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Teaching Multiple Children at Home

There is nothing worse than getting one of your children situated and seemingly engaged in their work, only to have them upside down and rolling off the couch the second you turn around! I've been there, believe me! It's exhausting, isn't it?! While I don't have all the answers, there are a few things that have helped our family over the years, and I hope that they can help YOU as well.

Letting Them Know What Is Expected

Letting my kids know, upfront, what is expected of them has been a game-changer for our homeschool. The way I do this is by simply giving each child a little spiral notebook and writing their assignments for the next day in it each night before I go to bed. It's not fancy, just bullet points outlining the subject and whatever page they'll be working on for that day. My oldest is a self-starter and doesn't need much help (and actually appreciates the planner-type feel of the assignment list); however, I read through each bullet point with my youngest two at the beginning of the school day, and show them which books they will be working from as well. If you have really young kids, drawing pictures would work too! They can ask questions, see their instructions and get their supplies ready to go. It gives them a sense of ownership, and a little bit of control over their environment and, for us at least, it has proven to be incredibly helpful.

*Adding a snack, exercise or "brain" break between every 2 assignments wouldn't hurt either!!*

Try To Implement Group Learning

I realize this isn't going to work for every family because the age differences might be too great; however, if you have the opportunity to teach a lesson to ALL of your kids at the same time...friend, take it! A great curriculum for this is Gather 'Round by Rebecca Spooner. Basically, you teach one lesson to your children and they each have a workbook that specifically targets their ability level. It's genius, and we have really enjoyed the lessons we have worked through so far! Story of the World for History is another one that uses roughly the same concept. But even if you don't have a specific curriculum that does this, you can easily adapt the same idea with Unit Studies. For example, let's say you'd like to study about Booker T. Washington. Simply gather books that you'd like to read to your children as read-aloud's, and either do group work as you learn, or assign each child a different craft or worksheet to do once you've completed the reading. In my opinion, the easiest subjects for this are Science, History, Social Studies/Current Events and Art.

Little Activities for Little Hands

I find that the kids that have the most trouble staying on task are the littles...that's true for every aspect of family life, isn't it?! It's just not in their nature to sit still, and since they (usually) can't read yet, it's a lot to ask of them to do "work" like their older and more mature (again, usually!) siblings. So, what's the answer? Well, I've found that having little activities for them to do once they complete their assignment has really helped. Our go-to has always been lacing cards (like these), easy word puzzles (like these), or string beads (like these). I make sure that they are all in a place that is very easy for my littlest to reach, and she knows that once she completes an assignment she has the choice of which of those activities she'd like to do. Again, it's instilling freedom and independence in them as well as giving YOU a break. If you don't have any of those on hand, it's very easy to draw a few lines (diagonal, curved, zig-zag, etc) on construction paper and have your young ones practice their cutting skills quietly. Put a cozy blanket and a pillow or two on the floor and set out a basket of books that they like to look at and/or read, and tell them that it's their own personal reading nook. The possibilities are endless! The problems arise when they just can't find that next "thing". I've found that if they know where to look, and have a few different options, they'll usually happily occupy least for a little while!

Flexibility is KEY

While planning out assignments, and trying your best to have extra activities for your littlest learners are all great ideas, sometimes those precious little angels just will NOT cooperate! It's easy to get frustrated, especially when you just need to do that One.More.Thing (laundry, dishes, helping your other kids, etc.). Believe me friend, I've walked in your shoes and I get it! On those days, in those instances, you just have to take a deep breath, regroup and take another path. It could be that "school" needs to be done in the evening on that particular day. Maybe a nature walk, or a quick game of hide-n-go-seek will help your kids get their wiggles out. Maybe they're feeling extra snuggly and all they really need is a day curled up on the couch with you and a really good book. Whatever it is, try to be open to the change. We've all heard the saying that "babies don't keep". Well, it's the truth. They don't. Before you know it they won't fit in the crook of your arm, in your lap, or even on that old worn out chair with you like they did before. It's not always easy, but on the days when nothing seems to be working out, try to see the blessing in slowing down. Whether you're homeschooling because it was your choice, or because that choice was made for you...the time you have with them now is a blessing, and it is fleeting. My prayer for you tonight is that you embrace it in all its messy, frustrating, beautiful, exhausting glory. In the end, I don't think you'll regret it even for a minute.



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