…..you have a big family.
…..you have a toddler.
……you are pregnant.
……you have a baby.
……you are moving.
These challenges can make homeschooling seem difficult or even impossible. They are also all situations I have been in while homeschooling. I currently have five children including a baby, a toddler, and 3 “school age” children. As a military family, we have moved a few times while homeschooling. My oldest is 11 and I have been homeschooling her in some way since she was two (I don’t recommend starting at 2, more on that later). I certainly don’t have it all figured out but I will share the things that have made it easier for me so far.
This will be a two-part series. Today I will share some general tips for homeschooling with many children of different ages. Tomorrow I will share our schedule and how I run my school day.
Keep in mind everything here is the “ideal” that I strive for but rarely happens. I find that having a plan and striving for an ideal keeps the chaos to a minimum and allows us to get back on track faster, even though we rarely (if ever) achieve it!
Have a general schedule or routine.
I don’t like schedules. I resisted having a set schedule for years until I figured out that my kids do better with the structure of a schedule. I suspect most kids do. So, to make it work for everyone, we have a loose schedule – more of a routine – for our days. This gives us the flexibility to be spontaneous or accommodate appointments and errands. It also gives us the structure and predictability the kids need as well as a framework to get back on track after an interruption relatively easily.
Be flexible and don’t stress about getting off your schedule or out of routine.
One of the best things about homeschooling is you CAN be flexible. I wrote an entire blog post on flexibility in homeschooling and making it work for you.
Choose curriculum that as many of your kids as possible can do together.
If they can’t be on the exact same lessons at least keep the subjects the same.
Science, history, social studies, geography, Bible, art, music, and literature (and probably other subjects I’m not thinking of) can all be done with a wide variety of ages at the same time. Some of these may require a bit of adjustment for each child’s ability but for the most part everyone can be doing the same thing. This simplifies things and reduces mom’s workload immensely.
Have a system for chores.
Many hands make light work.
Teach your children this and teach them early. Everyone in our house does chores except the baby. We use Accountable Kids for our chore chart and reward system to keep everyone on track. A house with a big family can only run smoothly (ok, as smooth as possible) and mom can only have time to do school with the kids if EVERYONE helps.
Have a designated play space and special toys for the littles.
I have used both a big Joovy playpen (it is bigger than a regular playpen) and a play yard fence to keep toddlers and crawlers contained and out of trouble when the older kids are doing school. Special toys that come out only during school time and only in the “pen” help keep them happier and entertained. Activity bags are a good way to keep preschool age kids entertained during school time and helps them feel included with the big kids.
Stagger school time so that one older child can play with the younger children.
Sometimes (often) the babies and toddlers aren’t happy about being in a pen while their siblings do school. While I want them to learn to play quietly by themselves for a little bit, it is really hard to get school done with a screaming toddler in the background. My solution is to have my oldest play with the toddler (or hold the baby) while I do school with the youngest school-age child. My kindergartener’s lessons don’t take long so I can do those with him then he can take over playing with the toddler while the older kids do their school work.
I generally try to work my way from youngest to oldest doing one on one school work with the kids. Not only to free the youngers up to play with the littles but also because my oldest has more work she can do by herself while waiting for my attention.
Teach children to do as much work independently as possible.
The more work the kids can do without your direct teaching or oversight the easier it will be with little ones or with several to teach. Of course, you will probably want to teach some things (at least I do) and you will certainly need to be involved in some work. I am not a fan of having them do much work on the computer but some people love having all of their curricula computer based and can mean they do more without your direct help, if that works for you go for it!
Do you have any tips for homeschooling with a large family? Or with a baby or toddler? Share them in the comments!!
Be sure to read my next post where I share the details of our homeschool day, our routines, curriculum etc.!
This post is part of the Homeschool Review Crew Many Ways to Homeschool Many round up.