In another place, I’ve written about how to prepare for those days when you are exhausted. You’re the mom, the wife, and the teacher — but some days, you’re just too tired to do it all.
However, if you’re blessed to have a mother, a sister, a husband, or a close friend who can visit your home for a day and act as a “substitute teacher,” then you are very blessed indeed!
Here are some ways you can prepare ahead of time for your substitute and make her life easier.
Have a list of daily procedures.
I have a list of things we do each day in my homeschool planning notebook. We don’t always stick to everything on this list, but it gives me a “track to run on.”
For my substitute, I made a much more simplified checklist that she could use. It looks a bit like this:
- Bible reading
- Phonics and math with Alistair
- Math with older kids
- Spelling and copywork
- Take a break
- Science with Teens
- Science with Littles
For most of these subjects, plan something easy for your substitute. For instance, instead of asking your substitute to read aloud a chapter, you could have an audio download prepared. Instead of having her teach a new math concept to your children, you could have a review worksheet printed out and ready.
Place all of this into a folder for your substitute, then label it clearly and place it on a shelf where anyone could find it.
If You Don’t Have a Substitute
If you don’t have anyone who can come over and help, then you can prepare a special tote filled with activities for your children. You might include:
- A special binder filled with fun worksheets you’ve printed ahead from the Internet:
- Special colored pencils, glitter markers, and other craft supplies that are only allowed on special days.
- Toys that only live in this box, such as small puppets, novelty toys from a dollar store, small containers of playdough or modeling clay, Rubix cubes and other brain teasers, travel games, a deck of cards, and so on.
- Science and math manipulatives that are special enough to only live in this box and be used for special occasions. You can find these at garage sales and thrift stores. I’ve used things like fraction sticks, a small microscope with 30 sample slides, a 5-senses kit, wrap-ups for math skills, and so on.
In addition, you might want to have a playlist on YouTube, filled with learning videos (such as Torah Puppets, Shalom Sesame, and documentaries for history, science, Torah, etc.). Continually add new videos to the playlist as you see them, so that something new and exciting will always be there.
You’ll also want to laminate (or insert into a plastic sheet protector) some household management charts. You might want to put a schedule for the day on one side, and a simple chore chart on the other.
Finally, include a few recipes that even young children can make, so that your children will have breakfast and lunch. Include plenty of pictures! (You may want to get a simple children’s cookbook in the house, and let your children practice ahead of time. One book we like is the Kids’ Kosher Cookbook, by Miriam Zakon.)
Keep the House Neat and Tidy
A substitute will never be able to help me if things aren’t picked up and in their places. For instance, how will she be able to do history with the kids if she can’t find the history books because I never got around to putting them back on the shelf each night? How will she drill them on their spelling words she can’t find the books?
Honestly, the best thing you can do as mother — whether you have a substitute or not — to keep your home running smoothly, to keep children feeling calm, and to keep yourself from feeling panicked, is to simply keep your house neat and tidy. Discipline yourself to have one or two daily pick-up times.
(And I don’t even want to bring up the point that you might be too embarrassed to even call a “substitute” friend for help if your house is a royal mess….)
Plan Extra Activities
My sister-in-law did school with my children one day. She was great with them! But she was so good that they finished everything early. Then she had to deal with a bunch of kids who were bored… and you know how that can go!
It would be wise to have some extra activities planned.
First, have some fun worksheets printed out ahead of time and placed into a file folder (in a spot where the substitute can find them, of course). These could be math and phonics sheets, puzzles, art projects, writing starters, or history projects.
Secondly, have a master list of ideas that your kids could look at when they’re bored. I have a pink plastic box filled with 3×5 index cards, each card containing one idea, such as:
- Write a letter to Grandma
- Bake a dessert
- Brush the dog
- Play frisbee golf
- Do a science project
- Make a bead necklace
Have a House Plan
School isn’t so hard for your substitute; what’s difficult is filling your shoes in all the other ways. Write up a simple, one-page list of how you take care of:
- Babies and Toddlers (Naps, meals and snacks, diapers and potty training, clothing, etc.)
- TV, computer, and video game rules
You might get some ideas from my School Day Schedule.
Have a Practice Day
If you’re expecting a baby later this year, or if you’ve got major surgery scheduled, why not have a practice day now, to see if you’ve missed anything.
(Your kids are going to love this…)
Come down one morning with a colored wig on, and maybe some silly glasses. Use a pretend voice, and tell your children that their mother is sick and you are their “substitute teacher.” 🙂
Run through your day (at least through lunch and naps), using just the materials you’ve prepared for the substitute.
- Did you miss anything important that you should have remembered to tell her?
- How did your children behave? Do they need to work on manners, obedience, responsibility, or respect for each other?
- Were all the supplies in their proper places?
I’ve got some more ideas, especially for women with chronic illnesses, in my book, Too Tired, but I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve had to ask someone else to come into your home, what ideas were useful for you? Please leave a comment!