This past year has been hard on our family. My wife, Heather, has been in the hospital several times, requiring stays varying from a couple of days to more than a week. While this is not new to our family (she was on bed rest during several pregnancies), I have had to jump in to teach, cook, and run the house while doing my best to fulfill my responsibilities at work as well.
This time, Heather was not even there to guide me. I had to carry the load of the entire family’s needs, the household’s requirements, work my day-time job, and homeschool the children by myself. This was a stressful time for all.
In some areas we were somewhat prepared and transitioned smoothly. Unfortunately, I discovered a couple of our weaker areas the hard way. If you find yourself in charge of everything during a crisis, here are some tips that helped my family and a couple that we are now incorporating into life, just in case. I hope to share my experience and knowledge about what to do in a crisis so that you can focus on what’s important: your family.
1. Know the Lay of the Land: Dads, you are the principal and head of the household. It’s your job to have an idea of what’s going on in your family’s homeschooling and the day-to-day running of the house. Being an active member of your family’s homeschool makes it easier to transition into substitute teacher mode if necessary. You don’t have to guess about what is being taught or the grade levels for your children; you already know them.
2. Lesson Plan: Have your wife write out yearly, monthly, and weekly plans. The yearly plan should be just a general path for that year. The monthly plan should be more detailed, and the weekly should be very detailed, possibly including book pages/chapters or specific subjects for free study. You also need a list of all outside-the-home classes or lessons, along with times when they meet and contact numbers or email addresses.
Store all homeschooling materials in a central location. It really slows down learning to have to run a treasure hunt to locate all the homeschooling books. Each of the children has a labeled tub in which he or she places all planners, utensils, and paper, and they each have half a shelf on the bookcase, for their homeschooling books. This makes it very easy for them to grab the books for the day and take them to the table.
3. Meal Plan: Create a meal plan in detail, along with a grocery list, preferably for the month. There are many benefits to organizing meal plans, the greatest being you know what you are feeding the family. You don’t have to waste time thinking about what to fix; just follow the plan.
Also, it helps save on food expenses, allowing you to coupon and look for deals while avoiding impulse buys. If needed, one month’s plan can always be used for the next month too.
I like to designate themes, such as Italian Wednesdays or Seafood Fridays, to provide more structure and routine for the children. Eating out is far more expensive over the long run and also offers less nutritional value.
4. Chore Chart: Use a written-out chore chart that has already been established, which helps the family continue to run smoothly—no quibbling about who needs to do what or trying to manipulate the situation to get some unearned free time. Use of an established chore chart also assures that essential tasks, such as animal care or taking out the trash, don’t fall through the cracks. We initiate our chore chart when everything is normal and work out the kinks so that when stresses occur, the family members know what they have to do and follow the routine.
5. Keep the Schedule: Try to sustain the normal routine of the home. Children (especially special needs children like those with Asperger’s or autism) don’t handle getting off of schedule well. They thrive and are more peaceful when following a normal daily schedule.
If you have children in middle school, it helps to post the schedule on the wall or refrigerator. Middle school-aged children can benefit greatly from doing a “special” chore that pertains directly to Mom and sharing it with her that night. This allows the child to feel like she is contributing to making Mom feel better.
6. Keep in Contact: Technology is great. Call your spouse throughout the day, on behalf of the children, and if available, use technology such as Skype, Face Time, Hangouts, etc. to maintain contact with Mom as much as possible. The kids love to say good-night and see Mommy’s face.
A hospital is a lonely place, so don’t forget to take Mom pictures and cards made by the children, to decorate her hospital room. Text pictures to keep the hospitalized spouse deeply involved in your family’s day.
7. Enlist Help: Don’t be reluctant to request assistance from family, friends, and church brothers/sisters, especially with younger children, so that you can work, see your wife, and get errands done. Babysitting, play dates, and carpooling with another family to co-op classes are helpful and can free you to get some of the more difficult tasks accomplished.
Don’t forget to encourage loved ones to visit your spouse in the hospital. Being guys, we sometimes forget how nice and loved it makes them feel to be visited.
By employing these suggestions, my family has weathered several storms. Mother is home as of this article, but due to the chronic nature of her illness, we will employ these tips again.
The Lord designed our household to run best with both a mother and a father, so when a crisis arises one spouse winds up shouldering the workload of two people. These seven suggestions will help you transition roles with more success and less stress. They will ease the load by providing a structure to distribute the weight, which will equip you to continue to provide direction and stability for your family.
Christopher Laurie has been happily married for sixteen years. He is the father to five wonderful children. He and his wife have been homeschooling since 2001. The Laurie family has a rare genetic disorder that causes a variety of learning issues to work through. Chris also supports his wife in her struggle with the same genetic issues. This equips Chris with a very special skill set to help those who support loved ones with chronic illness and successfully homeschool through it all.
Copyright 2014, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the Annual Print 2014 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Publication date: June 13, 2014