Keep Calm and Homeschool On
by Barbara Benson
Guidelines for homeschooling multiple ages of children
One of the most frequently asked consulting questions I receive is how to homeschool multiple ages of children and keep one’s sanity! It is a challenge and I remember those days well. Each family will be unique in how they address these challenges but here are a few general guidelines to help stay calm :
1) Remember that you will not be able to complete a whole curriculum for a grade as given, especially if you have more than two children.
What this means is that you will need to look carefully at your “essential” educational goals for each child, including those main lessons that particularly speak to the developmental age of your child. The best way I know to do this is to take time before homeschooling starts up again for another academic year and work to figure this out. You will need a good planner and a overview sense of what each year holds for your child. It will also be important to know how to help your child strengthen skills that may be weaker and that may require some review from the previous year’s work. This is particularly true of math skills.
2) Don’t get lost in the details.
We all want the best for our children and often we eagerly purchase a wealth of materials to “enrich” the educational experience for our children. Then, in the daily life of our homeschooling, we find that we have not used or even looked at these materials and start feeling overwhelmed and guilty. In the elementary years, you will likely have a key resource or two for each main lesson. Make sure you know your key resources well and follow them. Then, if you have time to add on other materials, fine. Again, ( do I sound like a broken record?) the more planning you can do before the year, and certainly two weeks before the next main lesson starts, to identify and understand your resources, the better.
3) Create and maintain a daily rhythm.
There will inevitably be days when you feel frustrated, or days when you feel that not much has been accomplished academically with your children. However, if you have a good daily and weekly rhythm in your household, it will carry you through those rough patches. The children will be able to rely on, for example, their daily walk to help them feel a sense of predictability and security in their family life. From time to time, examine how the flow of the family rhythm is going since it will change as your children grow and develop.
4) Take a break.
There are going to be some instances when your child persistently resists doing something that you think is academically essential. I am not taking about the daily resistance of a child not wanting to do something which you can generally work through, but rather a more pervasive resistance. When that happens, step back a bit and reflect on the sources of the stress. Sometimes, working “sideways” with the issue will be effective. Take a break from the issue and focus on some other project or a story that will relieve the tension. Then come back later ( sometimes weeks later) and reintroduce what you want to present in as relaxed a way as possible. The child will often then be able to receive it.
5) Let the stress go.
All parents need effective ways to cope with the demands of raising a family. Make sure you take time, hopefully each day, to nurture the nurturer. One of the simplest ways to let go of stress at night is to visualize and bless your children as you go to bed and surrender your concerns about them. Affirm that you will wake up refreshed and ready to be inspired by a new day.
Remember why you have taken on this adventure of homeschooling and embrace the journey!