The Ultimate List of Substitute Teachers for Homeschool Sick Days

The ULTIMATE List of Substitute Teachers for Homeschoolers - this is an awesome list of resources to keep your homeschool going even when you're stuck on the couch!

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.  

HISTORY

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

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.  

READING/LITERATURE

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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Watch Animated Shel Silverstein Poems

Shel Silverstein poems have a special place in my heart.  We used “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “A Light in the Attic” to introduce our children to the world of poetry during our first year of homeschool.  They quickly grew to love our poetry time together. Even our youngest, who wasn’t “in school” yet, would scamper out of her room to join us when she heard them being read, and she would cry alligator tears if she thought that she had missed “silly poems” for the day.

Naturally, I was over the moon when I found out that Shel Silverstein had a youtube channel where, not only are the poems animated, they are narrated by Mr. Silverstein himself!  If your family loves these books the way that we do, head on over there now to check it out!

The Shel Silverstein Youtube Channel

 

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How to Succeed In Homeschool Without Really Trying

How to Succeed in Homeschool Without Really Trying - 5 ways to stop trying so hard and start enjoying your homeschool!

Ok, so when I was in middle school, I got to go see a production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying that was being performed in Dallas.  I think that a lot of the humor went over my pre-teen head, but the lead role was being played by none other than the Karate Kid himself, Ralph Macchio.  I just felt super cool getting to be in the same room with such an iconic movie star.

But as we gear up to start another year of homeschool, I’m reminding myself of the lessons we’ve learned along the way and I noticed a theme throughout a lot of them.  Most of the stress we encountered in our first years of homeschooling were just due to misguided efforts.  We were simply trying too hard in all the wrong ways.

Here are 5 ways that you need to stop trying in order to improve your homeschooling experience…

How to Succeed in Homeschool Without Really Trying - 5 ways to stop trying so hard and start enjoying your homeschool!Maybe this doesn’t apply to you.  Maybe you truly do love EVERY. SINGLE. PIECE. of curriculum you ordered this year.  But maybe, just maybe – there’s something in there that just isn’t working for you.  You know, that one book that makes you cringe a little every time you reach for it.  Or the one that creates friction between you and your little learner each time it opens.

I’m giving you permission to hate it.  I’m even giving you permission to shelve it for the rest of the year (or until you find a suitable alternative).  I know that diving back in to the sea of choices can be overwhelming.  I also know that sometimes you plunked down a nice chunk of change for that book you now despise.  Fear not, you can resell it to someone who might not hate it.  You can take a little time to explore your options.

Even if it means taking a small break from that subject, it’s worth the trouble you’ll save yourself in the long run.  Pressing though a bad curriculum choice is just going to start planting or cultivating those “I hate school!” seeds in both you and your learner.  I don’t know about you, but we try to maintain a more “Learning is awesome!!!” type of atmosphere.  I’d much rather sacrifice a few weeks of (insert crazy-making subject here) than sacrifice an ounce of the positivity that I’ve worked hard to grow.

How to Succeed in Homeschool Without Really Trying - 5 ways to stop trying so hard and start enjoying your homeschool!I’ll never forget our first week of first grade. I had so many grand plans and oh-so-much to learn.  I set my alarm for 7:45 AM and hopped out of bed ready to prepare a nice filling breakfast for the kids, walk them through their morning chores, and have lessons started at 8:30 AM sharp!  And for the first day, it was a success.  But here’s the thing – I am not a morning person.  I mean, REALLY not a morning person.  As in, please don’t talk to me for at least 30 minutes after my first cup of coffee… Clearly, “first day of school” adrenaline saved us on Monday, but things quickly went downhill from there.

I was short-tempered, grouchy, and ready for lessons to be over as soon as we started.  Soon, I abandoned the alarm clock and we adopted a much more “organic” schedule in the morning.  None of my kids are naturally early risers and we’re all quite content to have a slow-moving morning that eases us into the day.  So, we wake up when we wake up.  Breakfast is ready when it’s ready.  After morning chores, we sit down at the table for lessons.  Sometimes it’s 9:30, sometimes it’s 11:00.  We have routine and structure, but there was just no need for us to be tied to a clock.

After a leisurely wake up and a strong cup of coffee, I’m much more able to enjoy our learning time and I have the patience to walk through tricky concepts, instead of feeling like a giant ball of stress the whole time.  It was a major improvement for us.

I have a friend who realized that her boys did much better with school if they took it in smaller chunks throughout their day, instead of one-after-another all at once.  Each family has their own quirks and rhythm.  Trial and error are great teachers in this arena.

How to Succeed in Homeschool Without Really Trying - 5 ways to stop trying so hard and start enjoying your homeschool!When I started teaching my twins how to read, I had totally arbitrary ideas about what milestones they should be hitting at certain ages based on my knowledge of what 2 or 3 other children had been able to do at that age.  Since I’m so awesome and my kids are so awesome, I just assumed that “anything you can do, we can do better.” Right?  Oh, Sara… Sara, Sara, Sara… Somehow I actually thought that by sheer enthusiasm, there would be no challenge we couldn’t overcome in whatever timeline I thought sounded good.

I’m sorry…  It’s hard to type while laughing this hard…

Y’all.  Developmental milestones are a crucial part of the homeschooling journey – HOWEVER – the windows for normal development in the early education years are HUUUUUUUGGGGEEEE.  Did that stop me from panicking when I saw my arbitrary deadlines flying by? Nope!  This is one of those lessons that I could only learn in hindsight.  Now that my oldest kids are reading independently, I’ve finally let go of the unnecessary pressure I had been putting on myself.

As my youngest starts her first official year of school with us this fall, she will reap the benefits of a relaxed mommy who can work with her at whatever pace she needs to be able to master the content in an enjoyable way.

So, while I’m not advising that you ignore all milestones, I gently suggest that you make sure you’re not putting undue stress on you and your kiddo for no real reason.  And when you finally see them making developmental leaps in their own time, you will be overflowing with pride (while breathing a huge sigh of relief.) 😉

How to Succeed in Homeschool Without Really Trying - 5 ways to stop trying so hard and start enjoying your homeschool!You may be your child’s only teacher but you are NOT their only resource.  I spent far too long feeling like we were only “doing school” if I was right in the middle of it.  If you are schooling a 5 year old, that may be appropriate.  But I have often found that my children are just as successful (if not more!) when I get them started on something and then leave them be.  If I’m feeling productive, I’ll go wash the dishes or fold some laundry.  If I’m feeling stressed, I’ll browse Pinterest.  The bottom line is – they can learn without you.  Repeat after me: They – can – learn – without – you.

Here’s a perfect example.  Last year, I was really struggling with finding a successful approach to helping one child progress with her reading.  It was becoming one of those tedious, stressful parts of our day and I knew we needed a change.  I found a brilliant app that incorporated all of the elements that we were struggling to fit into our time together and did so in a way that she was excited to use it.  We switched from working on reading one on one 5 days a week, to having just one session together each week while she worked with the app independently everyday.

Her fluency skyrocketed. My stress level dropped.  Everyone wins.

Another example is the way we started listening to audio books via Librivox.com.  While our family read alouds had been one of my favorite parts of the day previously, this past year I have struggled with chronic illness and my symptoms were making it hard to complete the amount of reading we were used to.  I grudgingly started to play audio books on the days when I felt really crummy but it didn’t take long before I realized how well my kids were responding to them.  They were absorbing the content well and willing to listen to far more than I could read out loud in one sitting.  By incorporating audio books, we have far surpassed our reading goal for the year and discovered that we have some serious auditory learners on our hands.

Just because you can do something on your own, doesn’t mean you have to.  There are so many resources out there – take advantage of them!

How to Succeed in Homeschool Without Really Trying - 5 ways to stop trying so hard and start enjoying your homeschool!I’m going to be honest here.  I didn’t take any of the photos in this post.  I’m a photographer by trade and totally could have, but I didn’t.  They’re stock photos.  I say this because we are constantly bombarded by snippets of people’s lives online and I want you to remember that nothing is ever exactly as it seems.  My sink is full of dishes and if you showed up to use my bathroom, I’d be embarrassed right now.

Stop trying to make every day and every activity “pinterest worthy”.  It doesn’t matter how good something looks on Instagram if your kids remember it as the time that Mommy was really stressed. I love to document our schooling journey from time to time but I’ve learned to make a real effort not to let that get it the way of the journey itself.  If I find myself snapping at someone because I’m too focused on that perfect shot, I put the camera away.

The most common source of stress is unmet expectations.  If homeschooling is stressing you out, take a step back and see if any of that stress is coming from feeling like you haven’t met the expectations of others.  In the end, just remember that it’s going to be your children’s opinion of your homeschooling that matters most.

 

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Free Early Reader E-books

click here to download

These little e-books are perfect for early readers who need to build some confidence.  With lots of rhymes and visual cues, your little ones will love reading about rat, cat, and bear in these silly picture books.  Load them onto your ipad or iphone (you can even put them into your kindle app!) for your little reader today.

Free Early Reader E-books!!!

Where is cat? is a silly story full of visual cues to help with the bigger words.  When your little reader finds the cat in places like a bucket of popcorn or riding a banana, giggles are sure to abound!

Free Early Reader E-books!!!

Pat’s Cat is full of rhymes and really reinforces the -at family of words (cat, rat, hat, mat, sat).  Little readers LOVE to see what happens when Cat and Rat finally meet up at the end…

Free Early Reader E-books!!!

Bear is a series of rhymes with visual cues.  Just wait until you see “dressed-up-like-a-bunny” bear!

Free Early Reader E-books!!!

Free Early Reader E-books!!!

I like books is also full of rhymes that help little readers out.  Free Early Reader E-books!!!Free Early Reader E-books!!!

…and who can resist this sweet little guy at the end???

Free Early Reader E-books!!!

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