Homeschooling multiple kids of multiple ages
As more parents see schools as unsafe in our current pandemic, many are turning to some form of home educating. While parents of more than one child are used to do lots of things for different stages of child rearing simultaneously, most never thought they would face a situation where they'd have to teach two levels of math at the same time. Homework battles are often wages by two parents. Or are easily staggered. Parents facing fully educating many children every day are daunted. As a seasoned homeschooler of many children, I am here to tell you, it isn't easy! But it is doable.
We established a routine early on with schooling the older while the younger napped. That worked wonderfully until naps ceased! Then I had to juggle a toddler who wanted to do everything, an infant who wasn't a sleeper, and a preschooler doing first or second grade level work. I needed more arms! Baby wearing saved me. A flexible oldest child with a penchant for "I do it" helped more than you might think. A middle child who, while he needed to be with me, was fine doing his own thing in my presence.
As they became more demanding, and we added kids we babysat, I had to get more creative. I did school with one while the other entertained someone younger. Having two early readers followed by kids who wanted to be read to helped immensely. I could math with one while the other read to more. And then switch it up. Science, art, social studies, music we did together. Those are easier to adjust to different skill levels than math and language arts.
Preparing work alone items ahead of time was a sanity saver too. Connect the dots and maze activities kept preschoolers busy while more complex issues were afoot with older kids.
This all seems dreamy, right? Kids who do what the pre-planned enriching activity is, and leave mom or dad alone to school with a sibling? Dream! Sometimes, it work line gang busters. Most of the time, major flop. I spent almost as much time teaching addition as I did extracting toy cars from toddler mouths. (We used toys as counting manipulatives) Reminding the younger to be quiet (at least a bit) so the older could focus took my voice more than once. The plans are lovely. The execution with real live humans is tricky. It is a balancing act. Most days, I dropped every plate. We trudged through the early years with sensory bins that took so long to clean up, and coloring pages while I tried to rush through some new math lesson.
In the end, it paid off. Rory is flourishing in her ability to work in any environment. Will has donned ear buds more times than I can count so he can reach his learning zen. Mack has mastered up-side down reading poses. And Kae is demanding enough about her needs that she is never overlooked for challenges. The harried season of juggling too many balls while trying to educate your small people will end sooner than you think. You will look back, wonder how you survived, and thankfully look upon the humans you helped grow.
The moral? Separate children for the more intense lessons. Create independent work for each one that is in line with their interests and learning styles. Use a screen to distract if you must. And an older child reading to or playing with a younger is NOT using the older to babysit while you ignore parenting duties. You do what must be done. Keeping one on one lesson times short will help everyone stay happy. 15-30 minutes is really plenty. Rotate frequently. Find your groove. Be ready to adjust if needed. Ask for help.