Monday, August 6, 2007

Homeschooling on Bed Rest

When I was pregnant with my fifth child and in my second year of homeschooling, we moved to a different state. Just before we moved, I went into early labor and was put on bedrest for the rest of the pregnancy. My oldest was nine and my youngest was two. You can imagine that it was not easy to keep to an orderly schedule with all this chaos. As we neared my due date, we discovered that the baby was in a breech position and for his safety we decided on a Caesarean section. It took a good couple of months to recover from that.

How we did it: My husband was good enough to get a cleaning lady to come to our rental every two weeks for that year. Having most of the deep cleaning done for us was a great help. He also took over a good part of the cooking and laundry until I was in better health.

As for the homeschooling, that was when I learned that lessons didn't have to be at the kitchen table, nor did they have to be all structured workbooks or texts. I learned that we could do phonics on the bed, that reading aloud good stories to first graders while nursing the infant was easy and delightful, and that we could take advantage of "real life" for our academics.

For instance, in our tiny background, the kids found snails and delighted in their ornate shells and slow movements. They named their snails and we started little nature books based on their "pets'" adventures. They would draw pictures or sometimes print out photos and little articles from Encarta, and they'd dictate stories which I would write down for them.

Finding their snails in Encarta led to other encyclopedia hunts for different subjects. They enjoyed printing out little photos and then pasting them in their books along with little fact files.

From that year I also have notebooks with transcriptions from the video version of Tolkien's "Return of the King". My five year old daughter audio-taped the video, then dictated it to me, and I typed it into the computer. I would print them out, and then she'd read them for her reading practice. They spent hours "playing" at being Frodo and Sam and have little index-card Lord of the Ring stories dating from that time, illustrated with bright-colored markers. My seven year old son would read Dorling Kindersly Eyewitness Junior books and Bible stories for his reading practice, and they both still have an intense love for nature studies and Tolkien based on their learning that year.

My very lively toddler was a handful, but he learned to be quiet and attentive for long periods of time while we read aloud. That was also the year we learned that drawing, coloring Dover books, or open-ended crafts during reading time can prolong an active young one's attention span.

Though it was difficult facing a move, a difficult pregnancy and birth, and a rental in a strange city all in the same year, I can see how God used that time to lean me away from my set ideas of what "homeschool" should look like. Without that time of difficulty I might have stayed with a "school in a box" mentality in order to be safe, even though my instincts told me that kids need time to explore as well as structure in their learning.

Seeing that the kids could learn in that more relaxed form gave me confidence that we could weather disruptive life events and I did not have to get too stressed about the kids getting behind.

Contributed by Willa from California

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