Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Homeschooling in a Big Busy Family

Morning study time
I think the one question I hear most is, "How in the world do you do school with babies and toddlers?"  How indeed...I have to admit it seems a little ironic that I planned to write about this just now.  Today was one of those occasional days when all the short people around here seemed to go crazy - all at the same time.  There are some days when it's time to yell, "Batten down the hatches!!" and just let the storm blow over!  Even so, we got some decent work in, following one of my favorite principles for getting anything done:

Do it in the morning.  If there is anything I need to accomplish with the children, for me, it's got to happen in the morning.  You'd think afternoon nap time would be better, and it did used to be, but anymore I kind of need that time to gather my wits (assuming there are any left...).  But more importantly, everybody is usually happy in the morning.  They're rested, freshly fed, eager to be reunited with long lost toys or go see what snow looks like when it got warm, and then cold again.  The little folk are pretty good at entertaining themselves and each other under those conditions.  This means the big kids get some quiet time to focus on their studies, and I am mostly available to help them as needed.  I am also able to teach my first grader during that time.  Once we get to lunch time, our book work is done.  There are chores to be done, naps to be had, showers, piano practice, free time outside, rabbit care, free reading, free crafting...good stuff.  But this year we are getting the "seat work" type stuff done by noon, and it works beautifully.  I have learned that the farther past lunch we get, the more likely my plans are to be derailed by a nap cut short, a fussy baby, necessary phone calls, whatever.

Another important strategy is to have the little ones occupy each other.   My five year old and four year old can play together endlessly.  On a good day they don't even fight.  (No, in that sense, today was not a good day.  Nobody's perfect. :))  The baby also happens to think both of them are hilarious.  My two year old tags along with both of them...but, toddler style, usually prefers to do his own thing.  He has, I confess, a bit of a Blue's Clues addiction that I try not to lean on too heavily - but he likes to sit and play with his toys with Blue on in the background.  It's a useful diversion, if not overdone.   When I have to call Becca, who's 5 and in first grade, for some school, Jonathan (4) is often disappointed to give up his playmate!  I let him be on the computer during her school time.  He plays Winnie the Pooh Kindergarten and some games on the PBS Kids website.  I think that the computer exposure is good for them - again, if not overdone.  I sometimes forget to get him off and suddenly realize he's been at it far too long - file that in my "to improve" file, I guess!

One of the most important to me: chill.  Okay, I am probably pretty effectively dating myself with that one, but there you are: late Gen X. :)  Everyone is different, but I can't afford to get too uptight about the book work.  Been there, done it, and the stress causes lots of pain and very little gain.  My kids have assignments, and they have to get them done on the day they are assigned - but exceptions and interruptions are a part of real life, which is what I am trying to train them for.  So we learn to accept those things and do what needs done to work around them.  Today, Erin missed some of her own 7th grade schoolwork, because her little sister was building a covered wagon out of a shoe box, and Erin (who's turning 12) wanted to build one too, so they could hitch up the horses and play wagon train in their free time.  I see that as a good thing!  I strive for a general pattern of getting all the necessities done.  If that pattern is happening, we can relax when on occasion, things go differently.  If the pattern is not happening - that is a problem that needs addressing, promptly.

Jonathan and Grandpa - having fun and learning to work
Finally, a thought that is near and dear to most every homeschooler's heart - learning happens everywhere, not just at the kitchen table.  Book work is necessary, but there is so much more to school.  For us, "school" happens in the garden, at the rabbit hutches, in tending siblings, in solving conflicts, in household chores, at the kitchen stove, around town, at church, in the evening at family worship with Daddy, and even on vacation!  These are experiences that we all have together, and some of the best learning happens in that context.

Exploring the laws of physics??

1 comment:

Ann said...

Thanks for the good tips, Dez. Oh, and I love your family and hearing your daily rhythms of life :) What a joy!