Most homeschooling families have a wide age range of children they are schooling, so not only are they finding themselves bouncing between subjects and grades, they often have babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to account for as well. It seems everyone needs mama all the time.
One Raising Arrows reader described it like this…
“Today when we sat down to do [my son’s] 15 minute read aloud, I had
to wipe a bottom, take the 16 month old climber off of the table, wipe up a
spill from said baby on the table before everyone was soaking wet and
slipping, and intervene when my 2 year old started throwing pots and
pans at the window. And that’s just one subject for one child!”
Honestly, we all have days like this, and sometimes they simply cannot be avoided. But, if every day is like this, then we have a problem because nothing ever gets accomplished but putting out fires. So, we have to find a new system, a new way of doing what we are doing so it actually works. Here are a few ideas to get you started, and if I know my readers, there will be tons of useful advice in the comments section as well!
Independent Older Children
My older two kids work almost entirely independently (ages 15 and 18). Every now and then, my 15 year old will need math help, but for the most part, they are in charge of managing their time and workload. This has been their norm since they were both about 13. My next 2 oldest are 10 and 11, they have several subjects they can do independently as well. They work on those while I work with the younger crew first thing in the morning.
This is something we recently started with our 18 year old. He only has two subjects he is finishing up before starting college in the Fall, so his day is not filled with school. He is more than willing to help out with the schooling and taking care of crazy toddlers, but I also want to respect his personal schedule. This is what the Morning Meeting accomplishes! Every morning, we go over what we both hope to accomplish during the day, what we both need help with, and then come to a logical schedule that fits it all in within reason.
NOTE: Why not put your daily schedule on a dry erase board during your Morning Meeting?! Read about my dry erase board schedule, and check out these options from Amazon:
Keep Everyone in One Place
I’ve started putting the 11 and under crowd at the dining room table and operating from there, standing and moving from child to child most of the time. The only time I change this is when I have a child who needs to read aloud, then we move to the couch.
The baby stays in her high chair as long as we can manage, and I give the 3 yo busy work at the table that keeps him occupied for a little while.
Here’s a high chair similar to what we have:
I really like how this seat accommodates infants through toddlers. I can have baby at the table with us from a very early age!
I posted this photo on Instagram the other day…
The playard in the photo is this one:
The reviews suggested you would need the extra panels, so I bought those too, but ended up returning them because this playard really was enough for one or two kiddos. Sometimes baby loves it in there, and sometimes not so much. I don’t leave her in there fussing because a crying baby is not calming in any way, shape, or form. If she doesn’t want to be in there and I still need to keep her contained, I will put her in the high chair. If there is an older sibling who can take her (and the 3 year old) for a while, then that’s my “helper” of choice. (However, I have been known to bribe her with little O-shaped cereal to keep her in the playard for a little while at least.)
You may need to have a season of letting the little ones watch a video in another room, take a walk or play outside with a sibling, have play time in a playpen, or give them special toys for school time (see our Toddler Box for ideas!)
And it is ok to enlist the help of your older children. You are not treating them like slave labor. You are a family, and families should help each other out. Don’t take each other for granted, and play as hard as you work, and don’t let the guilt game make you feel like a rotten parent for having the help out. Quite likely a grandparent or friend was there to help out with them when they were little!
Maybe Your School Time is the Wrong Time
Take a step back for a day or two and assess what your day really looks like. When are you most often needed to change diapers and wipe bottoms? When are the little ones the craziest? Believe it or not, there is an actual rhythm to this stuff, and if you wait until those things happen before starting something intensive like a read-aloud, you will all feel more relaxed.
Give some time to your little ones first, if that’s what they need. Wait until nap time if that’s what you need. You do not have to do school at 8 o’clock sharp in order to do it “right.”
It’s Okay to Not Be Everything to Everybody All the Time
I am forever telling my children they must not interrupt. They must wait their turn. They must work quietly until I can get to them. They must realize Mommy is not a robot (which always invokes giggles as they imagine what I would look like as a robot). They must not repeat themselves 400 times before I can actually get a response out. They must learn they are not always number 1. It’s called DEFERENCE, and it’s something sorely lacking in our culture. Responsible adults learn to defer to others on occasion. They learn when to speak, and when to be silent, they learn to be generous and gracious. And it starts in the home when Mommy says, “Put your hand on my arm and I will acknowledge you when I’m finished explaining something to Suzy.” It takes a lot of time and patience, but eventually, you will see your children become understanding of your human limitations and their need to be patient.
Want to read more? Check out these posts from the Raising Arrows archives:
Enough of Me to Go Around
Practical Ideas for Having Enough of Me to Go Around