One of the most frequently asked questions in the homeschooling world is, “How does one homeschool with multiple children at home?”
I do not have many children at home, but if four is considered “multiple”, then I will be game for answering that question.
Currently, I have 2 teens, a 7 year old, and a 5 year old. Oh, and a dog. Yes, a dog. No, he is not a child, but he is more needy than a child. He disrupts our learning environment at the worst possible moments. He needs to be let out on a leash to potty every hour it seems. We are working on a schedule for him….because most of the time….he just wants to ingest rabbit scat.
Times change every year, twice a year at least. The dynamics and needs of the kids change. When we started, I was pregnant with #3, and the teens were 6 & 9. If you were to categorize them like items on a grocery shelf, they would have been in the 1st. and 3rd. aisles. Life was quiet, homeschool was a foreign country, and we were trying to duplicate public school at home at the dining room table. Oh, don’t worry. For a change in scenery, we duplicated a classroom setting in the basement and took them to the backyard for recess.
When the baby arrived, we waved the white flag. We watched documentaries, a ton, and fit in desk work and reading while the baby napped. If we had not hired a housekeeper at this time, the toilets would have molded; everyone would have ran around naked; and we would have slept in filth. Really. Homeschooling is a full-time job. Childcare is a full-time job. Having a newborn is a full-time job. Whomever doubts this has never had more than a full-time-out-of-the-house job. Believe me. It is much easier to go to work, than to be home 24-7 with children. Debate with me. I’ve done both. Hands down. You will lose this debate.
If you work outside of the home, or from home, and homeschool, do all of the laundry, grocery shopping, bill paying, cleaning, errands, clothes shopping, etc., etc., then take care of the children, cook, and do the dishes, you win! Hands down! Let’s move on…
When baby #4 was a few months old, the 2 year old was running around, and the boys were just turning 9 and 12, we laid off the housekeeper and sh** got real.
I created “busy boxes” for the toddler. Under-the-bed storage boxes with lids were filled with rice, oatmeal, Cherrios, and small (watch for choking hazards-not too small) toys that could be “hidden” in the cereal. This was an indoor “sandbox”. Other smaller boxes, without lids, were filled with building blocks, gears, dinosaurs, dolls, and other categorized toys, each having their own box. I had a paint mat, that only needed water and a paint brush to paint on. It laid on the kitchen floor and when #3 painted with water, the mat would change colors. There were fat, washable crayons and coloring books to color on. I also had easy, wooden, Melissa & Doug puzzles available. Sometimes, #3 would sit in a high chair; at other times she would sit on the living room floor and play. This allowed me to have time with #1 and #2. Most of our one-on-one work was done while baby #4 slept.
One topic that has never changed throughout the years, is housework. Housework needs to be done before the kids wake up, during breaks, and after learning hours. It is very distracting to do housework during teaching and learning times, and it sends the wrong message to your kids. Education should be top priority. They should be top priority. They also need to see how setting a schedule works.
(Unschooling, relaxed homeschooling, and facilitating learning opportunities for OLDER kids, works differently however. Schedules are not as rigid. They are set differently for each kid as well. See later articles on this from me, in the near future.)
Believe me, I am the last person who likes to adhere to schedules. I find them very confining. I also do not like rules. I have tried it the other way though. I have flown by the seats of our pjs and done housework all day, while facilitating learning opportunities for the kids, and it is just chaotic. It feels like running a hamster wheel, and at the end of the day, everyone is frustrated and nothing gets truly accomplished. Your kids lose in this game every single time. The feeling is awful, even if your living room gets cleaned and the towels are put away.
HOWEVER, when the students get older, the game changes yet again.
Today, I still complete housework only before and after “school” hours. What has changed, is how much time I have to spend with each kid and how I schedule the day. The older teen has completed all of his core classes, so he unschools on his own with “electives” and meets with me to discuss what he has learned, and what further materials he may need from me to continue his education. The younger teen takes up the majority of my time. We meet in the morning, at 10am, to discuss his assignments and materials needed for the day. He leaves me to complete his work at his desk, or on his computer, or simply from the couch. He may also physically leave the house to go to classes. Then, in the afternoon we meet up again to go over his math assignment, complete a science lab, work on writing his paper, and discuss his reading assignments in social studies and language arts. We may talk about his electives as well and discuss his progress, challenges, and future class needs. I also drop him off and pick him up from his outside classes at the YMCA, library, community building, lake, art building, or music lessons. Those are my teens.
The younger two take up my time in the morning. I still have to feed them when they can’t help themselves. I have to make sure that they get dressed and brush their teeth. Then, we wait until after I meet with their brother at 10am. We may complete workbook pages, read, watch documentaries, play games or puzzles, perform or create art, or work on the computer on sites such as abcmouse.com, starfall.com, or jumpstart.com. They attend classes in art, gym, soccer, dance, swim, and preschool type classes (such as Passports, which is for cultural studies, ABC Fun, Lunch Bunch, and Music and Me) at the library, the YMCA, and at the community center. They also have been taking gymnastics at Gymlingo for years. We end our time together in the afternoon when I meet with their brother, and they go to play outside, or inside, and wait for their neighborhood friends to come home from public school. Our youngest, who just turned five this past month, has signed up for public school kindergarten next year. She is excited to attend school with her friends from her outside classes!
Okay. My time is up! It is 7:30am and time to start the day with my kiddos, after the laundry gets started…