As if the idea of homeschooling weren’t daunting enough, the idea of homeschooling three or more kids of a range of ages send you into hiding! If you have done some research and are absolutely certain that one style or another of homeschooling is the way you want to go, you’ve got this!
If you have more than one child, it’s more than likely that those children are different ages. Let’s assume you have three sons aged 3, 5 and 7 (that’s me). How in the world are you supposed to manage any day, much less a day that is supposed to count as a school day?
One, relax. In most states kindergarten (your five-year-old) is optional. Opt out. You can teach your five-year-old, but don’t register him with your state until it is absolutely required by law. A 7-year is generally a first or second grader. Think back to your own second grade career. What do you remember? How much about what you remember actually pertains to “official school/learning?” Exactly! Not much.
Homeschool, even for the most stringent home educator, in the early grades does not take long and does not have to involve everyone sitting at a desk or table behaving well. Plan on three hours TOPS each morning. That is not to say the learning stops after those three “formal” hours of school.
With young children, it is important to keep in mind that by age 12 you cannot pick out the early readers or the kids who mastered their math facts at four. It’s not a race and there is no huge advantage to pushing your kids to work way ahead of grade level. There is no reason to hold a child who grasps concepts easily back, but do not push and do not panic if your child is not reaching the level you feel he should be.
With 3,5 and 7 as the ages you’re teaching, consider a hands on approach. The three-year-old can play with the manipulatives. The 5 and 7 year old are both learning the basic math concepts and can work together. Usually you’ll hit a point where you spend an extra 15-20 minutes with the seven-year-old. During this time, have your five-year-old entertain the three-year-old.
The best thing you can do in your homeschool is to read aloud to your children – all of them. Read classics and current books that feature big concepts and great grammar. Kids need to learn their letters and the sounds the letters make on their own and in combination. Spend 10-15 minutes a day on phonics drills. Spend another 60 minutes (split up throughout the day) simply reading. The 3,5 and 7-year-old will all benefit from the read-aloud time.
Many schools focus on teaching first and second graders to write. Keep in mind that boys tend to struggle with the physical act of writing until they’re about nine. Additionally, the act of writing out letters is far different than the act of transferring complete, coherent thoughts onto a piece of paper. Spend 15-20 mintues a day having your child practice writing letters – even a three-year-old can do this.
Get a white board and have them copy short sentences you’ve provided. If you want them to “write” a story, have them dictate it to you as you type on a keyboard. Fight the urge to correct them and just type what they say. Print it out and leave room for your child to illustrate his story.
BUT . . . THE SHORT PEOPLE!
Three-year-old munchkins are difficult when you can focus your entire attention on them. If you are attempting to homeschool older kids and contain a child this age, it can be overwhelming. But homeschooling multiple ages can work if you have strategies in place. Consider having a box of toys that is only brought out during homeschool time – include things like counting bears, bubbles, a cookie sheet and a can of shaving cream for them to draw in, play dough, old workbooks that they can scribble in next to their big brothers.
The key is to getting them to understand that mornings are learning times. If you switch out the “school box” options every two weeks or so, they will look forward to school and be entertained enough to let you get some stuff done.
Give everyone a ten-minute break each hour to run off some energy. Put on fun music and dance. Take a quick walk around the block. Have the kids run around the house ten times, anything to give them an outlet. Let the older children keep an eye on the smaller ones so you get a break as well.
For the parent in charge of day-to-day homeschooling, the challenges can be exhausting. Institute a plan to get up early enough each day so that you can finish school before lunch time. After lunch, institute the “hour-of-silence” rule and stick to it!!!!! Odds are your three-year-old is still napping, so start with that first. With the older two, explain that they must be on their beds – reading, listening to an audiobook, drawing or playing quietly. Set a timer. Until the timer goes off, they may not ask you questions, talk to you or play loudly.
Enforce this one rule throughout your homeschooling career and you are guaranteed an hour of sanity each day. Take the post-lunch hour to read, nap or do something else you enjoy. Do not spend it making dinner or doing laundry. This is a routine that can take you through high-schooling your kids should you wish.
BUT. . . THE FAMILY/NEIGHBORS!
Some people get lucky and find their family and friends are supportive of homeschooling. Most struggle with at least one contigent. Neighbors/friends will often go on the defensive when they learn you’re homeschooling and spend a lot of time pointing on the advantages of their fantastic pre-school or the wonderful teachers at your local school. Grandparents often worry about your saneness and if you’re depriving your children.
If you are confident in your decision to homeschool smile and nod. The longer you homeschool, the more the method will speak for itself through your children! The nay-sayers will come around.
How do you handle multiple schedules (preschool, mommy/me classes, enrichment activities, tutoring, etc.)?
Leave a comment and let me know!