If you’re already staying at home with your youngest child or children, homeschooling your older ones sounds like a perfectly reasonable conclusion…to some people. You’re there already, right? Adding on an extra kid or two (or three) isn’t such a big deal! And once you get into the swing of things, it won’t be any harder than having them all at home for the summer…right?
Sure. Except when you start actually considering it, actually trying to put together a plan, and you realize that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Even if you keep them on a regular schedule, getting up super early in the morning just like when they’re in school, you’re not sure where you’re going to find four hours a day to homeschool—and you have no idea what you’ll do on the days when it takes more than that! You have diapers to change. Dinner to cook. There are stories to be read, and naptimes that must be adhered to at any cost, and then there are the moments when a complete meltdown happens and you have to deal with that…how are you supposed to homeschool your older children in the middle of that?
Let the big kids help.
This is the big one, and the one that will make your life so much easier in the long run. Get your big kids involved! They can clean; they can help with their younger siblings; they can help you cook. If nothing else, they can fetch and carry. The more you let them do this, the more you will discover that they can do, and the easier your days will be. Don’t get caught up in the idea that you have to do it all. Remember, you’re homeschooling for them! It’s okay to expect them to help out as a result.
Make sure that they understand the expectations you have for them: what chores they’re expected to complete; when you want them to stand up and help you instead of remaining in their own little worlds. If this isn’t something that you’ve done previously, it may take some reminders, but as they get used to it, you’ll build a great relationship and a great schedule that works for everyone.
Take advantage of quiet times.
There’s a strong temptation to just collapse into a chair and not move for a few minutes whenever all of the children are entertained at the same time. You haven’t caught up with your Facebook friends in days; the last time you read a book that didn’t consist primarily of words of less than three syllables was more than a month ago; and you’re pretty sure every treat you’ve put in your mouth recently has been shared. That’s not to say that you don’t deserve a break—everyone does—but it’s also easy to get trapped in that time-wasting cycle and forget that there are other things that you need to get done. Getting them done while the kids are peaceful is a whole lot easier than trying to get it done later, when there are two asking you questions, one tugging at your waist begging to be picked up, and a crying baby in the mix.
Have a schedule.
You know that your baby or toddler naps at a certain time each day. This is a time for quiet activities, so you plan the noisy ones for those times when the baby is up and playing right along with you. Naptime is also a great time to do all of those things that you can’t do with a baby on one hip, whether that means finishing up a science experiment or starting on dinner. Be aware of what you need to accomplish throughout the day, and work it around your schedule. Having a schedule also reminds your kids that they can’t just sleep all morning and get started on their schoolwork when they feel like it—it’s time to get up and get moving! They also know when they’re supposed to stop for the day—and you know when the end is in sight. That doesn’t mean that you have to be rigid and regimented about keeping to the schedule, but it does mean that you all have an idea of what has been accomplished, what still needs to be accomplished, and what’s coming next.
Ask for help.
If you’ve been the stay-at-home spouse for a while, your husband may have learned that you take care of everything that needs to be taken care of, and he need only do a fraction of the at-home chores. If necessary, remind him that staying home with the kids is work, and that you need the extra help. Your ability to keep the house sparkling clean may decrease somewhat, and there may be more evenings when you just can’t get it all done and need an extra set of hands to help with dinner. Have an up-front, honest discussion about the areas in which you might need more help. It may be that something as simple as running the vacuum or sweeping the kitchen floors each evening can make a huge difference in your daily schedule.
Expect them to be somewhat independent.
Don’t micromanage every moment of every day. Allow your kids to be responsible for themselves. If they mess up—failing to complete work that they told you they’d completed; playing computer games when they’re supposed to be working on schoolwork—then have logical consequences. “Yes, I know it was two weeks ago that you were given this assignment, but I just discovered that you didn’t do it. Now, you have to finish it instead of going to play.” There may be times when it feels like you’re punishing yourself, too; but it won’t take many repetitions before they start to figure things out.
That doesn’t mean that you get out of teaching them—though there are virtual schooling programs that don’t require parents to be quite as hands-on—but it does mean that you don’t have to spend a solid four hours out of each day working on schoolwork with your kids. There are a lot of lessons that you can get them started on, then walk away and let them complete it on their own. This frees you up, and means that your day doesn’t feel quite as hectic.