As the mother of three young boys, one of my biggest hesitations about diving in and homeschooling my oldest was this: What will I do with the other two while I am working with the oldest? While it is still a struggle at times, I have found some strategies that work.
Overcoming the Guilt Factor
Just as when a new baby enters the home, and much of the attention goes from the older child(ren) to the baby, the opposite happens when an older child is homeschooled and the younger ones are not. While my husband and I were tossing and turning over whether or not to homeschool our oldest, the “guilt factor" as I call it, would creep in my mind. What if the other two children feel left out? What if they need me and I cannot meet their needs because I am working with my oldest and it’s “school time"?
That was the way that I felt before I started homeschooling, when I was playing through all the possible scenerios in my head. Now that I have started, I still occasionally feel guilty, but I have found several strategies to manage it and make sure all my children get the attention they need.
Time Management Tips
Break Up the School Day into Manageable Chunks
This may look different for every parent. I take 30 minutes in the morning to do school, and about 60-90 minutes in the afternoon. Sometimes it’s less, dependent upon what the day brings. It’s different for everyone, and if you are new to homeschooling, it may take some time to figure this part out. Take advantage of the younger sibling's nap times to block out more time to work with your older child.
Some may find it easier to flip-flop their time by doing a longer session in the morning and a shorter one in the afternoon, or by doing it all in one large chunk of time. I’ve also met other homeschooling parents who only do school four days a week because their younger children have
activities one day a week. Again, it’s different for each family, but I created our homeschool schedule around my youngest son’s nap time.
During the shorter time block, we work on a subject that requires a little less focus and comes easier for my son, where it is okay for him to have “distractions" (his younger brothers). I need to limit the time to 30 minutes in order to give attention to the other children. My middle child is good about playing by himself for that period of time, but sometimes I put in a video for my youngest. Alternatively, my youngest will sit in my lap when I’m working with my oldest. Although if I do that I need something for him to do with his hands. Knowing your children is a big key to making this part run smoothly. Even then, you will have to be flexible. You won't always get everything done in one day that you intend to.
Make Quiet Bins
During the longer, afternoon time block, I have activities for my middle son to do on his own with very little help from me. I accomplish this be creating “quiet bins" filled with easy activities such as an Etch-a-Sketch, a Magnadoodle, puzzles, blocks, etc. Sometimes just getting your child to color, paint, or draw pictures while you are working with the oldest child on school, is helpful. If you have a child like mine who
would rather have “rest time," that is always an option. My middle son will curl up on a couch in the next room with some books and his favorite stuffed animal and will sometimes doze off.
Regardless of what the “non-schooled" children are doing, it may be important for them to know that school time is quiet time in the house, which for us means no TV, computer or telephone use by anyone, including me.
School Both at the Same Time
If your younger child is old enough to do preschool activities have them work on it while the older child is focusing on school. For instance, if my oldest is completing pages in his phonics workbook, I will read a book or do shape flashcards with my middle son. Setting a child up at a sink filled with water and some simple plastic cups and cooking utensils will keep them busy for quite some time. Finally, if your younger children just want to sit with you and the older child that is great! I often encourage my middle child to ask questions about what his brother
and I are working on, or he can join us in completing a craft.
Making Time for All Your Children
If you feel that nagging “guilt factor" like I do, there are some things you can do that may help. On non-school days, like weekends, ask your younger children to sit by you in places like a restaurant or at church. Take a stroll around your neighborhood, ride bikes or share a bedtime story. Have preschool aged children help you clean, bake, or make a meal. My middle son loves the vacuum and loves to “spray" so he is great at helping clean bathroom mirrors.
Whatever you choose to do, do it side-by-side, otherwise the point is lost. My son will spray the mirror and I will wipe it down. Anything that allows you to spend time together can reduce that “guilt factor" and also gives your “non-schooled" children a sense of confidence and appreciation and helps them to maintain their sense of self-worth in the family unit.