I’m going to take a moment to give you a snapshot of what homeschooling was like at different points over the years. Because if you are just starting homeschooling, you wonder how to do it. What does this look like at someone else’s house? How do you juggle multiple kids? What are some practical ideas for how this will work? I’m going to give you a peek behind the curtain of how it worked in my life.
Year One – The Oldest is 5, the second child is a new baby.
My oldest child, M, is super excited to be a big sister and homeschool. We eventually settle into doing a lot of read-aloud time with go-along activities. She loves to be read to, which I can do while nursing the baby. So, we spend a lot of time doing that. We take field trips to the zoo and the park. We count things and sing songs. M loves to hear about history, so by the end of the school year we have jumped into reading a first-grade history program. We have regular play dates with a friend where we do crafts and mini Spanish lessons.
In general, the baby just tags along in a sling or stroller and we work around his nap schedule.
Year Three – Kids are 7, 2 and a new baby
School time for my oldest now includes some workbook time for math and copy work for handwriting. Writing is hard for her.
We work quickly while the toddler has a snack in the high chair and then is given something to make a mess with. It is easier to clean the high chair than to let him out of my sight and wonder what other kinds of messes he might be making in another room.
I wear the baby in a sling constantly and nurse as I teach math.
I read the oldest history stories while the little two nap. A few educational websites supplement her education while I take care of babies.
We no longer take field trips unless I have other adults to help. It’s just too hard.
Year Six– Kids are 10, 5 and 3
We move to a bigger house and convert the basement into a schoolroom. One side has a desk for the oldest and a toddler table for the little ones. The other side is set up as a play space. We have a play kitchen and foods, dolls, blocks, cars, and a wooden train set.
Every morning I try to start with a simple song and game for the youngest two. The oldest often joins in. My youngest, at 3, loves crafts and stickers. She will play with those at her desk and ask for her “school work.” My 5-year-old son has no interest in doing “school work”. But I make time to play educational games with him each morning. Mostly, the little two play while I read to the oldest at her table. Sometimes they all listen to a book or lesson together. But usually, I am eating the pretend cupcakes my 3-year-old baked while explaining a lesson to the oldest.
Everyone seems to want to be in the same space at the same time. I end up jumping from child to child all morning. I like to plan activities like building a volcano that they can all do together. The oldest enjoys teaching these projects to her siblings and they all think it is grand.
I now run a small co-op so that my kids have a social group and some classes. We meet on Fridays. Even at the co-op, my son doesn’t participate in much beyond playtime. Often, he sits quietly and waits for the other kids to be done with their crafts. He does listen to the stories and sings the songs.
The youngest is in an afternoon ballet class. While we wait on that class, the oldest does a workbook. We only pull it out on Tuesdays during class. The middle child does Hidden Picture workbooks and mazes to work on his visual perceptual skills. I also like to bring educational games to play with him to fill the hour. In some ways, that hour of waiting on little sister becomes a great homeschool time for the other two, as there are fewer distractions for them during that time.
We still don’t take many field trips, but we do go to a regular park day.
Year Nine – Kids are 13, 8 and 6
I work with the kids in the opposite of birth order each day as they wake up in that order and they need more one on one time now. My 6-year-old, Annie, loves arts and crafts, unlike her siblings, and has beautiful handwriting, though reading isn’t easy for her. We work one-on-one for about an hour on various things, including making art, writing, and math. Then, she works with her brother for a while on history and science, or listen to a book together.
I convinced my son he had to keep up with his little sister, to get him to participate in many things that year. After their joint lesson time, I work with my son for a bit. We do his math and spelling. Next comes lunch.
After lunch, I talk to my teenager. At the start of the year, we were trying to do a very heavy curriculum load, but it crashed and burned. We regrouped and changed our plans to better meet her needs. Now she is unschooling this year. Each day at dinner, she gives me a short report on what she learned that day. She spends time learning to play piano, reading Norse mythology and Science News and starts a blog. By the end of the school year, we join a new, bigger, co-op. The oldest participates in classes that I don’t have to teach, and I go back to teaching the 5- to 7-year-old crowd.
We finally start taking some field trips again. Sometimes I get out art supplies and make them all do art together. Just because I miss when they were little and all worked on things at once.
Year Twelve – Kids are 16, 11 and 9
I still find working with them in reverse birth order often works best. The youngest is still my early riser, compared to the other two. After several years of being taught together, for some things, the younger two need space to learn different things. So I now teach them separately for every subject. That is hard for me. I often feel like I just can’t get it all done.
The oldest takes several on-line classes as part of high school, which takes the load off of me. But I find that I have to check-in and make sure that the work is getting done and goes well.
The school days are long now. I get up in the morning and start my day with coffee and my own time for planning and writing. I throw in a load of dishes and laundry. Then I take some time to plan lessons for the younger two in history, literature, and science. They each have one-on-one time with me where we work in a math book, do spelling and various language arts from programs that seem to be at the right speed. I am constantly evaluating their progress and if the program is a good fit for their needs. Sometimes we have to switch gears mid-year and that’s ok.
I have too many things to do every subject every day, so we have to rotate though subjects. Some days are math and language arts, others focus on history or science. The oldest often needs me to work with her after dinner on Algebra 2 or Chemistry. She has co-op classes that give homework that she works on without me during the week.
And that brings us up to now. Every year has been different, but this is much of what it has been like. Constantly changing to meet their needs. No one can tell you what your homeschool will look like. Mine has certainly varied over the years.
Each year has its own challenges. I wouldn’t say that Year Three was easier or harder than Year Twelve. It has just been different. Learning to be flexible, being willing to adapt and adjust my plans to work with where my children were individually as well as where we were as a family, was critical to our homeschooling journey. And will be as we move forward. I am raising three amazing and unique humans and they each demand a different educational experience. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.