One of the most challenging things I have struggled with during homeschooling is the juggling act of multiple children of different ages.
It truly is an art that takes a ton of practice.
Thankfully, I had an excellent teaching experience at a Montessori School for the last couple years, and I had no choice but to become well acquainted with this art.
But for most homeschooling parents that haven’t had that opportunity, it can be overwhelming, daunting and sometimes defeating trying to teach multiple children or multiple academic levels simultaneously.
I don’t have an answer for every specific situation, but I figured I would share what we do for school, with two children ages 5 and 3. I also will be the first to admit that I don’t have this down to a science yet. I’m constantly searching for new things to (mostly) keep Dex (3) busy while I’m working with Judah (5).
I purchased a curriculum for the majority of Judah’s schoolwork. I didn’t have much time to choose a curriculum this year, so I just prayed I would like it!
It is a complete curriculum, and I don’t need to supplement if I don’t want to. But I have found what works for me and what works well for Judah. We like having the option to get out of our chair and switch things up every once in a while.
Here is how school is set up for us.
Our day begins at our wall. The three of us gather; we do Calendar, Weather, Map, Pledge of Allegiance and songs. I will be doing a post, in the near future, specifically on what Circle looks like for us and some of the tools I use to keep it exciting.
From here, we put on some calming, quiet music. I like to make Pandora stations with classical music, or maybe something cultural like some quiet Chinese Classical music, Native American flutes, African drums, etc.
Judah receives a work plan each week. His work plan is catered to our school, specifically, so I can’t really provide you with one to use. But feel free to copy this one.
Judah places his work plan on his clipboard each Monday and there it stays until the week is over. The diamonds represent if he has to do that subject that day. When he has completed a task he either puts a check or his initials (good signature practice).
Judah has folders for Monday-Friday. I have them in one of those hanging file containers. It’s easy for him to access and it’s portable if we decide to do school in a different location of our house (or if we wanted to take school on the road – which we haven’t done. yet.) In this box is also a ‘completed’ folder and a ‘work-in-progress’ folder.
Inside the daily folders is the paperwork that Judah has for each day. I have been ripping pages out of the books (gasp!) and placing them in these folders. He can go to his file first thing in the morning, grab all of the work in there and begin independently.
I use place holders, like these. Just laminated pieces of paper that I drop in his daily folder if there is something he needs to complete that doesn’t have a physical paper to put in the folder.
While Judah is doing this work independently, I am sitting with Dex doing school work or playing toys. If Judah needs help with something, he comes to me. I do this on purpose because it’s much easier to ask a 5 year old to come to me than if I were to walk away from the 3 year old.
I will say, this wasn’t independent from day one. It took a couple days for him to understand the concept of each type of paper. And also, things like spelling, for example. Each day of the week he has a different task using his spelling words, which I will explain later in a different post. So have patience and give it some time for them to become independent.
Our Toy area.
Music and craft areas.
When Judah has completed all the work in his daily folder (and it has been placed in his ‘completed’ folder or ‘work-in-progress’ folder), he gets a 10 minute break.
For us, we have a couple options. In our school room, we have a TV and Judah can choose to go on the TV to YouTube and do a “Just Dance Kids” video. Both of the boys really enjoy doing these and it gets the wiggles out. We have a soccer ball, and they can choose to kick the soccer ball around. He can also go get some crayons and paper and color.
Or we have a small table that is dedicated to a puzzle at all times. We have a magnetic dart board or legos as a few more choices. For Christmas, they are getting an over-the-door basketball hoop and a trampoline. So these two things will be added to our options. I will be writing a post of “Brain Break” type activities. I’m mostly a fan of independent brain breaks, but I will provide some options of things you can do along with them.
Ok. Back to work!
Most of the other stuff on Judah’s work plan will be a lesson with me.
We spend this time at the table. I sit in the middle, with a child on either end. This is the time that I would give Dex something like: preschool worksheets, coloring, painting, tracing, pin-pushing, crayon rubbing, cutting paper with scissors or punching with decorative hole punchers. We may also use the laptop with headphones where he can watch a preschool video (youtube has lots of options or Preschool Prep) or play games on PBS kids.
I try to keep each lesson relatively short with Judah: 10-15 minutes each. I will include Dex in anything that he will enjoy or understand.
I have split special subjects like History, Science, Health, etc so that we do one each day of the week.
While we do our lessons together, we have snack.
Snack will keep the little one sitting still while you are doing the most difficult part of the day: one-on-one teaching.
I bring snack down to our school room first thing in the morning so I don’t have to leave to get it.
Everyday, I read aloud to Judah for 15 minutes and he reads to me for 15 minutes. Sometimes we share a book and take turns reading to each other. I will do a post soon on the importance of reading aloud and things you can do to help keep your child’s attention.
Dex will sit with us and listen to our reading, or bring his own books and look at them quietly.
When we have completed our work plan, we get another 10 minute break.
Then it’s time for shelf work!
Because Montessori has been a huge part of our lives, we still have Montessori shelves in our school room. Each kid has their own shelf.
This is Judah’s shelf currently.
(The black desk and chair is where he does his morning folder work)
I have a wide range of activities for Judah to choose from on his shelf.
This includes things like geography puzzles, periodic table, grammar lessons, skyscrapers, grammar farm, brain quest, tracing, microscope with slides and more.
Once these have been presented to Judah, these are meant to be fairly independent.
Skyscrapers live in the gray cabinet.
Dex’s shelf looks like this right now.
(I win the prize for most ghetto shelf ever! I have a second one like Judah’s, but I haven’t painted it yet! And it came out of a 100 year old house, so it smells like old person.)
It also has a pretty wide range of activities.
Things like alphabet puzzles, matching, lacing, tracing, 45 layout (not the full thing yet) and much more.
Whenever Judah is working on independent things, I am sitting with Dex or preparing for my next move.
I can’t stress enough how much easier it is to have the bigger kid come to you than it is to walk away from the littler one.
This week we purchased a new computer for school! This means we will be using our Time4Learning subscription, a typing program I have found, other educational websites and some computer games I have purchased at Lakeshore Learning.
I’m also going to incorporate Netflix shows like Reading Rainbow, Bill Nye and Magic School Bus if I find a show that goes along with something we might be learning in science or history. I will probably add ‘computer time’ to the work plan twice a week. Judah is really looking forward to this.
I have multiple work areas so we are constantly moving to different places throughout the morning. This will help break up the boring. It also helps the littler ones focus on just one area at a time, other than having a huge space to run through and trash.
I try my best to make school time, school time. That means I stay off my phone as much as I can, I stay in the school room, I keep all distractions away and I provide the boys with my undivided attention.
I want the boys to always know that their education is important to me and it comes first during this time. I also know that for a good part of the afternoon, I have to get other things done and the morning is ‘their’ time with me. This sends a message to the kids that they are important and I really find that if I’m not distracted, they’re not distracted.
This is how the majority of our school days look.
Sometimes we get crazy, ditch the plan and do something fun like: bake a cake, bring school to the library, play with friends, do a huge craft or art project or turn a trip to the grocery store into a math lesson. We’re wild!
Please comment with any questions, suggestions, ideas or candy.