I recently answered a homeschool mum’s question: How did you structure your day when you had little ones so that the older ones can complete their school work. I thought I’d post my answer here as well.
I guess it really depends on the curriculum you’ve chosen as that does affect the dynamics of your family. We chose a teaching style that included lots of reading aloud, lots of discussion and then some hands on or written work. We used Five in a Row for their general knowledge and for Bible I used the Heart of Wisdom methods.
I had a 7, 6, 4, 2 year olds and we tried to do as much as possible together. The 7,6,4 would all sit and listen to both Bible study and our unit study read alouds. They would all join in the conversations and any hands on activities. I learnt to let the youngest (4yo) speak first because otherwise the oldest would steal her thunder. This also made the oldest think a bit harder as the youngest would have said the easiest bits!! I also let the 4yo leave the conversations at times when we began to dig too deep for her. The 2yo would either play quietly on the floor or play in a playpen (I’m sure I made him listen to some stories). The older two would go and write about what they had learnt and I would either do an activity with the younger two, or settle them into the next activity so I could focus on the older two for their next activity.
This is how I worked – on a back and forwards type of system. I’d set up the younger two to play quietly and that would give me 15 minutes teaching time with the older two. Then they would complete their work independently and I’d focus on the younger two again. Back and forwards we would go through the morning. This mainly happened after our read aloud times.
I also had a short list of activities that the older two could do independently. This was always their fallback if I got caught up with the younger ones. Typing, handwriting, reading, math (unless they were stuck). If they had nothing they could work on and I wasn’t available to them, reading or drawing was their only option. This kept them in the room, focused towards learning and yet occupied instead of being bored or distracted while waiting for me.
Our focus time in the morning was only 3-4hours. 4 days a week.
To me, training the younger two to play by themselves, to work with each other, to be quiet was just as important as ‘school’ for the older two. So in that sense we were together for the whole morning – learning to be focused on learning.
You may like to read further on my website: Establishing Routines