We started this school year with one child homeschooling at our table. All was comfortable, familiar, and easy enough to manage. Then January came and our homeschool of one student went to a homeschool of two. Even though it was much earlier than I originally planned, Prissy joined us at the table. With her came the challenges that come with homeschooling two kids, 5 years apart.
There’s no shortage of parents out there who are homeschooling large families and doing it successfully. Those folks are rockstars! Even so, adding another homeschooler to our table is new to me. I’m still finding my groove with schooling two kids at once; there’s definitely a learning curve!
Here’s what I’ve learned in our homeschool this year
Working together is ideal, but not always possible
I love the thought of my kids learning the same things at the same time. In my mind, the utopian homeschool works this way. I have visions of them reading the same books, being on the same history cycles, and learning all kinds of scientific principles together. But like all utopian concepts, that’s just not reality and it’s probably not going to be at any point in our homeschool.
The opportunities for me to teach them together will be few and far between. Five years difference between Prissy and The Boy, especially while she’s preschool age, means that they are on vastly different levels of understanding and ability. Even when she’s older, it will still be challenging to find ways for them learn together. It’s too early to completely lock in on her learning style, but I have no reason to believe at this point that she’s going to mimic his learning styles and patterns. An eclectic Charlotte Mason/classical mix works nicely for him, but I may find that she needs something different than him once she’s beyond her preschool years.
Doing the fun stuff together is best
Since my kids are on such different levels, the most practical way to engage both of them at the same time is through experiments and other activities. Those are by far my best opportunities to get them working together. While these experiments and activities are usually are planned for The Boy’s sake, Prissy’s perfectly capable of joining in with him.
From making a model of the bloodstream with cheerios and marshmallows to making our own tectonic plates with graham crackers and frosting, she’s been able to jump in and participate perfectly well. Sure, she tried to eat the white blood cells (a.k.a. marshmallows) and lick the frosting off of the lithosphere, but these kinds of things have been great for both of them. It gives him an opportunity to help her along while learning it himself and it gives her a break from her normal routine. I don’t expect her to understand all aspects of the activities or retain anything we’ve discussed before and after, but I’m sure I’d be surprised by what actually sticks with her in these moments.
Working independently is a huge help
One blessing in my kids being five years apart is that The Boy is old enough to work independently some of the time. Even if it’s only for a few minutes each day, allowing him to work alone gives me the time I need to work with Prissy. Since she’s only three years-old, her school time each day is usually limited to less than thirty minutes. I don’t have to leave him working alone for too long, but getting him started on a subject and then moving over to her works out perfectly. After all, as much as she’d like the freedom, she’s not ready for unsupervised practice with scissors and Sharpies.
Planning is more important than ever
Thank goodness I’ve always been a planner. Planning for these two is no joke!
Lesson planning for two.
Requesting library books for two (covering all sorts of different subjects, mind you)
Printing for two
Buying weekly supplies for two
Coordinating space for two
Dividing my time in two
All of these elements keep our homeschool running smoothly. During this adjustment, I’ve learned that I’ve got to stay on top of my planning for both kids or I’ll easily get overwhelmed. No single item from this list can go undone or I’ll have a domino effect happening and it’s just not worth that risk!
Distractions run rampant
Wondering how Prissy ended up at the table so soon?
This one has probably been the biggest adjustment and it gets us every. single. day. Sometimes we can eliminate the distractions around us easily, but sometimes the distractions are unavoidable. In all fairness, these distractions aren’t necessarily due to Prissy joining us. We’re rarely home alone and life is happening all around us. Our schoolroom is off of our kitchen and it’s hard to keep it completely to quiet all morning long. When we have something going on in the kitchen or near it, one of the kids is bound to notice. When one train of thought derails, the other soon follows.
Even if I’m lucky enough to have her attention amidst any potential distractions, The Boy is easily distractible; he’ll eventually take away any focus she had in the process of letting his mind wander about. And when he somehow misses the distraction and keeps his focus, she’s kind enough to bring it to his attention.
On the days where interruptions are constant and concentration seems to fly out the schoolroom window, all we can do is our best. When I see it coming, I can send The Boy upstairs for a bit and let him work alone or I can take Prissy with me and we can work in her room. When a change of scenery isn’t enough, we just do what we can do and try to catch up throughout the week.
Yep, it’s been quite a learning curve for me, but that’s one of the great things about homeschooling. You don’t have to have it all figured out all the time. There is room for us as parents and teachers to learn and grow along with our kids!
I’m not the only one who’s learned something in homeschool this year. Stop by iHomeschool Network
and see what other homeschool parents have taken away from another year of homeschooling.
What have you learned in your homeschool this year?