Homeschooling multiple children can get tricky at times but I’ve found it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be. When my kids were really little we did most of our school work combined, reading to my oldest while the younger’s played nearby listening. I discovered that my boys retained information much better when their hands were moving, so I would read to them while they built with blocks, dug in the dirt or worked puzzles. I would spend about 3 hours most days reading aloud which was exhausting yet rewarding and it was something I could do while holding the baby.
While some homeschool programs try to teach all subjects together as a family, I find that my children are at very different academic levels and need to be challenged individually. The idea of managing multiple children’s schoolwork seemed so daunting, yet it has actually proven to be much easier than anticipated. For a while I used to have older children do their reading on their own, however I’ve found that it’s better to read with them. This not only allows me to have quality one-on-one time with each child, but also makes it so I don’t have to set aside time to pre-read the passages and helps me observe and assess where they are in their reading and comprehension.
I have a chart of what my boys are responsible to do on their own for each Ambleside Online 12 week term. They keep that folder in their desk and each morning pull it out to see what the tasks for that day are. These things include Bible, Math, Copywork (for you non-CM people that means handwriting and spelling), Grammar, etc.
We all gather around the dining room table for school (we use the small drawers/shelves to store our books so that it doesn’t take up a large portion of our dining room). I try to limit external distractions during this time (i.e. no phone, computer) so that I can focus on helping them. I rotate reading with one child while the other is working on individual work. See the Day in the Life post for more details about how this works. We usually finish by lunchtime (1pm).
Some groupwork we do in the afternoon such as nature study. The other items really only take 15-20 minutes maximum, so we do them in the morning after devotional. The items we do together as a family include nature study, science, art, artist study, composer study, hymns, folksongs, geography, and foreign language. I try to divide these up by day so that each afternoon we do something different. Here’s a simple chart I use to keep track of these subjects so they aren’t forgotten.
That’s a glimpse of how we handle teaching multiple children around here. This is just one way to approach it, but I think there is much to be gained by letting children take some responsibility for their education rather than being spoon fed everything. Not only that, but a mother’s time can only spread so far among multiple children.
Now the next question is what do we do with those little monkeys who climb on the counter and empty the sugar bin all over the floor or stream toilet paper through the house while we’re doing schoolwork with the older kids? I’ve got a few tips for managing little ones in the next section!