The Day is Yours: Balancing Young Children with School-Age Children in Your Homeschool
(By Tara Ray)
One of the most common questions I am asked about homeschooling is, “What do you do with your little girl while you are teaching your son?” My daughter is 4 years younger than my son, and she was born right at the beginning of our homeschooling journey. I will admit that when she was first born, I thought, “What am I going to do with her while I am teaching him?” After a few weeks of attempting to start school at “school-starting time” (8:30 a.m.), I came to a realization – the day is ours.
Although homeschoolers are required to complete a certain number of school hours and days throughout the year, there is no time restriction regarding what time school is to begin and end each day. We realized that we didn’t have to do the bulk of our schoolwork at 9:00 a.m. when both children were at their rowdiest. We could tailor our day to fit our needs, and construct a schedule that would best facilitate the learning of our son.
What worked best for me was to teach my son while my daughter was napping. For his Kindergarten year, this worked beautifully. She was between 6- and 16-months during that year, and took two naps a day. We had part of our school day in the morning while she was napping, took a break, and completed the day during her afternoon day. By the beginning of the next year, my (extremely busy) daughter was down to one nap per day. At my husband’s request, we once again tried to start our school day around 9:00 a.m., but by 11:00, most of our classroom had been turned upside down and not much education had been accomplished. This led to a hyper son (excited by his sister’s antics), and a frazzled mom-teacher. After a few weeks of discussing with my husband and trying different things, we found a routine that worked: my son would do his independent work (worksheets, copy work, etc.) in the mornings while I could distract his sister, and during my daughter’s afternoon nap, we would have our instructional time. This is how we finished the year.
While this schedule was awesome for us, it may be completely different for your family. But, the beauty of homeschooling is that you can structure your day however you like, and however is most beneficial for your family (within the parameters of state laws regarding hours/days, of course!). When I am faced with the question, “What do you do with your little girl while you are teaching your son?” I always tell the mom-teacher: “It might take you a few weeks, but try some different schedules and routines, and see what works best for your family. Your homeschool day doesn’t have to look like a traditional school day. You will find something that works, and that you love!” And then I throw in my personal homeschooling motto: “When you start to think outside the box, the possibilities are endless!”