How do these other moms do it – homeschooling multiple kids?
I can just see you there, dear parent, picking up one book, putting down another, teaching one child while trying to appease the toddler pulling at your leg.
It’s like the ultimate multi-tasking disaster waiting to explode in your head and your house when you haven’t done this before. You’re trying to do it right, trying to tick all the boxes, make sure the learning is fun and that there’s some kind of progress.
You want to feel satisfied about the day’s efforts when you go to bed at night, or you’ll get overwhelmed just thinking about getting up the next day and trying to do it all over again.
I’m right there with you, trying various approaches with my kids as we go. Some days are great, some days are “give me coffee and let me run” kinda days. (Like anyone else.)
Help is on the way! I’d like to introduce Charlene Hess, the mom-blogger of Hess Un-Academy and rockstar momma-teacher of 7 children. It’s a privilege to welcome her to Homeschooler’s Life.
Charlene Hess, multiple-kiddo homeschooler and working mom
My name is Charlene Hess and I am proud mama to seven kids, ranging in ages from 11 years to (almost) 18 months. My husband and I have known we wanted to homeschool from the time we were engaged. Why? Good question!
We always figured it sounded like a fun adventure, and we’ve been committed ever since. Our style and method evolved over the years, but I have always loved the flexibility of it for my family. We’re not locked into anyone else’s schedule or programs, and if we ever decide something isn’t working for us, we just throw it out the window (figuratively, of course) and try something new. It’s been a lot of fun!
How do you homeschool Multiple Kids of different ages AND work?
I have two secret weapons when it comes to homeschooling multiple children, especially when I’m trying to get my own work done.
My first secret weapon is my older kids. They are so great about keeping the younger kids entertained when I need some office time, and they really enjoy it too, so that’s good.
My second secret weapon is our collection of screens and devices. When you subscribe to digital homeschooling curriculum and resources, the whole thing becomes more hands-off and the kids can basically educate themselves. We don’t use our screens every day, but on the days I do need to work, we use educational games and online work.
How do you homeschool with a busy toddler?
The first thing to remember when it comes to homeschooling with a busy toddler is to just let the mess go. As long as your area is safe, it doesn’t matter it everything in your area is designed for kids.
Let the little one dig through the cupboards and pretend to make spaghetti with Mom’s big pot! Or better yet, give your little one his own pen and paper and have him ‘do school’ while the big kids are working. He’ll be easier to handle if he feels involved.
What’s been your favourite family mulitple-age homeschool curriculum so far?
My favorite curriculum has been The Family School. It’s an all-in-one curriculum that caters to whole families in the subjects of science, history, geography, language arts, music, art, etc. Basically everything but learning to read and math.
We’ve loved it. We have also used and loved Beautiful Feet and Sonlight. Our favorite math curriculum is CTCMath because it’s all online and I don’t have to supervise or hold anybody’s hands. It’s the best!
How would you do homeschooling of multiple kids as a single parent?
I’m not a single parent, but I used to be a pseudo-single parent when my husband was a long-haul truck driver. We did much more work with digital curriculums and educational movies and websites in those days. I say all things in moderation. There’s nothing wrong with screen time as long as it is properly balanced according to your own family’s specific needs.
My one son gets cranky if he gets too much screen time, so I have him spend more time on physical activities than the other kids, especially if we’re planning on having a heavy-screen day. But when the kids are all cycling through their turn for the online reading program or online math curriculum, it really takes up a lot of the day, and the kids were either learning or learning to wait patiently for much of the time. Don’t be afraid to use screens in your homes, as long as they work for your kids.
How do you motivate your older kids to help teach the younger siblings?
My older ones have a natural love for teaching and guiding their younger siblings, thank goodness. But on days they don’t want to, I usually offer them a choice between two things I wouldn’t mind getting done (such as helping a sibling vs completing an extra math assignment or washing the dishes for example) and usually they choose to help the sibling over the other ‘harder’ job. If that doesn’t work, I will either pay the older kids with a special activity or treat, or I’ll pay them in cash, just as I would a babysitter.
If I do pay the older kids to help, I tell them I’m hiring them as a babysitter and therefore I expect them to do the same quality of work as a real babysitter would. Almost all of the time, my kids are very happy to help in all of these scenarios.
How do you find time for yourself in between it all?
It’s very difficult to find time for myself. Usually I either lock myself in my room (yes, I lock the door) and eat a snack and catch a quick TV show while the kids are either watching a movie or fighting outside the door (let’s be real!) or I stay up incredibly late and enjoy the time they are all asleep. Yes, this make for a tired and sleep-deprived Mom, but it’s worth it to have some me time.
My husband works 40-60 hours a week normally, plus he’s going to school, so he’s usually busy. He’s laid off right now due to Coronavirus so he’s been helping more which has been great, but normally it’s just me most of the time.
What mistakes should parents avoid in homeschooling multiple kids?
The biggest mistake you should avoid when homeschooling multiple kids is judgment. Judging yourself and allowing others to judge you will completely destroy this whole project. You are the only one who knows your situation and your family, and you should focus on what works for you, regardless of what works for anybody else.
What are your top 5 tips for homeschooling multiple kids without losing your mind?
- Use screens and devices to your advantage, but don’t let them rule you.
- Throw out the rigid schedule and remember to be flexible. In my homeschool, we prefer a checklist of things to get done that day rather than a set schedule with specific times.
- Family style or all-in-one curriculums are great because then everybody is learning together and you don’t have to manage a million different things.
- Teach kids to work independently without you there holding their hands. When the older kids are working independently, you are free to help the younger kids, and vice-versa
- Be flexible! Every day will not go according to plan. In fact, most days will not go according to plan. Learn to go with the flow and you’ll be a lot happier.
What does a good homeschool schedule for multiple kids look like?
On a practical level, it looks like the 5 tips mentioned above but your goals are what help you implement them.
Our family is unified on our goals, and when we all know what goals we are working on, we are more willing to put in the necessary work. If we lose track of where we are going, we have a family council and re-evaluate so we are all on the same page again.
Your top essential supplies to help make homeschooling easier?
One or two devices per child (laptop or tablet), and a whole lot of free-exploration supplies for when they are waiting for me to get to them (such as art supplies or Legos, for example).
The kids get about 1-2 hours of work on the screens per day (depending on their age) and then they each get another half hour or so of free play when they are done with their work.
What has been the best thing for your family about homeschooling multiple kids?
I love how close my kids’ relationship has become. They are all great friends and really love working together, as well as playing together!
Thanks Charlene, for sharing your family’s homeschool ins and outs with us. We appreciate it!
You can find more of her content here at Hess Un-Academy.
If you’re a homeschool mom of multiple kiddos and feeling overwhelmed, the following posts may also help you:
- How to create a routine that suits your family
- You’re allowed to freak out
- Family homeschool goal setting