Friday, February 24, 2017

How to homeschool bigs when you have littles

When it comes to homeschooling, if you are going to decide to get on this merry-go-round, you have to be prepared to answer questions from the public on the topic. One of the most frequent questions I get goes something like this:

"I only have three kids, and I'm not homeschooling and already, I have difficulty playing or teaching one or two of the kids while still supervising the others on the days I am home with the kids on my own. Do you just schedule school time when the girls are napping? Or have something else that occupies them? I just can't envision it."

This is a great question and a very valid one. And it touches on one of the most challenging parts about homeschooling. If all I had were two first graders, it would be easy (in comparison), but managing the younger siblings is what challenges me the most. I have these two boys plus a four-year-old and a toddler which honestly means, the biggest part of what I am trying to do is crowd control and crowd management. Oh wait, I'm also supposed to be educating? How in the world can I do that to?

So without further ado, here are the things you need to remember if you are going to homeschool kiddos with other littles. 

Always remember that ... 

1. ... the hard time is now. Once they are all self-sufficient, the great difficulty in management will be lessened. So this is a season. This is a tough season because I have a two-year-old that is only entertained by things for 67 23 seconds at a time. 

2. ... they ARE getting enough of you. I read a statistic once that the average kindergartener in public/private school gets 17 minutes a day of one-on-one time with a teacher. I try to remember that while I am "teaching" my kiddos each day. They may be doing mostly independent work. They may not have me to themselves. But they are getting enough.

3. ... help is a good thing. I am so blessed that my husband's parents live on our farm with us. They can provide a spell for one of the children, especially one of my littles. This helps tremendously. If you have family or close friends willing to give you a break, take advantage of that break. 

4. ... you will let someone down. I tell my husband that my hardest thing I feel as a Mom is that I feel like I am constantly letting someone down. Someone is always needing me. And I can't be there for everyone. There are many times that it is just me. And how does that work?

4. ... small bursts equals a full day. You don't have to get all of school completed in one fell swoop. Here are some of the things I do to get lots of little bursts of education into one day (which equals one full day of homeschooling!)  
  • If Hannah is awake, I will have the boys do something that they can do independently (like their iPAD apps.) When she is asleep, we try to maximize this time -- especially with subjects that require me to be right with them.
  • If Hannah is in a good mood, I will have us all sit down and do something (like me reading to everyone) while she is hanging out with us. 
  • In order to motivate the boys to get some of their work done, I will set a timer at the start of a lesson for 60 minutes. I tell them that as soon as the lesson is done well, they have the rest of that hour to play. It is great motivation. And it also reminds me that when I am done with them, I will have time with the girls.
  • We don't have TV, but we do use Right Now Media and Netflix. I use the girls' favorite shows for when I really need them. 
  • I am constantly trying to multitask. For instance, if the boys are writing their letters, I may stand up while they are really "on task" and put away some dishes or sweep the floor while I can watch what they are doing. 
  • I have the kids help with nearly everything I can. Laundry, dishes, dogs, vacuuming, etc. They are involved. This allows me to have them "stay busy" while I am working with another kid. 
  • I'll often swap how we do things depending on how crazy it is. For instance, generally the boys read with me each day for 15 minutes each. But if it is just too crazy, I will tell them that this particular day they are going to do their reading themselves. 
5. ... you need to do do what it takes. If you feel you need to be in a co-op, get in a co-op. need a tutorial? Try that. Having trouble keeping up on your house? Skip eating out a meal a week and get a housekeeper instead. Hire a teenager to come in for a few hours a week to help babysit. You get the idea. We are all in survival mode.

6. ... you need to use your tool box. I try to keep a lot of aces up my sleeves. Coloring on the table in the kitchen. Play dough on the floor in the living room. Some music to dance to in the bedroom. Bikes in the driveway. Helping mom cook in the kitchen. I am continually herding cats. I move one girl to do build with blocks so she stops bugging brother who is trying to do his math. I move another to the table to cut pieces of paper so I can focus on math with one of the boys. I don't have a huge house, but I try to have lots of little nooks and crannies so that people can find their own place with their own things. I have a tool box with a lot of things in it, and I try to use them as I need them.

6. ... it's okay to seek other advice.  Here are some articles that have been helpful to me:

What about you? Have a tip? Please share how you make things work in your house with lotsa littles!

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