Rhythm in Big Families

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Caitlyn 1 year, 1 month ago.

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    I need help.
    My 4 year old goes to preschool and does wonderfully there, but when he’s home it’s super chaotic. I need to find a way to better replicate a more structured environment, but I don’t know how.
    Here’s my trouble spot:
    In the morning after breakfast until lunch time.

    When my 4 yo is at preschool, right away the older kids will start with independent work and then I’ll do main lesson or read aloud with them, etc.

    When he’s here, I feel like he and my 1 yo need my full attention or else he will get into something, break something, write on the walls, etc. (I’m taking an ECE course on behavior solely because of my struggles with him).

    The problem is that no matter what I ask him if he wants to do, he doesn’t want to do it. In writing that I’m realizing (and based on what Donna has said), that there shouldn’t be a choice, it should be a this is what we’re doing thing.

    But I am concerned my kids will not go long with whatever the plan is, my 7 yo particularly likes to instigate misbehavior from his siblings.

    So the real question then is not only how should I structure that morning time but also how can I ensure that the plan goes more smoothly.

    I have time during lunch to do work with the big kids, but I would rather do something during that morning block as well.

    Thanks for any guidance!



    Hi Caitlyn,

    The great juggle of homeschooling many children, oh my! It can be tricky for sure. I have four children, 15, 13, 11 and 5 years old. It helps if I start our day with my youngest. We gather for a morning verse, I have my older children start their work independently while I tell a story and/or do an activity with my youngest. Then I work with my older children, working back and forth as needed. My children know they might have to wait for help and they are expected to respect my time with their siblings. I try to have things available to occupy my 5 year old while I’m busy with my older children. Now that my children are older I can have them play or do an activity with my 5 year old. If things are going astray homeschooling plans are put on hold and we find something we can all do together. Having a back up plan can be helpful. I try to remember that my goal is not to complete lessons and hold fast to the plan but to find the rhythms and wholeness of family. There were years we didn’t accomplish much in terms of school. But we cuddled up on the couch and read stories, did crafts together and my children played.
    It will get easier as your children get older. Having a 4 year old and 1 year old can be a very busy time.

    Can your older children help with your younger ones?



    That is helpful to know/hear!

    My 4 yo is very needy right now in terms of my full attention! My older girls like to help with the baby but have a hard time playing with 4 yo bc he is very reactionary, like he’ll punch you if you accidentally knock his tower over. We are working on it but it basically means that I am the only one interacting with him in a positive way a lot of the time, ugh!

    Thank you for sharing, I have had a hard time wrapping my head around what it :could: look like!


    Donna Simmons

    You know…sometimes a good yard stick re whether day care or preschool or whatever is working for a child is not his behavior at school…but when he gets home…I really do get why folks with big families feel a need for some or one child to go to preschool or such… but I also have seen how this can actually create more problems and not less. Sometimes a child will relax into a home-based life in a way one did not expect…there can be a very difficult transition period to go through…but I have seen this situation so many times…and it almost always, in the end, is easier to have all children at home even if this seems on the surface–or is at the moment–impossible to imagine!

    And this in no way is a criticism, Caitlyn – just a sharing of my experience. I hope you take it in that spirit!

    I also want – gently – to flag up your sentence when you say you are concerned whether your children will not go along with your plan…Caitlyn – this is serious. This is the absolute foundation to all parenting and homeschooling – you need to feel so confident in your role as mother, as homeschooler, as person who forms your children’s lives (while they are so young) that there is no question of them not buying what you do. This can be very difficult–and maybe part of the role your 4 year old has in the family dynamic is to help you see a need for self confidence in what you are doing…as soon as a child feels that wavering – that parental lack of confidence they either shrink into themselves or expand into the void the parent has left. Sounds like your boy is the latter – and the way to meet this is not through conflict but through your own journey of self development. Children fear the void–and it’s not that a parent has to have everything worked out…but needs a foundation of feeling right about what they are doing – so that the child can be supported by this.
    I hope you do not feel criticized Caitlyn – I hope you find this helpful!



    I hear what you’re saying and I don’t feel criticized, I am trying to grow and change to be the best me. And I also hear what you’re saying about the preschool, but I don’t know whether that’s true in this case.

    My oldest daughter we sent to preschool because that’s what everyone told us to do. The result was that at the end of the day she would be even worse off emotionally and energy wise than she was when the initial challenges arised. In experiencing that and through some tough decision making, we took her out and never looked back (2012).

    With this son, however, he has constantly been incredibly challenging. Yesterday, for example, he dumped out 3 bottles of glue while I was upstairs for 2 minutes? He punches me and kicks me and used to try to spit at me or bite me, and is also physically aggressive towards his siblings when they do something either accidentally or on purpose to upset him. He is unlike anything I’ve ever dealt with as a parent.

    At preschool, however, where he wants to go, he feels important and honored and not stuck in the middle. He does not get into trouble and has made friends with the other children. The preschool is part of our synagogue and I talk regularly with his teachers and the director about what’s going on with him and just general matters.

    In my heart I do want him to be home with me, but the reality is that when he is home he is constantly getting into things. If I have him play in the yard he is slamming and breaking things or throwing things into the neighbors yard. He has almost no screen time so it isn’t that he is being over stimulated that way. I just feel he has a constant need for big and loud and intense stimulation or 1:1 attention that I can’t always give him. His siblings don’t like to play with him because he is very reactionary and not easy going.

    Does this sound like any children you’ve worked with?

    I certainly welcome feedback.

    I am starting to feel like I have my oldest 3 figured out but with my 4 year old I just don’t know what to do! I try incorporating him into activities and taking him to parks often, doing things he likes, but the second he is over it he is off creating some new chaos…



    I hear how hard your son is to parent right now. Having other children to care for increases that challenge. It’s so difficult to figure out why your son is acting out like he is. And then finding a solution or a way to bring peace to your son and family.
    I will say that there have been times when I have needed to stop everything and focus solely on one of my children. Yes, my other children missed out on things but it was vital that I was attentive to my child and their healing at that time. It was also a time I had to ask and work through some deep questions about myself.
    Meditating on your child and looking beyond his actions and seeing your son in loving light can help.

    I’m also wondering if you have any intuition that maybe there is something more going on with your son that you might need to look into.



    Yes, I think he is twice exceptional. He has been capable of doing some formal logic exercises, particularly deductive reasoning for over a year. One day he just picked up one of his sister’s books and asked to do it. We don’t do schoolwork with him, he just occasionally likes to “play” school.

    However, because he “behaves” at preschool, he doesn’t meet the criteria for any of the labels I suspect could be used to describe the way he interacts with our family. Our family doctor who is very inexperienced, we are looking to switch, has been trying to tell me that he acts this way because he’s jealous of his baby sister. However he has been acting this way for at least a year before she was born so I don’t agree.

    I do think he will change a lot as he gets older, a lot of this has to do with his age and where HE is at developmentally, but unfortunately that awareness doesn’t make it any easier when he’s climbing from his car seat into the front of the car to honk the horn or taking apart his drum set, etc.

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