This post is part of our how to homeschool lots of kids with babies and toddlers series. Be sure to read the rest of the series.
You can see it on the horizon. It’s hazy, but it’s menacing. It has you worried, and you’re not sure how to prepare.
What is it?
It’s the day you start trying to homeschool high school with your eldest while there are still a few (or more) youngers to deal with.
How will you keep everyone on task and actually learning? Without killing one another? It can be a daunting prospect.
First, let me just say that choosing to homeschool high school is your first totally right move. If that’s an established fact, then the rest is very doable.
The old adage “where there’s a will, there’s a way” is very applicable here. If you want to succeed at homeschooling high school — even with so many other children to manage — then you will!
It may take some effort and creative thinking — but you’ve already been there, done that with homeschooling up to this point, anyway.
You’ve already dealt with the logisitics of a large family for quite some time. You can do the high school thing, too!
When my oldest started 9th grade, I had four younger children in 7th grade, 6th grade, 4th grade, and first grade. It definitely makes things interesting when you have one kid doing geometry and another learning to add! But it can be done, I assure you.
The Two Biggest Helps to Homeschooling High School with Youngers Around
There is one thing I tell ALL moms regarding this stage, and it is MONDO important and will make a HUGE difference in how high school goes. It is this: teach all of your kids from as young as possible to work independently as much as possible.
I already wrote a full post about this, so I won’t repeat all of that now. You can read it here: The Best Way to Prepare Your Child for Homeschooling High School. Suffice it to say that during high school, it simplifies things for everyone if your teen can teach themselves most of their coursework.
Another thing to work on is having them manage their own time. This one can actually be more difficult, and it is a process. I wrote about how to get started on that here: 5 Ways to Guide Your Teen in the Art of Time Management.
Here’s the deal: we are trying to prepare our teens to be adults and survive in the real world. While they are in our homeschool, we can give them a safe place to try figuring things out for themselves.
Independent learning and time management are two very important skills they will need to know. So why not let them practice them NOW?
Your job as homeschool mom becomes OODLES easier when one of your students is handling their own daily schedule and their own daily work. Instead of high school being more difficult, it can actually be at time where you are more free to work with the younger children or get more done around the house. It’s amazing!
Other ideas to make homeschooling high school with youngers around easier
But what else can you do to help make this season one of less stress and more productivity? I’ll just throw these out there. Pick and choose what you think will work for you:
Morning time — yes, we’re on Pam’s blog, so it makes sense to talk about this here. Let your high schooler participate in morning time, even if some of the material is too young for them. You can incorporate some of their coursework, too, for instance if they’re studying Shakespeare or need to know the triangle congruence postulates.
Unit Studies — these are always a great way to include multiple ages in your homeschool, and just because you have a high schooler now doesn’t mean that they can’t be included. If you’re worried about the teen getting the credits they need, then maybe arrange the unit studies around their plan of courses.
Elective credit for chores or teaching — USE that teen in your homeschool! Have them teach the youngers in math or read-aloud to them or play with the baby, so you can work one-on-one with whoever needs it. Have the teen make lunch or dinner regularly or even help with the housekeeping.
Did you know that these “ordinary” tasks can be counted for credit? Cooking 101 can consist of your teen planning and executing dinner once or twice a week for a semester. Why not? And then you don’t have to! More on electives here: Planning High School Electives for Your Homeschool.
On the other side of the coin, though, don’t expect the teen to take over too much of your work. It is unfair to take advantage of them just because they are the oldest.
One of my big regrets is going outside of the home to work while my oldest was a sophomore/junior and leaving her in charge of her siblings for long stretches.
She became the one who had to keep them on task for homeschool and chores and make sure they had good food to eat — and this created a lot of stress for her. Not good.
Another way to lessen the difficulty of this time is by being careul which curriculum you choose for everyone. Make a point of selecting curriculum that is easy to implement without too much teacher prep or lotsa busywork.
Maybe it’s time for all-in-one curriculum so all the work is done for you. For the teen, online classes can take a lot of work away from mom, as can dual enrollment at the local community college, or even hiring a tutor for a particularly challenging course.
Which brings up another aspect of this whole thing: it is also necessary to be careful about making too many commitments during this time.
It can be easy to sign the teen up for this, that, and the other thing to try to get them more credits or extracurriculars to look good on their transcript. But that is NOT necessary.
Only commit to what you can handle reasonably. When there are youngers in the picture, the eldest teen may not be able to do everything they want to.
There are two sorta-opposite-sorta-complementary ways to look at this:
- It is totally possible to drag the youngers along when you need to take the teen for an activity or class somewhere. You can do some school in the car, or stop by the library for an hour or two after you’ve dropped the teen off at their thing. Starbucks has wifi, hello. Naptime may not happen that day, but if it’s an occasional occurrence, that’s not so horrible. Really.
- God has placed all of your kids in the birth order that is best for them. If the older can’t do as many outside activities as they want to, that’s part of God’s plan for them. The youngest may get to do a lot, because there are no siblings to account for — but by the same token, they may be lonelier at home by themselves. It’s all in God’s hands, not yours. So don’t feel bad if you have to say no to possibly many things while your oldest is in high school.
A mix of both of these thought processes is probably the healthiest way to go about things during this time. Everyone needs to learn to adapt — not just you, not just your teen, not just the youngers.
Homeschooling is a FAMILY activity, and sometimes that means we all work together to make things happen for one of us, and sometimes that means the one has to give up what they want so everyone else can be more comfortable.
You’re probably used to this type of juggling by now, anyway!
To keep the teen on track, it’s good to check in regularly with them. Don’t let them do all their work alone in their room. (Although giving them some time and space to be alone is definitely important.)
Have a daily or weekly meeting with them to make sure they are staying on schedule and doing their work thoroughly. When they are working independently, it can be easy to let this slide. Um, DON’T. I speak from experience on that one.
Remember, too, that the baby or toddler should not be in charge of the household schedule, lol. Good parenting is one of the best ways to keep this whole homeschooling thing from becoming a big mess, regardless of how many kids you have or what their ages are.
I do know how easy it is to be more lax in your parenting as you go down the birth order, and sometimes this can be a good thing — but editing your teen’s paper can be just as important as pacifying that grumpy 4yo who really should just go down for a nap.
Then there’s this thought: If you’ve not previously been a “schedule” person, maybe it’s time to start thinking about having one. I know when mine were younger, that was the only way I could keep my sanity.
Each one had a scheduled time with me to work one-on-one, and during that time the others were scheduled for activities they could do on their own. I go into detail about that here: The Many Lives of a Homeschool Schedule.
Remember The Big Picture
My best advice for homeschooling high school with youngers around? Be flexible. Be creative. Think outside the box.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT PINTEREST LAND. Who cares what someone else is doing? Do what works for YOUR family. Let some things go.
And remember the big picture of WHY you are homeschooling through high school in the first place. When the stress hits — and it will — keeping your goals in mind can make a big difference. Evaluate every activity/course/lesson with your major purpose in mind.
This will help you pick and choose curriculum and activities so that stress does not have to be a regular thing, but more of an occasional visitor.
The reward will be a wonderful relationship between your teen and the rest of the family. You as the parent will know your teen better for having them with you during these years. It’s all worth it; trust me. Want to know about more benefits that you might not have thought of? Read 10 Reasons Why You Will LOVE Homeschooling Your Teen.
What’s on the horizon is actually one of the best seasons of your life! Having teen children as part of your homeschool is when the fun really begins, in my opinion.
Homeschooling high school with youngers around can truly bring joy to everyone. So jump on in, the water’s fine!
P.S. If you are entering this phase and don’t really know where to start, my ebook can help. I’ve written a step-by-step manual for how to do the research you need in order to know what it takes to homeschool high school and create a plan for your teen’s coursework.
You can graduate them with confidence and prepare them for whatever comes next! See it here: Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: How to Be Sure You’re Not Missing Anything.