Here's something on the co-schooling spectrum that I will bet any reader with older kids could start setting up now: a personal network of online "substitute teachers" to help each other out when one of the moms get sick, but older kids have tasks that need completion.
Yesterday morning, as I curled up on the couch under my snuggly blankie (You know you have one too), I started making my calls.
"I'm sick," I told one of my homeschooling friends. "I need a sub today. #2 has a paper due later this week and needs his rough draft proofed."
"Have him send it to me," she replied.
I contacted another mom by email and asked for their help fielding math questions and called the only one who lives near me for help with the littlest kids, before I let myself begin to doze off.
There were a lot of years in homeschooling that I would have let my own sick day be an excuse for the kids to take a day off. As they've gotten to higher grades and more work, it's not always feasible for them to take a break. Add to that the battle to get back on track once we're off our schedules, and having subs begins to make a lot of sense.
I, personally, have a superpower that lets me fall ill on Friday afternoon, be sick all weekend, and be better on Monday morning. It tends to ruin my weekends but keeps me on track.
Nevertheless, I am not perfect, and occasionally I fall ill at 10:30 am on a Wednesday. This is not a terribly big deal for elementary school kids -- it is entirely workable to lie on the couch and watch nature movies with them, for instance, or let them start a big art project and call it a day -- but as they get into high school, even though they can do much of their work independently, they still need feedback. And often they need that feedback NOW or they can't go on to do the next thing. And then you're stalled out.
One of the things I love about this idea is that most of the homeschooling parents in such a network could be people you have never met in real life, since assignments can be emailed so easily, and we have things like Skype and FaceTime for direct questioning. I do a lot of this in my regular, real-life co-schooling arrangement, but I never thought about having a less formalized, more emergency-based reciprocal arrangement. It should be relatively easy to set something like that up, and could be fun, too. You might find yourself calling on each other in non-emergencies as well.
Younger children really need direct attention, so the online thing won't work so well, but it really strikes me that it would be a good idea for a mother of younger kids to identify another homeschooler living nearby who has children in the same age-range to serve as emergency substitute teacher. Here is what I would do if I found such a person and I was trying to build it from scratch:
- Get together for two planned play dates a year to stay in touch.
- Have a "basic lesson plan" that can be picked up at a moments notice. Will you squirrel away the materials for a big multi-age arts and crafts project, to be used only in case of emergency? Will the substitute teacher fold the "temporary students" into her own children's lessons? Will the children all do worksheets and reading interspersed with an educational video or play math and language board games together?
- If you're troubled by the question, "But what if I get sick 4 times this year and she only gets sick once or not at all? That's not fair!" you could agree in advance to "even it up" at the end of the year by having the "freeloading" family offer a few afternoons of free babysitting, or host a couple of pizza-party playdates.
Hey, before you know it you may even be regular co-schoolers! But even if you aren't, think what you will gain in peace of mind.