Top 3 Tips: Homeschooling when sickness hits!

I bet you can relate to this scene!

You are nursing full time to the sick kiddos in your home, so you get derailed from teaching the kids not sick. Then when the sick ones get better, the healthy ones get sick! This can go on for several weeks, one sick kiddo at a time!

Then you get sick.

What can a homeschool mom do?

You could just be sick and skip school, right?

“Plug-in” the kids with a few documentaries and viola it counts as a school day, right? BUT you have already missed so much time with them…

Or you could do these TOP 3 easy things that actually still get school work done while you are in survival mode.

Over the past 25 years homeschooling my seven kiddos, there were plenty of times that I actually never got sick, call it mom-immunity!! But there were also plenty of times that I too got whatever was running through my family!

I do not live near any of my close relatives and most family is about two hours away. I had to learn early on how to manage without much help!

They say necessity is the mother of invention and I truly believe that! More importantly, I do believe that God’s grace is sufficient. All too often I was way too hard on myself and expected way too much!

Having mom or the family sick brings with it amble opportunities to really focus on the overall important things of life.

Tip #1: Mandatory Quiet time

This tip is especially helpful when you have kiddos all under the age of 8. During this time of my life, I would gather every, single one of us in my bedroom and close the door. Heck, I got my cold from them so we would just plop on my bed in one, giant, sick bundle.

My family LOVES to color and this really was a salvation. I would always keep on hand imaginative, coloring books such as the ones from Dover Publications. This publisher is a fantastic resource because of the enormous wealth of coloring book choices with excellent and informative illustrations. To make it count as homeschooling, I chose coloring books correlated with our current school work in history, science or literature! The company offers free samples, you can just download now. They often have free shipping too. My best bets are the history coloring books, or the nature coloring books, something for everyone at different ages!

Tip #2: Reading aloud

Having sickness in the house, whether it is just the kiddos or includes mom, is the perfect opportunity to have read aloud time take over most of the homeschooling day. Count your sickness as a blessing to get you started in one of the most profound experiences in your child’s development, reading to you or listening to others read aloud! There are so many benefits to reading aloud, from the practical, such as language development, knowledge gained and shared, literacy skills, brain development to the spiritual and so much more!

I did a post: How to Make Read Aloud Time Work, with helpful tips and book recommendations. Read together from the couch or bed! Pick important stories too, that infuse virtues into your homeschool! Love this quote…

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

GK Chesterton

I have plenty of book reviews here on the BLOG. And I keep adding more weekly! These are book reviews culled from my 25 years of homeschooling and running our family business choosing the best books!

Tip #3: Play with Games and Toys

Yes, I did say play with games and toys and I mean for it to count as a homeschool day! However, not just any games or toys. I do not mean computer games. There are plenty of them, and free ones too BUT when you are sick or the kids are sick, it is so easy to lose track of time. Even if you set a timer for the kids to limit computer time, survival mode is not the time to monitor their computer usage. The result of which would only cause you to spend time trying to undo the damage of brain fatigue with crabby kids!

kids with tangram

It is really important to have on hand games and toys that actually teach important skills, such as spatial relationships, math skills, reasoning, color, matching, sequencing, timelines, communications, creativity, etc. Do you see where I am going with this? No babysitting by using TV and the computer!

Here is a handy list of my best games and toys that count for homeschooling:

  • Tangrams or Pattern Blocks- spatial relations, color recognition, patterning
  • Lacing and Tracing Cards – fine motor skills
  • Puppets – ones they make from a kit or animal and fairy tale figures (for storytelling)
  • Beading and laces – for patterns, colors, sequencing
  • Double-sided Geoboards – basic geometry of squares, rectangles, triangles, polygons and symmetry
  • Puzzles – letter recognition, spatial relations
  • Scrabble or Hangman – spelling practice
  • Two-sided counters – practice math facts

BONUS Tip – for your older kiddos

Chances are the older kiddos can manage most of their assigned work themselves for a few days, with no great loss. They most certainly should be able to read all assigned work. They can write down all their questions, or jot the pages from their workbooks that gave them trouble while you were down and out. I often found that without relying on my constant presence they could do a heck more than they realize. All too often they know how to do just the minimum which includes asking mom for the answers. Here is their chance to stretch themselves and you.

Give the big kiddos the chance to shine and be the family hero by asking them to teach their younger sibling a subject, be it math or spelling or something they love and excel in. Teaching younger siblings reinforces already learned concepts and skills with the added benefit that the repetition reinforces and strengthens it.

Be gentle with yourself! Rest, and get better homeschool mom!

What are your survival mode tips? Please comment below! The best tips come from those of us in the trenches!!!

How to Make Read Aloud Time Work

Are you too tired, too busy, or too distracted to make time to read aloud? 

You’ve spent all day as teacher, chef, housekeeper, peacemaker, chauffeur, you name it—

There are countless benefits to family read aloud sessions that go well beyond the educational, and these benefits outweigh all your reasons for skipping it! 

Infographic on benefits to reading aloud
Image Source:Read Aloud 15 MINUTES

In addition to creating priceless family memories, these read aloud moments also give mom the chance to revisit her favorite childhood books or read the ones you missed the first time around.  It is also a fantastic way to wind down your household after a hectic day.

Even once your children begin reading proficiently on their own, family read aloud time still offers wonderful opportunities for the whole family to gather together and simply enjoy each other with great literature.

Need help to begin or keep it up?

If you find that the time you designate for family reading aloud always slips by, here is a helpful hint:

Set a timer for your desired reading time. 

I found that 15- 20 minutes before “lights out” is ample time to read a chapter or two.  It wasn’t until I placed this desire in my heart that this time became a reality. Once I did, I was amazed how quickly read aloud time became our regular nightly routine.  In fact, it was considered a harsh punishment by my kids to skip bedtime read aloud time! They grew to LOVE this special time each and every year, even through the teen years!

Don’t know what books to read, for each age?

Here are my all time favorite booklists! I kept a copy of each ready in hand when I went to the library or requested books on-line. Once you get familiar with favorite authors you can pick up great book bargains at the local thrift store or library book sale. My library keeps a section of used books for sale and I often find great hardcover copies of treasured family favorites.

Catholic booklists
  • A Mother’s List of Books by Theresa Fagan – My all time FAVORITE, listed by age with annotations too!
  • For the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittmann – great chapter on reading aloud with tons of book recommendations.
  • The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease – great tips and great list especially for reading aloud to children!
  • Program for Achieving Character Education by Monica Speach – Wonderful literature suggestions listed by age and coordinated to the virtues and much more!
  • A Landscape with Dragons by Michael O’Brien- back of book has a great list.
  • Let the Authors Speak by Carolyn Hatcher (plenty of used copies- worth finding if you love history).
  • Books That Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories by William Kilpatrick – virtue based categories and also by age.
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt – classic with beloved books especially for the younger crowd.
  • Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson – her lists contains books by topic, great to coordinate with your children’s interests, all by age!

Get everyone involved!

A wonderful tip to get every member of the family interested and involved in read aloud time is to let each person take turns choosing the books. 

Additionally, designate specific nights so each child may take his/her turn in reading aloud.  This gives your children an opportunity to practice reading plus it helps them to become effective public speakers. 

Hearing books read aloud also fosters better writing skills.  According to Andrew Pudewa of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, to become a better writer, you need to draw upon the foundations of the patterns within language. 

What better way to strengthen that foundation than by reading aloud, where the nuances and characteristics of language come alive. Reading aloud forces the reader to slow the pace and really process the information, processing the whole picture. 

Once children become accomplished readers, many tend to skim or scan through pages of a book as they read silently.  They miss so much, but if they read aloud, the content is displayed as complete rather than choppy fragments.  Our older boys were really struggling with reading Shakespeare’s plays. This is until they decided to read it aloud to one another.  They were astonished at how quickly and clearly they could grasp the concepts and summarize the content simply by hearing it out loud!

And that goes for just about any really good story! Language patterns, dialogue, plot points and characterizations are best understood when you read aloud as you are forced to speak every single word the author wrote in the sequence they wrote it! You will be teaching your kids the beginnings of reading for a deeper understanding!

What are your favorite read aloud time books? Share them in the comments below!

Ready, Set, Go, Homeschool Mom!

I love this saying as it evokes a clear image for me!  It is the image of a runner at the starting line of a race. They have been preparing for months to run this race.  The runner is eager to begin and give their very best effort to run the race.

catholic homeschool mom

In my mind, I can see that this runner is different. She does not run for personal gain but for a higher reward.  This reward is priceless. This reward is satisfying on such a deep level that the runner draws strength, her energy and perseverance from the mere thought of obtaining it.

What does this have to do with homeschooling?

I see the runner as a mom who homeschools her children.

I work best visualizing images, making movies in my head of the life I want to lead. Being fed on a steady diet of old fashioned black and white movies from the 30’s and 40’s, I was drawn to the messages told in a story. There was always the hero and his journey towards some good for himself or humanity. I find that the best books I cherish have strong hero stories!

It is no wonder that I was drawn to the ultimate story, the very best hero tale, when I was invited back home to the faith of my birth. This story is the one our Lord has told through His Word and through his Apostles and Saints, handed down through the ages.

This ultimate story is the center of my family’s homeschool journey.  It is the energy my family drawns upon to direct each day. 

It is all that matters in the end. 

Catholic Homeschool mom

A little while ago I wrote a guide called, Get Ready. This handy little guide I developed as a starting point for anyone who wants to begin their family journey towards an authentic and doable Catholic homeschool.  In it, I introduced the PRRR method, (a silly acronym, I know). Firstly you start with Prayer, then you go through the next steps of Read, Research, and Reflect. In addition, there are helpful suggestions and worksheets to guide you through this EASY process.

“Get Set, Go!”

Above all, what I learned after 25 years of homeschooling and consulting, is that you “Set” your life first, then layer in school. I know that seems unfamiliar and maybe even confusing at first, but think about it for a minute. The only way to find balance, to have enough time for all your roles, as wife, mom, and teacher is to SET LIFE and fit in school.

To do otherwise is a certain recipe for overwhelm.

Consider this…would you buy a car without thinking of who is going to drive it and be a passenger in it?  Would you make dinner by never looking at the ingredients you are adding to the dinner, let alone open the fridge?

In other words, when you choose to homeschool, to do something extraordinary, you have the opportunity to personalize and tailor the education of each and every child in your family.

However, can you possibly teach so many different levels with so many different personalities and learning styles?

It is possible! I have personally witnessed many, many families do this. Ordinary people with an extraordinary desire to challenge the status quo of education. You have already begun, when you decided to take on the primary role of educator.

How? You are a parent.

catholic homeschool mom

Two powerful passages come to mind that speak volumes:

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. (CCC 2223)

The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies. (CCC 2224)

Relax, over the next few weeks I will be introducing practical techniques that help you SET YOUR LIFE.

So, go ahead and spend time first in getting to know what is in your fridge BEFORE you make dinner….spend time this week getting to really know your kids interests and talents.

Comment below what you “found in your fridge”…

Keep Things in Perspective

Throughout the school year, daily life becomes so congested with activity that at times, homeschooling can be overwhelming. To combat discouragement I find it necessary to remind myself WHY I homeschool and review my top priority.

On those days when a full school day is impossible, I mentally consider what I can do to work toward my final goal. For me, my final goal is to educate my children so they can live a well informed Catholic life that will lead them to heaven. During busy times, as long as some part of our day leads us towards this end result, I consider our school day a success.

Don’t Lose Your Place

At the beginning of the school year, I tape a ribbon in each of the children’s books, workbooks, and my teaching manuals to keep our places easily.  Use satin ribbon about 4 to 5 inches longer than the book.  Cut the ends of the ribbon diagonally to keep them from fraying.  Use clear box tape and tape on the inside cover close to the spine.  When I had several children using the Harp & Laurel Wreath, I put a different color for each child to mark the places of the poems they were working on.  The ribbons don’t fall out like bookmarks often do. For the workbooks, at the end of the year you can take the ribbons out and use in another book. I got the idea from a few of my books which had a ribbon marker.

Prepare the Night Before

My tip for homeschooling is to prepare what work is to be completed the evening prior.  I have four children to homeschool, ages 9 and under, and they need quite a bit of direction.  Each has a folder of their own.  Each night before bed, I pull out of each workbook what sheets that need to be completed and place them in their folder.  In their other books I put sticky bookmarks on the page the page they need to start reading and finish reading (or working).  Then in the morning, once they are ready for the day and have had breakfast, they can find their pile of work and start working independently.  Even my kindergarten age child can get a start on simple worksheets or lessons while I am still helping the rest of the family get situated for the morning.

Keep a Logbook

If you are just starting out and you feel like you are not doing “enough” when educating your child, keep a log for two weeks of the things you did with your child/children, whether you meant them to be educational or not.  After two weeks, look back and be proud of yourself.  Chances are that you are doing more than the school would be, partly because they are not waiting for the classroom management parts, getting in line, having assemblies, and the like.  Pat yourself on the back, your kids are doing fine!

Write Essays By Hand

Have your high-schooler write some essays by hand.   From the time she could type, our oldest wrote all of her essays in Word on the computer.  It never occurred to us that she would need to write an essay by hand.  Last February she participated in a scholarship competition.  The competition included a timed essay.  She was given paper and a subject.  Fortunately, we learned of the essay a month ahead of the competition, so she had practiced, but it was still difficult for her.