No two children are the same. Of course, if you have multiple children, you already know that. While one of your children may need help staying on task, the others may enjoy and thrive in autonomy. It’s impossible to achieve success by applying a one-size-fits-all approach to homeschooling more than one child. The key is to use all of the observations you’ve made as a parent and apply those to each of your kids’ individual homeschooling routines.
It may take some trial and error, but once you find the setup, schedule, and methods that work best for your family, you’ll be glad you put in the effort. Let’s start by thinking about the great things that come out of learning to balance life at home with all of your kids.
The Pros of Multiple Children at Home Together
Sure, it’s easy to focus on the challenges of homeschooling multiple children. But there are some major positives that come out of it.
1. Developing Independence
Research shows that when parents develop close relationships with their children by spending quality time together, those children are more likely to flourish as independent adults.
2. Learning Social Skills
You might be thinking, “Wait, homeschool families are pigeon-holed as having kids without social skills because they’re isolated…” People may make that assumption. But according to research, families with multiple children who develop meaningful relationships with each other end up sending adults into the world who have well-developed social skill sets.
3. Adaptability to New Circumstances
There are pros and cons to every family size. But when it comes to learning the concept of sharing, or even learning to adapt to others, kids who grow up in a large family are forced to learn those things faster. When they’re balancing school together with you at home, they’ll be adjusting to the schedule you outline, learning to think independently, and adapting to their siblings’ methods as well. And in the process, they’ll be learning to adapt to change, which will be a huge benefit in their adult lives.
Now that we’re in a positive frame of mind, let’s talk through some of the tips and advice we’ve gleaned over the years. Moms of multiples are creative multitasking machines, and we are constantly impressed by the ideas they come up with. Here are a few of the tricks that we know have worked for them over the years.
Practical Advice for Homeschooling Multiple Children
Stagger start times
There are a lot of options when it comes to staggering start times and school work throughout the day. For example, let’s say you have a sixth-grader and a kindergartener. Once your sixth-grader is up for the day, try having him or her get started with independent reading and a worksheet/assignment while you begin working with your youngest. Pre-plan how long that window will be for – maybe an hour or so. Then, once you’re done working with your youngest, you can set him or her up with a snack and a break while you work through more challenging subject areas with your sixth-grader.
Or, if you have three who are all capable of learning independently for windows of time, consider starting one at 8 a.m., then the next at 9 a.m., and then the third child at 10 a.m. As they finish, they will get to eat or play.
Get the right table and the right setup
Some moms who have the available space say that it can be helpful to separate their kids into different rooms with their own work spaces in order to avoid them distracting each other. Other moms, who need to be present for lessons or questions (or just supervision), have had success with finding the right style of table and keeping everyone together in one room.
You’ll want to look for something that allows them to all sit near each other, while providing space for them to work through their individual lessons with minimal moving around. A horseshoe-shaped desk all your kids can sit around will be amazing if you can find one! They can each have their own station with their books, computers, headphones, and writing utensils; while having you – the teacher – at the center.
Video lessons can be a game-changer
You know your kids. If one of them does well independently and you think video lessons could be a good fit, Abeka Academy can help guide the way and lighten the load. Whether you want a single subject or a full year enrollment, experienced Christian educators are there to lead the lessons in a real classroom environment. Here’s a helpful blog to learn more about how you can customize our video lessons to your needs.
The pre-recorded videos include real students asking questions and engaging with the teacher. Your child will be able to feel like they’re there in the room while they’re listening in from afar. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to handle lessons with your younger kids on the more difficult subjects, while your Abeka Academy-enrolled kiddo is learning independently through video lessons. You and your kids can sample the videos for yourself here.
If you have both kids in the same room, headphones can be a great addition. While you’re helping one child through their lesson, the other can have their headphones on to drown out the background noise, listen to video lessons, or even listen to music. If they choose music, we suggest music without words in order to avoid distractions.
Set a timer
Kids thrive with structure. If each of your kids has a clear expectation for how much time their lessons are allotted, they can adapt to that. Set an hour timer per subject, and allow them to work independently. Your kids might even enjoy the idea of beating the timer and having some extra free time. An internal timer may work just as well! If they know all their school work needs to be completed by 3 p.m., it’s their job to make sure they are diligent in their work in order to meet that goal.
Create incentives and enforce the rules
If you lay out the expectations up front, as well as the consequences for not meeting those expectations, you can set good school time habits in no time. Every day will not go as planned, but that’s ok. If your kids understand the rules and consequences, they will be ok. If one of your kids was slacking off and didn’t get their work done by 3 p.m. as you’d asked, they will need to stay in to finish up while the other kids get to go out to play. It won’t take many of those days before they realize that’s no fun.
Incentives are always a winner when it comes to getting your kids adapted to the rules of homeschool. If one of your children needs motivation in the form of extracurricular activities, and they finish their homework on time, let them do a little extra of their favorite activity that day. If one of your kids is a night owl by nature and does a great job on their spelling lessons that day, let them stay up a little later that night. Giving them a way to feel accomplished will keep them motivated and excited about doing well in school.
At first, homeschooling multiple kids will not be a simple feat. But once you find your rhythm, and your kids adjust to their routine, you’ll be able to enjoy all the perks of homeschool, including the most meaningful one of all – all the quality time with your kids. To learn more about the options available with Abeka Homeschool, visit our website or join in with the community on our Facebook page.