Usually when I tell people that I homeschool, the question I most often receive in this season is “but what do you do with the other little kids?”
Let me start by saying this is totally a fair question. It’s EXACTLY the question I asked every mom I talked to before we officially started homeschooling last year and it’s definitely the hardest piece to figure out. Because unlike choosing my curriculum, I don’t get to choose my toddler’s attitude, my pre-schooler’s attention span, or my baby’s sleep pattern the night before.
And also, you should know I’m so not a Pinterest mom. Ok, yes, I HAVE Pinterest. I have things pinned, even really cute things. I think I’ve made about 4 of my 700+ recipes. But I’m not setting up stations or specific crafts. Nor do I have busy boxes for when I’m breastfeeding or teaching the bigger kids.
I’m just a girl making it by God’s grace as he meets my needs day to day.
So how do we do school here with all of these tiny humans?
We have a school space.
Ours is a card table in a corner of the living room with a cabinet that locks. (More on that later.) All the school stuff goes there. We know we’re working on school when we sit there.
It also means that if maybe breakfast doesn’t quite get cleaned up we’re not delaying our school day. Just being honest.
We have school storage space.
I have a baby lock on a tall white cabinet from Home Depot or Lowe’s. I tried open shelves and every day, all day, the toddler would get into it, and the big kids would want to use the markers and crayons whenever and they would go missing. So, to keep things from walking off and from being ransacked, baby lock it is. (This has been a life saver this year, guys.)
We don’t have a super strict schedule.
Listen, I know some people are all about the daily schedules. I’m more of a loose routine girl. So usually we do school in the morning and get it done. But sometimes the weather is going to turn in the afternoon and we need to get our wiggles out. Sometimes we have appointments or we plain need to get out of the house. Then we do school in the afternoon. I know some moms with little littles do school during nap time with the bigs. I *cherish* nap time for afternoon coffee and some quiet minutes, so while this is my back up, this isn’t my main plan. Speaking of…
We have a back up plan.
If plan A doesn’t work, we go to plan B. Or C or D. And sometimes we do extra work on a day so can skip another day.
We have a plan A.
So what is my plan for the day? My oldest starts with “seat work” calendar, spelling list, sight words – things she can handle on her own while I sit down with my son for Pre-K. This is a dual purpose because it really builds into him for the day to have one-on-one time with me early in the day and we have a lot less issues when we can do this. When he’s finished, I work with my oldest on her stuff. Meanwhile the toddler is in her pack-n-play or playing with her brother and the baby is sleeping. And if she’s not sleeping, we take a break for chores while mommy nurses, then she comes to school with us.
We keep it simple.
This looks differently for all kinds of families. Some people like to get the box curriculum and follow those plans. Some people love putting together low cost curriculum. We cover math, social studies, science, and language arts in our school time with a variety of free stuff I find online and books I bought used in a local homeschool buy/sell group.
(I’m using Life of Fred for Math, free k12reads spelling lists, free sight words flash cards, and a Kitchen Experiments science book. She goes to co-op for Social Studies and Language Arts and can read really well independently.)
We plan ahead.
I start thinking about next year early – like February. Why? Because it makes me feel really settled to be watching for things but also to have it taken care of before we finish up with what we have. I also keep what I like (Life of Fred) and scrap what I don’t like (Abeka Phonics…listen it’s not them, it’s me. It’s a great program.)
We use a planner.
Hubby and I sometimes co-teach so we need a way to pass plans on to each other. Also I need to keep track of where we are and what we’ve done. This year I got this *AMAZING* homeschool planner from Yours Truly on etsy. Guys, she customizes this for YOUR family and subjects. And it comes printed. I know I would never print and punch or bind one that’s a DIY. This planner has reading logs, daily plans, a bullet journal, and MORE and I just think it’s dreamy.*
We roll with it.
Yesterday I started my kids’ art videos and they wanted to watch them for hours and keep drawing. Cool man, draw babies, draw! Sometimes they ask to do extra French (be still my beating heart). And sometimes they ask if we can skip spelling. I try to roll with the day. Sometimes I push back and sometimes I see it as an opportunity to hear them, see a struggle, or see something they are excited about.
We ask for help.
I cannot do it all. And I don’t have it all together.
When I need help with curriculum choices, or making sure I did all the paperwork, or finding out when this event is, I ask for help from moms who have been doing it longer than me. Whether that’s one year more or twenty years more.
And we have someone who comes help at our house. A mother’s helper/babysitter who comes so we can tackle cleaning, I can have uninterrupted school time, I can work, or a lot of other things.
We take everything in small chunks.
Sometimes it’s a matter of making it through the end of the paragraph, page, or activity. Or the next 10 minutes. Sometimes it’s finding something that works for right now knowing we’ll have to adjust when it stops working. Sometimes there are a couple people crying at once. I have no more patience than anyone else. I just try to see the magic in the mess (sometimes after) and know mine and my children’s limitations.
Are you homeschooling with littles, would like to be, or have? Share your questions or your wisdom!
*I received a planner to review but I am not getting paid for this endorsement. I really think this planner is dreamy. P.S. I got mine in eggplant and all the heart eye emojis, people. Awesome.*