Homeschooling offers many challenges. One of the biggest challenges parents can face is trying to homeschool multiple children. This challenge can feel Herculean when you are trying to homeschool one or more children and manage a toddler or preschooler! No matter what your homeschooling philosophy is, anticipating possible issues and being organized are your best weapons against total chaos.
Make a Schedule
If you are homeschooling a child under the age of 10 and wrangling a toddler, having a schedule and sticking to it as closely as possible will help you get the most out of your day. Schooling children in third grade or below should only take half a day. Plan to get school started right after breakfast, break for a mid-morning snack and play. Finish up your day at lunch time. After lunch, consider enforcing nap time and/or quiet time for at least an hour so you can all recharge.
With a toddler or preschooler tossed into the homeschool mix, it is easy to get distracted. Have special activities/toys available to your little one set aside. ONLY use them during homeschool lessons. When possible, make them related in some way to the subject you’re teaching. Little people love to imitate their bigger siblings.
During math, while you are helping your older child, have a box of things like lacing cards, chunky beads to string and fun counting manipulatives available. Choose one or two things for your preschooler to do while you work through math. During language arts lessons, keep special paper, chunky crayons and markers for your young children. It helps to have a small table and chairs just for them. If you do not have room for that, a child-sized easel works as well.
There will be times when you need to confine your short person while you attend to other children. Set them up in a high chair or at a table you can clean easily. Give them a cookie sheet covered in shaving cream/whipped cream/yogurt/pudding and encourage them to draw shapes and try to copy letters. It’s messy, but it will usually buy you a good 15-20 minutes.
It’s Worth It
It’s not reasonable to expect any child to sit for long stretches of time. Work short, active breaks into your school day. It will keep you all focused and less fidgety. The time and effort you put into including your youngest children in the school day will pay off when those kids are of school age. They will know the routine and will likely surprise you with what they have learned simply by being there with their older siblings. Things you might struggle to teach your older children may be things you never have to “teach” your younger ones – they’ll just pick it up as you go along.
There will be days when nothing works. Those are days to call school off early and go to the park or take a walk or just change the routine. However, the more you stick to your routine and work to include everyone, the fewer and farther between those days will be.
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