How do I homeschool with multiple ages and grades in the house, including an active toddler or new baby?
There are many changing phases of life for homeschooling families, and, quite often, just when you get into a good routine, something changes again. Homeschooling families need to get resourceful with time and curricula in a way that best fits and supports what is happening in the home in any given year.
Multiple grades and ages? Maybe this is the year to switch to a unit study model of homeschooling. Having all the kids learning the same content together at the same time, but expecting age-appropriate learning outcomes is a great way to make the most of your teaching time, and make the most of memory building between siblings. Or, if the ages/grades are too different or the competition between kids is unhelpful, you could teach some children in the morning and the others in the afternoon. This takes up more of the parent’s day, but could feel more relaxing and effective as the kids work one-on-one with you and then have leisure or independent work time for the rest of the day.
When a new baby comes, some parents find that homeschooling takes a break. Maybe this is the year to consider year-round homeschooling. Take a month or two off when the baby arrives and then work through the summer months. Other families find that the ongoing routine and structure of homeschooling actually allows mom and baby to take time to bond and rest without interruptions from older siblings wondering what to do with their day.
Busy toddlers are greatly helped by activity bags. They so often just want to ‘do school’ like the big kids but you need them to be occupied with something that they can’t break, that won’t make a mess, and that won’t require you to divide your time between the older learners and the toddler. Keeping the toddler near the school table in a highchair with Activity Bags (look on Pinterest for more ideas) or Montessori games and items is a great way to begin some early learning skills and keep the little one occupied. Also, school that requires your undivided attention with the older kids could be moved to happen during the toddler’s nap time.
Most importantly, don’t forget that learning how to love and care for a toddler is a great part of homeschool, so don’t be afraid to assign childcare duties to one child while you work with another. Real life family skills are easy to overlook, but having a baby or toddler in the family mix gives the older kids opportunities they would not get in the classroom. Enjoy your family, be flexible, and have fun!