This is part of our series on homeschooling lots of kids with babies and toddlers in the mix. Be sure to read the rest in the series.
I’m not going to lie. Having multiple people in the room all at once is often the hardest part of homeschooling. Harder than choosing curriculum. Harder than keeping up with the laundry. Harder than teaching math. (I know, right?)
Not only are you dealing with personalities and relationships but also with multiple levels and multiple subjects. And it never fails that everyone seems to need you all the time and all at once.
But take heart mama! With a little practice and some handy hacks, dealing with multiple kids while homeschooling doesn’t have to make you want to run screaming from the room (everyday). Here are some of my favorite ideas for juggling multiple kids.
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What to do with the babies and toddlers while homeschooling?
Ironically the most critical barriers to your schedule are probably the people not doing school at all. When sitting to plan your routine, the infant to preschool set should be considered first in order to create a routine that will run smoothly.
What can you do while nursing? If baby wants to eat every morning at 8:00, then that is a great time to read aloud to the others. Since we know reading aloud is important up until older children leave your home, gather everyone together and enjoy this time.
If you can’t read and nurse at the same time, then pop in an audiobook or allow an older sibling to read. In fact, nursing time is also a great time for mom to be read to, so schedule time for emerging readers to practice their skills for nursing time as well.
Trade off the toddler by making toddler care and entertainment part of the bigger kids’ school time. While you work with one, the other’s required task might be to play with little brother or sister and see to their needs for an allotted amount of time.
Put preschoolers first. Often a little one-on-one attention from mom goes a long way towards someone going off to happily play alone for a while. Schedule in story time and a fun activity for your twos, threes, and fours before you get started with the bigger kids.
Utilize nap time. School does not have to start early in the morning. If you have two or three young kids and one or more of them still take a long afternoon nap, then don’t start school until the little ones go down.
School can go from 1-3 and be done peacefully and with less frustration. Schedule the messiest, hardest, or most mom-consuming subjects for nap time.
Utilize Morning Time and combine, combine, combine
Even if you don’t do it in the morning, a time in your day when you combine kids to work together on subjects is absolutely critical to managing multiple kids in your school day.
So many of your content area subjects and even some skill subjects can be done together. (For a distinction between the two kinds of subjects watch this video — life changing!)
Right now my three kids ages almost 9 to 13 are doing these subjects together:
- religious studies
- nature study
- history (the 13 year old gets extra written work that comes with the curriculum)
- cursive handwriting
- grammar (the older kids answer more questions)
- foreign language
- vocabulary (older kids’ level, but the younger is surprising us)
- music appreciation
Even if you have a wider age range you can make this happen. Just aim your work to the upper kids and let the younger ones take what they can from the content. This podcast will give you some ideas from a mom of 9 on how what works. You will be amazed at what they learn even if they don’t catch quite all of it.
Remember, you will likely cycle back around to the same subjects again before they are gone and then they will be the big kid.
The beauty of busywork in your homeschool
Busywork often gets a bad rep in homeschool circles, but in order for our days to flow smoothly, I often have to put extra work on my kids spiral notebook lists — this work is work they they can do independently.
I always make sure it is something that they need extra practice on (math facts) or is good for them to work on pedagogically (reading silently) so I don’t feel too guilty that the main purpose of this independent work is to keep them engaged in school while I work with another kid.
I have found if my kids leave the table they are hard to pull back, so padding their schedule with independent activities is the best option for me. Some of these include:
- math fact drill worksheet or app
- other learning computer program
- watching a lesson DVD like math or Latin
- reading to self or sibling
- nature notebook
- completing a watercolor of anything they want from their weekly readings
- handwork projects
- music practice (when the instrument is out of the room)
The more your child can legitimately do independently the less you have to pad their lists with these optional activities. I find that if every students’ list includes at least 1/3 of activities they can do alone, the day balances out with me being able to juggle working with all of them without losing anyone.
I always start by working with the youngest child first, trying to get him finished, and then he is able to leave and pursue his own interests. Then I work the way up the sibling ladder until only myself and the oldest are left still working.
With a little bit of thoughtful planning, the time you spend juggling teaching all of those kids at one time can become some of the most memorable and sweetest times in your homeschool memories.
Embrace the chaos, the laughter, the learning, and the memories. You will be glad you did.
Get these tips and a few more by watching the video below:
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