There are many reasons why one may find themselves on bed rest – a sudden accident or illness, surgery recovery or a troubled pregnancy are a few. Rarely are these scheduled. Having been on bed rest several times now with lengths of time varying from weeks to months, while homeschooling children, I thought I would pass along some helpful advice on how you can both be pre-prepared for and survive such a time so you can continue homeschooling on bed rest.
Be Organized In Advance:
- In Your Home – Organize your home so that everything has a place and are grouped with similar items (hats and gloves have bins near shoes and coats, your baking supplies are all together in labeled canisters in a cupboard and foods organized in your pantry according to use, such as soups, pre-packaged meals, snacks, pastas). Give each of your children their own bin to put their special treasures that are special to them (in other words, they don’t want to share) or wouldn’t otherwise have a home, like birthday party goody bag items or craft projects. In this way, when you ask them to put away or assemble together items, they immediately know where to look for them. Similarly, should a friend offer to help straighten up for you and ask where to put things away, it will be both easy and obvious.
- For School – Organize each subject in its own bin or drawer. Completed work should also have a folder for it to go directly into at the end of a day. Larger items can be photographed and stored in a reporting document ready to be given to your portfolio or support teacher. In this way a friend could assemble the work in an afternoon for submission. Having documented weekly or monthly completion targets will help you or anyone else helping you know what you are working in and need to be completed. If your need for care level is at such a point where you need to go stay with someone else, this will greatly help you (and them) be prepared.
- Time – Front load your work load for the beginning of the year and the beginning of each term, leaving more elective topics for the end of the term. Doing so gives you more flexibility over what you can cover and over possible time constraints.
Train Your Children:
- Ask Your Children to Put Away Things – Train your children to put things back into the places you’ve created for them. Although they may not be consistent, if the time comes when they need to be called on to help, even young children will be familiar with where everything lives and be able to contribute. Ask the children to use a digital camera to assist you with being your eyes, if necessary while on bed rest, to ensure chores are accomplished. If you end up being cared for by someone else in their home, you will be particularly grateful you have instilled this habit in them, so you do not feel an excessive burden to them.
- Train Your Children to Be Self-Sufficient – Be proactive with enabling your children to be self-sufficient care-takers of their own homes at all times and regardless of their gender. Set up an age-appropriate timeline for your children to mark their own school work, operate a microwave, make their own bed, sort, wash and put away laundry, sew on buttons and fix small holes, follow a basic recipe (and later, more detailed holiday meals), boil water, wash dishes and even change the oil in a vehicle. By this I mean that they should be familiar enough with these tasks if called upon – not that they may necessarily do them on a consistent basis or without supervision – but they should be familiar enough with the tasks and with what your expectations look like. The more they become capable of before you find yourself on bed rest, the more helpful your children will be and better your family will endure the time of bed rest.
- Create Areas of Specialty – Establish one child as a specialist in a particular area, such as bathroom tidiness or serving food. These areas of specialty should rotate to other children routinely, but establishing specialty areas empowers your children and prevents power struggles.
Set up a Learning Station:
- Separate Teaching Subjects – Arrange a teaching spot while on bed rest, something like a set of plastic drawers, to go right next to where you lay. Dedicate each drawer to only one subject with everything necessary to complete the work. Also have a container with all the appropriate implements to write, measure, cut and colour. This will prevent the frustration of wasted time and your student disappearing while going to hunt for them. Concentrate on one subject and get as much done in a set amount of time as possible to save time and concentrate your effort. The next day, focus on another subject. This is particularly effective with subjects that have workbooks.
- Have a Reporting Notebook – it is likely verbal learning will be a highly effective method of teaching at this time, especially for those subjects that the work is not laid out in a work book, so be prepared to document it for the purpose of sharing with your support/portfolio teacher. This reporting can easily be typed or scanned and submitted by email if necessary.
- Save ‘Fun’ Subjects – Subjects such as Art, or ones that require hands on creativity, can be done when you become more mobile, once the core learning is accomplished so that you know how much time you have time to dedicate to it, or to be done by someone else. If you are able to ask a fellow homeschooler to provide you help during this time of bed rest, it is a lot easier for them to step in to help with a fun project than to pick up teaching a subject where you have left off.
Set Up a Central Care Area:
- Care Station – Prepare a station, perhaps a table or basket, stocked each day with a full jug of water, cup (lidded to prevent spills), vitamins, snacks, a toothbrush, your phone book and sundry items to occupy yourself such as crafts and reading materials. Be sure to have a phone, television remote control and a portable computer available.
- Central Area– It is useful to situate yourself on a couch or bed where everyone else will be. Not only is it less lonely for you, but you will still need to be in control of your home and family activities. This is especially true of small children who need supervision in order for you to safely monitor what they are doing, to keep their messes restricted to a controllable area and to oversee their schoolwork. Also of benefit would be a cooler or mini-fridge stocked with drinks, cut up fruits and vegetables, plastic wrapped half-sandwiches and baked goods.
Establish a Means of Communication with the Outside World:
Adult human connection is a physical and emotional necessity. Some people can do this with a calendar, notebook and a telephone, but a portable computer is really helpful, not just for keeping in touch with your student’s teacher, but also for scheduling visits, arranging care, conducting research, creating lists, tracking your student’s work, having a record of conversations to refer back to and making online purchases for delivery. The more self-reliant you are the better.
Accept Volunteer Help:
- Choose Your Help – Although it may be uncomfortable at times, it is necessary to accept help at times, particularly with regards to your schooling. Try to establish some form of normalcy by arranging for play dates (with rides elsewhere or in your home) or learning cooperatives. Whatever the case, it is easier to decide whom you want to contact and ask for help from someone you know and like than to accept random volunteers. It’s that or you may be forced to accept offers of help from possibly difficult individuals who you would otherwise prefer not to have in your home or care for your children.
- Determine Your Minimum Level of Need – Bear in mind that although friends and family may willingly volunteer help initially, they do have full lives of their own. It is unrealistic for you to expect an on-going high level of help from them. If there is a possibility of help being required for an extended period of time (more than a few days) you will need to minimize and distribute the help you ask from them, and to establish the difference between your wants and needs (groceries are a need, whereas decorating specialty cupcakes for a child’s birthday isn’t; cleaning your kitchen and washing your dishes are needs, whereas washing your seasonal clothing and sorting your storage room are not).
Work out the minimum amount of effort required from others. You see, if too much is asked of individuals, even though they were genuinely willing when they offered the help, you will not likely be able to ask them for help when you have need later. If the work is dispersed, the less the likelihood of people feeling used or over-burdened.
Possible Time Savers Include:
- Order items online or via catalogue for delivery to a neighbour’s instead of asking someone to dedicate hours to shopping
- Get a lawn service to tend the lawn
- Hire a weekly cleaning service
- Arrange for grocery delivery service
- Order take-out (sushi, pizza, subway sandwiches, any local restaurant or deli) or include pre-prepared meals on your grocery list. Many stores, such as Costco, specialize in prepared meals in their deli and freezer sections)
- Place library books on hold for pick-up by a friend en route to your home (they will need your library card)
- Create a recipe file of simple, one-dish menu items using staples you have in your home
- Arrange for a local laundry service
- Exchange rent of a room for care services (preferably if you are comfortable with the person already; this is not the best time to have strangers in your home, emotionally or physically)
- Arrange for online or automated billing, even if temporarily
Possible Areas of Help:
- Drive children to or home from essential, regular activities (this can be two separate individuals and preferably should be ones who will be there, or nearby there at that time anyways)
- Drive you to appointments on occasion
- Have play dates with your children
- Conduct a learning cooperative at your home (especially if they have children in your grade) for select subjects
- Pick up groceries (find someone who shops at your store of choice and won’t be inconvenienced greatly by adding your items to their cart); consolidate your items to one store, if possible, even if it costs a bit extra
- Source local restaurant delivery menus
- Sleep overnight at your home (if you are alone and need someone to tend to your children when you can’t get up)
- Receive and deliver parcels (perhaps a neighbour, someone who shares your post office box location, or a nearby friend who is home a lot)
- Bring or make meals occasionally or on a rotating schedule
- Tidy your home (especially bathroom, kitchen and dishes)
- Wash and fold laundry (can be picked up and done at their homes instead of yours)
- Pick up or deliver your mail
- Bring garbage to the curb and the empty bins back to your home (an offence warranting a ticket in most areas)
- Assume responsibility to schedule all help
Create A Potential Resource List – The first step to arranging help is to create a resource list to include those people who have already offered help and those you consider might be able to (family, close friends, neighbours, homeschool support group, church family, moms of children your kids share activities with already). If you are unsure of the duration of your bedrest, it’s reasonable to stage the list so that unlikely candidates and friendly acquaintances, for instance, will only contacted at a set point when it becomes absolutely necessary. Then, send out an initial contact informing those people of your situation, the scope of what you are asking of them (regular, scheduled weekly, occasional), best contact method (is email okay or would an occasional phone call be better?) and the likely duration of the need. If possible, ask specific tasks of people instead of sending a blanket request for help. If doing this exceeds your ability, makes you uncomfortable or the need will probably be for an extended time, ask someone to arrange the scheduling for you – but make sure this is the only task you ask of them. Once individuals have responded, you may find it necessary to set up a group email distribution group or an online public shared calendar that you are included on. Make sure that the contact is routine and to a minimum so as to avoid overwhelming people, bearing in mind they have their own full lives too. As an added benefit, this list can later be used to send out thank you cards to those who have provided help.
Maximize Your Help – The most labour intensive times of day with children surround meals and bedtime. If you can schedule help, try to work it around these times. While they are there, hopefully they will be able to arrange to prepare for the next meal at the same time and save someone else a trip.
A Few Other Tips:
- Use Disposable – Arrange for disposable plates and utensils, as well as recyclable juice containers if you can. If people volunteer to bring meals, request it come in a disposable container as well. Even better is for the meals to come individually plated or packaged, which allows your children to be better, able to get their own food and reheat it, if necessary. Not only does this save you the effort of returning the dishes and prevent a cluttered pile of dishes to be returned, it saves you from the formidable task of getting your dishes washed and put away.
- Set Up Timers – Unless you want to be left in the dark, and particularly if you have small children, consider asking someone to set up a timer to turn on the lights at sunset and to turn off automatically around bedtime
- Get extra keys made – If you have regular help or people dropping by, they will either need to let themselves in or you may find your door needs to be perpetually unlocked. If they are to let themselves in, it’s helpful to let them know at the time of making the arrangements what to do (“Knock once and then walk in” or “Use the spare key hidden inside the BBQ lid to let yourself in, then return it right away so it doesn’t get forgotten”).
- Create a Suggested Menu – People will not likely be aware of your family’s allergies, intolerances, likes and dislikes. There is no point in accepting the kind offer to provide a meal if your children (or you) are unwilling to eat what they offer. Even if your spouse takes on this job, unless it is their usual responsibility, they will be unlikely to know what to prepare. If you will be alone at mealtimes and your children are unable to heat the meals independently, think of a lot of sandwiches, wraps and salads. Do everyone a favour and create a suggestion list with a variety of meals people can bring or make based on what you have in your home.
- Avoid Constipation – People on bed rest run an increased risk for constipation and hemorrhoids. Practical steps you can take are drinking lots of water, including fibrous food such as kiwis and prunes on your grocery list, keeping your legs moving and giving yourself extra time in the bathroom when it your schedule affords it.
- Have Payment Ready – Keep a good amount of small bills, coins and cheques on hand to immediately reimburse those who are making purchases for you and to offer to those who are doing things for you that come out of their fixed monthly budget (i.e. extra gas money to drive).
- Keep On-Going Lists – For instance, of groceries and to-do items to avoid being overwhelmed and doing last minute things. Being on bed rest is out-of-control and helpless feeling as it is without feeling like you are constantly forgetting things. Be prepared right away if someone offers help.
- Utilize Technology – although your children do not likely have free access to electronics normally, they may become your greatest asset. You need your energy to stay healthy and unless you want to be stuck with the possibility of constantly entertaining your children (or mediating between them), it may be useful to create an alternative for yourself by making available a suitable offering of videos, television programs and suitable websites.
If you do find yourself homeschooling on bed rest at some point, I hope you can look back and say that this information was of use to you. And, if you come to know someone who is in need, it is my hope that if you have extra of something, you will give. Perhaps you can use this information to help that person to set up a sustainable method of caring for their needs.
This post was guest written by Miriam Hill – a homeschooling mom of 3 beautiful girls.