Inside: Tips for a smooth homeschooling day with multiple children and a peek at the schedule that works well for us
Homeschooling multiple children can seem like a tough prospect. To be sure, it’s not easy! But there are definitely ways to make the day go more smoothly, even when your children are very young.
Homeschooling Multiple Children Well
There are a few reasons why we need our homeschooling days to go more smoothly.
- Who wants to be doing lessons until 4 pm?
- Chaos ensues with our other children while we’re working with one individual child.
- We want everyone to know what’s expected during school time and help it go on without a hitch.
These are all valid and common issues when we have more than one or two children (especially when we have little ones).
We currently have 4 children who are ages 8, 7, 5, and 3. There have been many days that were difficult, many days that were fantastic, and thankfully, very few days that have been a complete disaster (though they do happen).
10 Tips for a Smooth Homeschooling Day with Multiple Children
These are the things I think about while deciding how to structure our homeschooling day.
1. Be realistic.
As you set out to plan what you want to accomplish daily, be honest about what your family will and will not do. It’s great to be ambitious and try new things, but we also don’t want to get too bogged down and end up burning ourselves out.
As an example, you may know that at some point you want your children to learn Latin, apologetics, logic, and memorize a new proverb every week. But starting all of those things at the same time would prove to be strenuous for most families. Especially when you have more than two children who you’re doing formal lessons with.
Homeschooling is a long game. Maybe tackle the proverbs and logic this year, and start the other two next year. Or choose simple logic skills and very basic apologetics conversations now so that you can focus first on teaching Latin. Whatever the solution, make sure it’s do-able for you.
2. Make every minute count (within reason).
There’s a certain art to homeschooling multiple children in a timely way while offering a robust education. Part of it is making the most of your time. This often means rearranging your schedule in a way that fits together like a puzzle.
A few examples may be working with your preschooler before everyone else is awake instead of waiting until after your morning basket. Or having your children work on their drawing lesson while you start on laundry for the day (everyone still has to have clean clothes, right?). Or having one child start on the independent portion of their math lesson while you finish up with their younger sibling’s reading.
I can’t say specifically what it will look like for your family without knowing what curriculum you use, what grades you’re teaching, and what goals you have. But look for ways to arrange your day in a way that maximizes your time.
2. Do most subjects family-style.
I love the lessons that we do together as a family. For that reason, the only subjects my children are separated for are English and math. All other subjects are done as a group. So we read the Bible together, study famous painters and composers together, explore history together, learn science together, and become immersed in great literature together.
It’s much less time-consuming to have everyone learn these subjects together. And it’s also great that our kids enjoy doing them together.
Of course, not all curriculum is set up in such a way that can be done family-style, so if you decide to go this route, you’ll need to choose your curriculum accordingly, forego the curriculum in favor of a DIY option, or modify curriculum to fit the varying ages of your children. All are very do-able. (With a little researching and wisdom from other moms who have already done what you’re going for.)
You may ask how to keep everyone’s attention at various age groups. But that’s a different post for a different day!
3. Rotate brain areas frequently.
This is a lesson I’ve learned from the Charlotte Mason homeschooling community. Education should be a feast of learning set before our children. But in order to have such a wide variety of delicacies, each lesson should be short, and we should switch things up to give our children a break from whatever kind of work they’ve ben focusing on.
So for example, if I’ve just finished a very listening-based history lesson, I’ll want to follow it up by something more hands-on, like nature study. Or if my child has just completed a rigorous math lesson, I’ll want to let them enjoy listening to me a read a book and then having them narrate it back.
This will keep children’s minds from becoming too fatigued and help them focus, which will ultimately help the flow of your day.
4. Don’t skimp on the extras!
When we first started, some days it was all I could do to hit the basics. but as time went on and we got a flow down, I was able to add more exciting things to our daily line-up.
Here are some great subjects to include throughout the week:
- a foreign language
- composer study
- artist study
- nature study & nature walks
- life skills (cooking, sewing, fixing cars, etc.)
- family read aloud
- missionary study
- ANYTHING that your child is interested in at the time
We don’t currently cover all of these in our homeschool, but we do include many of them.
Sure, you can “get through the day” more quickly without them. But they enrich the schooling experience so much more.
5. Get little ones done first.
If you have young ones that you’re teaching, it’s always best (at least for us) to get their lessons done first.
Sometimes this means that we do their work before the older two even wake up for the day. Sometimes it means that right after our family-style lessons, I work with our toddler first, then follow with our kindergartener’s lessons before moving on to my “big” kids.
Either way, little attention spans call for shorter schooling periods.
6. Plan independent work for older children.
While I’m doing lesson plans, I write down what everyone should be doing while I’m working with someone else. That’s often independent work from our curriculum. If one of my children is having a hard time with a certain concept that we’re working on in math or another subject, I may have a practice sheet or online game for them to play to help them solidify it.
Independent work might also include handwriting, typing, drawing, or memory work.
7. Have agreed-upon activities for waiting periods.
If my children have finished their independent work for the day but they’re still waiting on me to finish up with another child, we have agreed-upon activities that they can do without the atmosphere dissolving into chaos.
Our two girls are in gymnastics and ballet. They like to stretch and practice basic skills while waiting.
Our kids can also:
- read whatever book they’re currently working through
- do puzzles
- play a quiet game together
- get their daily chores done
8. Have your toddlers’ needs in mind.
I know that not all of you have toddlers, but for those who do, it’s often a large hurdle to overcome during the homeschool day. Toddlers need a fair amount of supervision, frequent snacks, diaper changes or potty time, naps, etc. Structuring your day with these needs in mind makes days a little simpler.
When our youngest is hangry, there’s no point in even trying to instruct anyone. For that reason, we start our day with fruit and breakfast. After our family lessons, we have a snack. At noon, we have lunch. And usually shortly after, our schooling day is done. Healthy snacks are also within reach so they can ask for one at any time and grab it easily.
During nap for my toddler and preschooler after lunch, the school day is usually about done. At that time, I’m finishing up with my oldest son, and the rest of the house is quiet. When he’s done, he reads and plays quietly in his room (as does our second-grader) so as to not disturb the sleeping littles.
All of this is our general routine to keep things fairly mellow and happy, with everyone’s needs being met. And all of the kids know what to expect throughout most of the day, which brings me to my next point.
9. Have a fairly consistent daily flow.
Doing so really minimizes on possible chaos. This doesn’t mean that every day has to look exactly the same. But in general, if everyone knows what to expect at a given point, it creates less anxiety.
My children really do thrive with a loose routine. I say “loose” because it’s not a schedule. We don’t do certain things at certain times (other than lunch and nap). But we do know what comes next in our day if we’ve finished something else.
For example, we don’t always start our day at the same time. But we always start with Bible, followed by enrichment (artist study, composer study, poetry, or nature depending on the day). Our day has a certain flow that can be relied upon in most cases.
10. Be flexible.
Even though we have a daily flow, I’m willing to be flexible to cause our day to go smoother if need be.
My lesson plan may say that I’m doing our oldest son’s math at the end of the day. But if he’s awake before everyone else, we’ll go ahead and tackle it so that it’s one less thing to do later on.
Our Basic daily Schedule
Here is a glimpse at a weekly flow that has worked well for us. (Foreign language has been added to this schedule because we will be starting their foreign language this fall.)
Keep in mind, we’re Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschoolers, so we try to have what’s called a “feast of learning.” BUT we keep each lesson short. For example, each enrichment lesson (other than nature study or crafting) only takes 5-10 minutes. History and science both take under 20 minutes. For our family literature, we read one chapter per day, unless it’s a particularly long chapter. Then I may break it up over two days.
So while this may seem like a long day, it’s truly not! I finish up with or 3-year-old around 10:30. Our kindergartener is done around 11:15. First (now second) grader is done by lunch, and I finish up with our oldest son after lunch (UNLESS he woke up before the other children and got his work done then).
What questions do you have about homeschooling multiple children at different age levels? I would love to hear from you and help where I can!
Are you a seasoned homeschool mom? What advice do you have for families who are new to homeschooling?
Until next time.
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