I am not a naturally patient person. My two girls ask me multiple times a week if I’m having a stressful day, usually because they are catching me in the middle of their little brother tracking dirt through the house at the same time that one of them is crying over a damaged treasure or unfair state of affairs, all while something on the stove is threatening to burn or overflow! My day can be going along swimmingly and then an hour of madness can hold my sanity hostage for a short time, leaving me overwhelmed and frustrated. Add homeschooling to the mix, and let’s just say, sometimes the entire concoction can feel like I’m stuck inside a blender with no ability to control or see anything with clarity! And yet, after 3 years of homeschooling our young children, we have learned a few things that give us the desire and the ability to press on.
If you’re considering homeschooling and are at a loss for how to do this with little ones to both educate and keep occupied while you teach, I thought I’d share 3 things that have helped us succeed in covering our main subjects.
The formal ‘sit-down-and-study-a-subject’ style of schooling is just one element to our children’s homeschool education. The learning truly never stops.
As the kids get older and we need to spend more time on academics, we’ll spend more time on schoolwork, but for now, especially with a toddler who wants to get into EVERYTHING and has a relatively short attention span, we can usually only accomplish 3 subjects a day.
1) Math Lessons Before Breakfast
Math is not my strong suit, so a couple times a week, Will has started spending 30-60 minutes working on new math concepts with our oldest (who is almost 7 and is going into Grade 2 at the time of writing this post) while I fix breakfast, unload the dishwasher etc., and keep the two younger children (age 4.5 and 1.5) out of their way. Will and Lauren often wind up on working on our bed in the back of the house where it’s quiet and where they won’t be interrupted. They cover new material that I review during the week. This enables me to opt out of having to figure out what to teach, how to teach it, and how to assess Lauren’s ability and comprehension. Will shows me what I need to review during the week, so I’ll usually try and take 15 minutes 2-3 times during the week to help Lauren review the concepts she learned with Dad. We’ve really seen her math flourish with this process in place, and I think the fact that she is a morning person and that she’s at her peak attention span first thing in the morning, has really helped.
If you give this early morning teaching a whirl, you might want to try it first with at least one of the pair being a morning person…Will isn’t one, but Lauren is, so it seems to go smoothly. Coffee for the parent might help, and a pre-breakfast snack like a banana, muffin, or applesauce might be helpful for the student too.
2) Post-Breakfast Language Arts
During the school year, we’ve found that immediately jumping into our language arts lessons is the most effective use of our time when it comes to focusing on school. Lauren and Natalie take turns sitting with me and doing reading lessons and phonics, while one of them plays with Travis (outdoors when the weather is good) so that the one doing their lessons can concentrate and have (most of) my attention. Lauren can now work on spelling lessons, journaling, and copy work on her own, so I often save this for once we are done the things that need my focus. I usually get about 20 minutes with each girl before Travis needs more of my focused attention. Once math and language arts are done in the morning, I can either sit down and do some reading aloud with Travis and the girls, or get some household chores and meal prep done before lunch. As the kids all get older, their attention spans will expand and we’ll have more time for morning schoolwork, but while they are all this young, I find that by mid-morning, we need the break!
3) Afternoon Subjects
After lunch we all take a quiet time for at least a couple hours. The girls play quietly in their room (or once in a while the living room or the garden), while Travis naps, and I take a break to both relax and work. We all feel refreshed and ready to be together again, which is a great time to start our afternoon subject. With littles, I feel like I only have the capacity for one extra subject a day: history, geography, science, art, or French. So we maybe spend 30-60 minutes on that subject before the kids are sent to play, or I read aloud while they fold laundry, or we prep dinner. They get to watch a 30-minute show during the lead-up to dinner while I get my final prep done.
Again, as the kids get older and we need to spend more time on academics, we’ll spend more of our afternoons on schoolwork, but for now, especially with a toddler who wants to get into EVERYTHING and has a relatively short attention span, we can usually only accomplish 3 subjects a day. This might not seem like a lot, but because the teacher/student ratio is so optimal, we pack a lot into those short stretches of time. And because my kids have so much time for both indoor and outdoor play, their creativity, curiosity, and learning only increases. Our mealtimes are overflowing with the kids’ excitement over what they discovered in the garden, endless questions about history and cultures, and regular Bible reading, Scripture memory, and poetry reading. The formal ‘sit-down-and-study-a-subject’ style of schooling is just one element to our children’s homeschool education. The learning truly never stops.
“Because my kids have so much time for both indoor and outdoor play, their creativity, curiosity, and learning only increases.”
Want to learn more about our Homeschool Journey? CLICK HERE for one of my past blog posts, detailing why and how we started out.