The Balancing Act

Homeschooling Multiple Ages

When you are homeschooling multiple ages and /or juggling babies or toddlers, you can easily end up looking and feeling like this:

I will sheepishly raise my hand and say that I have been this woman.  Over the years though, I have come up with some ways to battle the harried pace of homeschooling a house full of children.

First and foremost, you have to BREATHE!   One of the great advantages of homeschooling is setting your own pace.  If you can shift your mindset from “school at home” to” LIFE is school”, you’ll find educational opportunities abound.   You can’t and you won’t get it all in this year, or any year.   Each season of life has its own opportunities and challenges.  The trick is finding ways to make that work for you and your children as you journey through the school of life.

This is my fifth year to home school.  I have yet to go one day without a little one under foot.  When we began homeschooling I had a first grader, a preschooler, a toddler and I was pregnant.  By the second semester, we had a new baby.   I remember that first semester with joy.  We started “homeschooling” almost as soon as my daughter left Kindergarten.  We spent hours pouring over books and websites learning about the solar system and then dinosaurs. When the baby came, I felt confident that we had logged enough educational hours that we took 2+ months off.

Finding balance as we began our second year was a bigger challenge.  Now instead of schooling one child, I was schooling two.   Tiny distractions abounded.  Instead of being a diligent student like my daughter, my son was unfocused and highly distractible.    I realized quickly, that I needed to change my priorities with him.  I shaved off many of the subjects I thought he should be learning and pared back those which he was learning.

Keeping the toddler and kindergartener entertained was vital.   While we read, I allowed the boys to build with wooden blocks.  While we worked at the table, I had beads for them to string.   Finding ways to keep their hands busy helped keep them quiet and focused.   Some days we would read our books outside on our trampoline or in my room on my bed.

Last year, I began the arduous task of formally teaching three students.    We spent the first semester focusing on the basics.  It was good training grounds for us.  As much as I could, I allowed my oldest to take her independent work to her room.  I found incorporating computer work for my son helped because he enjoys it.  I made time to lap book and teach phonics to my kindergartener.  We didn’t fit it all in though.  We lacked in read alouds and group learning.  History fell off our radar.  I could beat myself up for not doing an adequate job that semester.  But I don’t.  It was a semester full of challenges.  We struggled, plodding along with our workbooks, doing the best we could.

By the spring semester, we had gotten our footing.  We studied birds in-depth and American Indians.  We spent a few months reading, exploring, researching, lap booking and note booking.

It took us an entire semester to get to the point of incorporating the whole family into our studies. That semester of workbooks and independent learning was not a failure, even though I thought it was while we were working through it.

Here are some helpful hints from me to you:

1.        Expect a learning curve.  We’ve had whole semesters that were bumpy and disjointed.  We always make up for it after giving  ourselves some time to adjust.  Having a baby, adding new learners takes time.  Give yourself a break.  Take it slow.

2.       Have special activities or toys for your younger children to use during reading and table time.  Ideas include wooden blocks, plastic beads and pipe cleaners, an abacus, coloring pages, playdoh (if you don’t mind messes).

3.       Never underestimate the power of scissors and a piece of paper.  Many children can spend hours  cutting up paper into small pieces.  The mess you have to clean up afterwards is well worth the quiet.  Invest in a dustbuster or small shop vac.

4.        Make extra copies of worksheets for your little ones.  They might enjoy coloring at the table while you work.  If you lap book or notebook, make an extra lap book for your preschoolers.  Paste in pictures to color, letters to trace and give them stickers to decorate while your older students are working.

5.       If your older students need special attention, allow your toddler to watch a 30 minute TV program.  My youngest loves Barney, Caliou, Dora and Word World.

6.       Give your oldest students literature to read on their own concerning any history, geography, social studies or science material that you may be covering.

7.       Block out time for each of your children to have individual lessons.  I work with one student while the other two do computer or independent work and then rotate.  This allows me to teach my youngest how to read without distractions.  I can then instruct, read, or complete a lap book  with my older students or to review writing assignments, etc with my oldest.

8.       Give your distractible students, bless their little ADD hearts, a file folder partition so that they may work with fewer distractions.

9.       Find computer programs to supplement learning.

10.   Enforce Encourage a quiet time after schoolwork is finished.  This will give YOU time to wind down, especially after trying days.  My children are highly encouraged to go to their rooms and read books and play quietly.  This takes discipline and effort but it’s WELL worth it.  Start out with 15 minutes and work your way up to an hour.  No TV during this time (at least at my house).

Homeschooling multiple ages is challenging.  I hope I have given you some ideas that you can incorporate into your home school.    Accepting and learning to grow during the seasons of your life is a wonderful tool you can give to your children.  Perhaps even more important than any date you could memorize or test you could pass.

Happy Learning in the School of Life!


Pp&j is a member of Triangle Homeschoolers and blogs about homeschooling her 4 children at Enlightened Life: Homeschooling Outside the Box.


One comment on “The Balancing Act

  1. Hi Sally!
    Thanks for commenting 🙂
    We’re actually not on Twitter, but we are on Facebook, so you can follow us there.

    P.S. Since you didn’t leave a name, we chose one for you. Hope you don’t mind. Thanks, Sally!

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