Substitute Teachers

Simple Homeschool had a post recently about what to have people do if someone else takes over watching your kids (and therefore homeschooling them) during times like births, vacations and illnesses.  There was lots of good advice and in the comments people talked about how they left assignments, instructions, homework, etc. and got it done in their absences.

I agree that it all needs to be simplified and pared down in times like those, but I’d take it a step further.   (You know what a rabble rouser I am.)

What regular schoolwork should your “substitute teachers” make your kids keep up with?


Think about it.  The people who will be temporarily teaching your children have an entire lifetime’s worth of knowledge they can share with your lucky kiddos.

Instead of focusing on the same old stuff they can learn any time, let the kids learn naturally from their caretakers about those things that only they can teach.

Grandparents can often pass on skills and stories such as:

  • War stories (to the child’s level, of course)
  • Immigration stories
  • Travel tales of other countries
  • Stories about what life was like during their childhoods
  • Genealogy (where is the family from, are any famous people in the lineage, how far back has the family tree been traced, any interesting stories?)
  • Sewing
  • Knitting, crocheting and other handiwork
  • Gardening
  • Canning
  • Cooking specialty recipes and ethnic dishes
  • Skills related to their careers
  • Talk about historic events they lived through

Family friends and other relatives can share similar stories and skills, and hopefully take them on pertinent adventures.  Whether it’s teaching kids how to surf, talking about growing up in Brooklyn or taking them to the city compost facility, our kids can learn so much more than usual by making the “substitute” the teacher.

This week, Annalee is up north with our friends Guy and Val (her first time staying alone away from home more than overnight!).

Val asked me if she was supposed to give Anna any type of school work and I told her she could work some things like math into their time together (such as asking her to figure out totals and taxes while shopping) but that nothing more was necessary.

Val is an attorney and is planning on bringing Anna to court with her for one of her court dates.  Guy is a computer expert who can teach her computer shortcuts and has already introduced her to new games and programs (and fixed our computer!).

Together, their skills, histories and interests include subjects as diverse as investment training, sociology, the Anishinabe people, domestic violence, poetry, training cats, role playing games, home renovation, biking, legislation, travel in Europe, science fiction novels, health, Jewish culture, primitive technology, cooking and wilderness training — just to name a few.

Talk about some educational opportunities!

The multiplication tables are not going to fall out of her memory in 5 days away from us.

In the meantime, their plans include going to court and the UU church with Val, seeing the new Harry Potter movie, nature photography, computer fun, movies, cooking together, visiting a Mexican restaurant, shopping, reading some of Val’s favorite science fiction books from her younger years… and lots of talking.

How could spelling lists and math facts compare with that? 🙂

Caveat:  Sometimes loved ones are eager to take part in homeschooling because they want to get a feel for what the kids do or just think it sounds fun to play teacher.  It’s a great idea to leave open-ended plans for that sort of opportunity, should your children and caretakers want to take part in it.  Kids may be eager to show off their math skills or do a sugar cube Egyptian pyramid with that favorite grown up.  It’s a great idea to leave some workbooks, art supplies, educational games and so on in case they want to take advantage of it!


2 thoughts on “Substitute Teachers

  1. Thanks for reading my post and adding your own great thoughts. I think this is so true that we need to let our “substitutes” pour into our children in their own special way with their own unique gifts. Relationships with others are their own teaching moment. I also agree that leaving some “suggested” work or supplies is helpful. If the caretaker isn’t familiar with homeschooling, they may need “inspiration” to get them started. Sometimes helping a child with their math facts reminds them of their own school memories and incites many stories they can share.
    .-= Lora Lynn´s last blog ..Wait- We Have To Actually Leave The House =-.


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