Today I am so happy to have Emily from Simple Little Home doing a guest post. Emily blogs about her experience as a “back-to-the-lander” and homeschooling mother of a Kindergartner, 2 year old, and 1 year old. She is a former social studies teacher and has a Masters Degree in Education. Check out her post below & then head on over to her blog & let her know you are visiting from Living Life Intentionally!
Many of us face the daily challenge of trying to homeschool more than one child, at more than one age and academic level. It can be difficult to manage even for veteran teachers and homeschoolers, but here are a few strategies that may help you turn a tough situation into a rewarding experience for everyone in your homeschool.
Utilize workboxes, or another organization method to allow children you aren’t working with some independence. Using this system, the parent fills the boxes either daily or weekly with items which will develop a skill your child is working on. Fill the boxes with puzzles about color, rainbow lacing beads and coloring pages for example, if your child is working on learning her colors. For an example of the workbox system we just began using for our middle child, you can read this post.
Create parallel playscapes. This means creating dramatic play opportunities for younger children (but you can just try keeping an older child out of them!) which help them to explore themes or ideas you’re working on with older kids. In this photo, my daughters are playing with a market I set up while we introduced the concept of money. My son completed his “textbook” work in peace and then could join in to practice some of the new skills he’d learned. If you need some ideas for creating your own playscapes you can check out my Dramatic Play Pinterest board here.
Use naps strategically. This approach works really well for very young families. It’s hard to get a six or eight month old baby interested in anything for more than a few minutes, so sometimes it’s best to simply wait to do more involved lessons until they are asleep. We use this strategy in our family when we do skill-intensive learning like math and reading.
Try differentiated family learning. Differentiated learning, or differentiation, is a term which describes taking one large idea/skill and breaking it down into smaller “chunks” appropriate for a variety of ages and readiness. For example, I use Playdoh often to create literacy opportunities at various readiness points. My younger students find the letter stamp that I ask for and press it into the clay (letter recognition skills). My older student carves the letter into his Playdoh while making the letter sound (writing and phonic awareness), and spells words using the Playdoh words the younger kids have made. See? Everyone is working on the same task, and still learning at his own level.
Embrace whole family lessons. This is just as it sounds- teaching all children the same thing at one time. Not that it can’t be done to teach whole family lessons for math and reading, but I tend to save these collective lessons for more general skills like cooking, character development, Bible stories, foreign language vocabulary and Five In A Row. These lessons are best presented using a variety of approaches (movement, reading, identification, a song or dance, etc.) to appeal to a wide variety of learning styles, levels, and interests. Here, my children eat sushi and drink tea while we learn about mealtime in historical Japan.
Get support. Mother’s helpers or family members are great ways to provide one or two kids with a special playmate while you work with one child at a time. I have a mother’s helper come once a week and I find that some of our best learning, and best one-on-one time with each of my children, happens during this time.
Distract if you need to. Not every part of school is a structured lesson, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about providing your younger children with quality play opportunities while you work with a sibling. If you need a good list of distracting activities for toddlers, go here.
Keep your own attitude positive, even when it’s hard. Your children should view their school time with you as special, and they won’t if you’re angry and stressed. (Come on, we’ve all been there.) If someone’s having a really hard day, or you just can’t keep your own attitude where it should be then skip school for the day. One or two missed spelling lessons won’t make much academic difference in the long run, but calling it quits when you need to will make an impression on your children’s hearts.
Thanks Emily! I have one in ‘school’, a 4 year old, and a 1 1/2 year old so this was VERY helpful. I think I need to create some space for workboxes at our house! Here are some of my favorite posts from Simple Little Home: