knocks you down and keeps you there? What if you’re already behind in a few subjects and dread the idea of lagging even further?
This was the story of our entire 2nd grade year. My autoimmune and endocrine disorders grew out of control. My symptoms drove me to maintaining the bare minimum on a regular basis. To make things even worse, I had planned for a surge in new subjects that were all entirely dependent on me. It was an ideal match for our educational philosophy, but it was a terrible fit for what life was going to throw at us that year.
I spent the fall semester dealing with frequent bouts of vertigo, low blood pressure, intense nausea, and extreme fatigue – (as a mother of twins who often slept in 40 minute increments while they were teething, I don’t use the term extreme fatigue lightly, this was truly like nothing I’d ever experienced) as well as seeing various doctors trying to pinpoint what was causing it. It was January before we finally got a diagnosis. I almost cried tears of joy when I heard the words “There IS something wrong with you. You have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.” Having a name for my condition made it much easier to deal with the symptoms mentally. But there were still months ahead of us before we would see a major improvement in managing them.
Spring semester was full of blood tests and medication adjustments in an attempt to bring my thyroid levels down to a healthy place. Along with more days in bed than I’d care to count. Lots of our curriculum gathered dust as I slowly learned how to adapt our plan to take some of the pressure off of myself. By the end of the year, I’d discovered some priceless resources that allowed me to take the occasional sick day without needing to cancel school. In that process, I realized that some of them were even doing a better job at achieving our objectives than I was!
So without further ado, here is your magical list of substitute teachers! Feel free to recuperate in bed with Downton Abbey while your children’s brains are still getting adequately stuffed with educational goodness. Most of these resources include options for all elementary ages.
Story of the World Audiobook and Activity Guide – I am astounded at what a huge hit these have been this year. My kids literally beg me for history chapters and activity sheets. The activity guide provides simple crafts and coloring sheets to be completed independently, as well as more involved activities that require parental help. I love their suggestions for the more involved activities. For example, we made models of Roman columns with sugar cookie dough and dusted them with cinnamon for an aged look. Then we made foil packet Roman soldier meals cooked over a fire. But my kids are more than happy to do the independent activities and coloring sheets while listening to the audiobooks. History has become a completely hands-off subject for me when I need it to be. These resources aren’t free, but they are definitely well worth the cost!
Math U See Worksheet Generator (FREE)- Even if you don’t use Math U See, you can access this site for free. It generates super customized math worksheets with answer keys. (Hint: if you don’t use Math U See, the levels “Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc” correlate to “1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, etc.”) Print out a couple of worksheets and answer keys and let your student review math facts on their own.
Math Kid App (FREE) – For an even easier option, try the Math Kid app! I love how customizable and no-nonsense it is. It really is just a math drill app. No shooting stars or cartoon animals needed. You can opt for visual hints or not. You can choose to do addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division, along with even more options making it just right for your kiddo.
Ambleside Book List on Librivox (FREE)- If Ambleside and Librivox are foreign words to you, allow me to translate… The Ambleside book list is rich, classic literature organized into age appropriate categories. If you’re ever stuck for what to read next, it’s a fantastic resource. For elementary aged students, these are meant to be read aloud, not for independent reading time. That’s where Librivox comes in! Librivox is an online library of FREE audiobooks. You can stream them or download them, both from your computer or their free app. This is another resource that my kids absolutely LOVE!!! They can listen attentively to Librivox for far longer than I can read aloud. We still try to maintain a good mix of reading to our children ourselves and using Librivox. But I know the amount of literature they’ve listened to has sky rocketed since we incorporated it.
One Minute Reader (Free to try) – Don’t be fooled by the name of this app, this will fill more than one minute in your school day. I could write an entire post on why I love this app so much and why everyone with a struggling or reluctant reader NEEDS to be using this, but for now I’ll simplify. Basically, the child has one minute to “cold read” a passage. When one minute is up, they tap the word they stopped at and it scores how many words they were able to read in one minute. Next, the passage is read aloud to them by the app as many times as they would like. They can also tap on difficult words to hear a definition. When they feel ready, they move on to a “hot read” where they get another chance to read the passage for one minute. Then they get to see the improvement in their speed
after becoming familiar with the passage. Try it for free, but even at $19.99 for a level-appropriate pack, I consider this a homeschooling steal! Worth every penny and more!
Sight Words by Little Speller (FREE) – For young students, this is another fantastic, no-nonsense drilling app. Super customizable and intuitive. Let your little one get practice with letter sounds, spelling, and sight word recognition all at once.
Toss in a few chores, some age appropriate copywork, a little independent reading time and you can convalesce the day away without shutting down your homeschool entirely.
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