Teaching Multiple Young Children

We currently have a houseful of little ones with four involved in "school time" each day. They range from one to five years old, so we definitely know the juggling act it can take to keep everyone occupied!

In our home we've opted for different kits for each child, with the exception of our twins who share a PreK kit but have their own workbooks.

There are a few subjects that have some overlap though. For instance our five-year-old is working through All About Reading Level 1 but still enjoys participating in All About Reading Pre-Reading on most days. So does our toddler - but he is definitely just "coloring" and not grasping the material. ;)

Everyone loves art, so Friday is art day and everyone does some sort of art together.

But the core of their learning (the bulk of their language arts, math, thinking skills, STEM) are each geared specifically for the student.

So how does this work for teaching?

Well, the first thing is to find or teach each child at least one skill he can do independently at the table. This can be stickers, coloring, a puzzle, reading or looking at picture books. Our toddler loves homemade playdough with a handful of tiny construction trucks. Once your child is able to do something mostly on his own for around five minutes, your teaching life gets so much easier!

A few minutes of prep each week will be another key part of keeping teaching as stress-free as possible. Some families prefer to remove today's pages from the workbook and grab only the STEM blocks you need today. Others will grab a weekly checklist and their entire stack of options and allow their child to pick what's next. Do whatever works best for you!

Now you're ready to get started!

If you're beginning with one-on-one learning, ask one child to begin with her favorite independent learning project and grab an interactive project for your other student. So while little Sally works on her art journal (or scribbles with passion on scrap paper), you'll be able to do a page or two of math with Tom. Then you'll flip flop roles, and Tom will do his favorite puzzle while you help Sally with her math or thinking skills or whatever else is on today's agenda.

As your child begins to master items in his curriculum kit, you'll have more and more things for him to do while helping his sister. STEM kits and thinking skills games are classics for this, as it doesn't take long for a child to move beyond handholding to the "I'll do it myself" stage!

Even in these early days, though, when it feels like real progress is only being made 50% of the time, remember that in a typical classroom, your child would only have the teacher's attention 1/20th or so of the time - so unless you're juggling 20 little ones your child is getting so much more one-on-one than even the best case typical classroom. (And learning to work by oneself is a skill too - even if it just looks like the toddler is playing trucks again, you know that there is a skill being developed that will serve him for the rest of his life.)

As your children get older and dive into more in-depth science and history, we suggest combining grades when possible. For instance, if our current crew were a year or two older, we would want to do Story of the World together. We then would shuffle assignments to fit the needs of each child - just listening might be enough for the younger ones, while the oldest might want to also color the relevant coloring pages, for instance.

Don't expect your first few weeks of homeschooling to go exactly how you pictured them in your mind. There will be a learning curve for all of you, and if you can approach that without stress, you'll find that in a month or so, you've settled into a rhythm that works well for you.

Feel free to utilize naps/quiet times to recharge or one-on-one time for the non-napping student. And don't expect this to take all day. You're going to be surprised at how much you accomplish in an hour a day!