So far, in all our years homeschooling, we’ve had babies and toddlers underfoot. I would tell myself, as I looked into their sweet baby faces that it was only hard right now. I would say that we’d have an easier time making it through the days of work as they got a little bigger. I would then lay them down for a nap and proceed to get the most important parts of my homeschooling day done when they were asleep.
Sure there were the occasional times when they made huge messes or lobbed plastic balls at their brother when he was trying to do math, but more often the little kids napped, played on my Kindle and quietly entertained themselves (or even just sat as my lap) while my attention was focused on the bigger kids.
This year our homeschool has underwent a huge change. There are no longer any babies. The little kids are both preschoolers now! Naps and quiet time where I can focus just on the bigger kids is rare. Instead, there are loud games of pretend play while I’m right in the middle of lesson times with the older kids. There are pleas for their own “schoolwork” and crafts, multiple calls of boredom, a big need for snacks and a willingness to participate in all the older children’s work when they are able (and sometimes when they’re not).
So, what’s a Mom to do? Obviously, I’ve had to seriously adapt our homeschool to accommodate this new element. After all, I’m finding that unhappy preschoolers make for an unhappy and difficult to educate household. So here’s how I manage homeschooling both preschoolers and elementary school kids.
Let the Preschoolers Participate in What They Can
Sure, the little kids can’t do Logic of English with us yet, but often can participate in our art lessons and to some level in history and science. They don’t always choose to participate, but they often want to come around and see what we’re doing and do some work on their level.
Alternate Time with the Big Kids and Little Kids
As I’m scheduling my days, I’m alternating time for just little kids for read-alouds, crafts and activities, and time with the big kids for the same. That way everyone has some free time and everyone has some time when I’m concentrating on their needs. For example, with our daily routine we do some morning time to focus on history and Bible with the older kids while the younger ones play and eat their breakfasts. Then, we swap and allow the older kids to work on their own projects while I work one-on-one (or one-on-two) with the little kids for a while after lunch.
Take advantage of Bath Times and the Occasional Naps
Do you know the best time for me to work on math or English with the older kids? While the little ones are busy playing in the bath, taking that about once a week nap or working with playdough or something else time consuming, I can get a lot done if I can get a bigger kid to focus on what they’re doing.
Allow the Bigger Kids to Participate with the Little Kids
Rose is a second grader and still writes all her numbers (and some of her letters) backwards. The best thing I can do for her is to allow her to participate in my teaching time with the little kids so that we can get that number/letter reversal fixed in a low pressure environment. There was also a new world unlocked for her this week, as she learned from one of the preschoolers videos that sometimes the c makes the /s/ sound.
We’ve been focusing on an animal of the week (or two weeks) as we go through the letters. I’ve had great success adapting that to be science time with Firecracker and Rose (my fourth and second graders) because they can learn about the science of the animals as I teach the little kids the letter sounds. It opens up a whole world of possibilities for study and fun that incorporate both children. Another example is that as the little kids focus on circles next week, my plan is for the older kids to study Kandinsky and try to emulate his famous circle painting. I also have a color mixing circle project planned for the older children.
I think that’s been where I’ve had the greatest successes. I’ve had to let go of my preconceived notions of what the kids (both older and younger) should be doing for schoolwork and a place of balance between togetherness and separateness and between older children work and younger children work. When this works the way it should, you’ll begin to see education abounding everywhere you look.