This post is sponsored by ReadingEggs Junior. All opinions are my own.
On our first day of homeschool this year, things were going really well. We were sticking to our new homeschool schedule like clockwork. School itself went fantastic and the new curriculum I purchased for English proved perfect for my girls.
But, as I read to my 7-year-old twins for school, worked with them on math and English, my 4-year-old son was clearly feeling neglected. Or bored.
Either way, he was refusing to pick up after himself, and instead of cleaning up his first mess (puzzles he kicked around the house), he got out a set of Memory cards and spread them over the ottoman, playing by himself, but didn’t pack it up. He then pulled out the chess board and chess pieces, played himself, and then kicked the pieces around a bit instead of packing it up and putting it away. He then pulled out Jenga from the closet, playing until bored, and then spreading it out, again, and refusing to pack anything up, again.
Next, he moved on to dumping a bag of his sisters’ costume jewelry down the stairs, ripping up a few pictures, and making a mess in his twin sisters’ bedroom (his bedroom contained a sleeping 2-year-old which he thankfully didn’t go into during his boredom streak).
By the time our first day of school was done, and we were ready to have lunch, we found my sweet 4-year-old son sound asleep, under the covers of his twin sisters’ queen sized bed.
It was only 12:30 in the afternoon. And I don’t usually make him take a nap (though he could probably use one).
Thankfully, this meant my daughters and I had a very nice and quiet lunch, just the three of us. It was heavenly!
Clearly, though, I hadn’t figured out is what to do with my preschooler as I homeschool my grade schoolers.
Homeschooling Multiple Ages
As I homeschool twins, and have limited time (approximately 2 hours during the 2-year old’s rather regimented nap time) to do the “heavy lifting” of our homeschool learning, I try to do their lessons together, as they are using the same books and materials. My girls are also not great readers (yet) and pretty much need me to guide and direct them through their schoolwork, being very hands-on, which is fine and how I prefer it.
But, my son doesn’t have a set curriculum right now. I mean, I have a preschool curriculum I used with my twins when they were four-year-olds, but I haven’t pulled it out to do with my son, mostly because I care more that my older girls are getting caught up academically and learning intentionally every day instead.
Yet, I of course care that my son learns his ABCs, numbers, letter sounds, and more this year. Because next year we’ll begin his kindergarten year with more formal instruction time (don’t ask me how we’ll make that work!).
Because I’m clearly a homeschool novice in many ways, I asked some homeschool friends for advice. Here were some of their suggestions to make homeschooling multiple ages work.
Tips for Homeschooling with Preschoolers and Toddlers in the House
Tip #1: Focus on the Little Kids First
This tip was from someone who started homeschooling with a 2nd grader, a kindergartner, a 3-year-old, an 18-month old, and who got pregnant a few months later. She suggested giving the youngest child your attention first.
Read books, play with them, do preschool stuff, and so on. Have some independent school work for the older kids to do during this time.
Tip #2: Mid-Morning Snack
I had already implemented this as part of my new homeschool schedule for this year, and I tell you, it has made a big difference for everyone. It’s perfect to help the 2-year-old have just enough in her belly to help her fall asleep and stay asleep longer, as she sleeps through lunchtime. It helps curb endless snack requests from the preschooler, and the complaints from the second graders about their stomachs hurting and wanting to eat lunch already.
Tip #3: School-Time Only Toys
A couple homeschool moms suggested having a “school” box just for my preschooler which is only available during school time and are self-directed (meaning he doesn’t need help using them or completing them). Things to include are dot markers and dot letters, tangrams, magnatiles, pre-k printable pages, playdoh, basic art supplies, and more.
To keep him interested, you can rotate what’s in the box and only let him play with these things during school time. He can sit at the same table working on his projects.
Tip #4: Morning Exercise
Make sure your little kids have plenty of time to move and exercise and get physical activity in. Doing so helps younger children focus better later and sleep better during naps. I have been implementing a morning walk into our schedules and so far it’s been a great benefit for all of us.
Tip #5: Plan for Activity Changes
Little kids naturally need a new activity or change of pace about every 15-20 minutes. It’s important to plan for that and make it part of your homeschool schedule as you homeschool multiple ages.
Tip #6: Have an Older Child Teach a Younger Child
Having older kids help littler kids learn their letter, numbers, shapes, patterns, and whatever else is beneficial to their learning and their relationship. While I can’t separate my twins a ton during our heavier school times to make this work, I try to implement this where I can.
Tip #7: Include All Ages in the Lessons
I know some large homeschooling families who use certain curriculums that are much better at including children of all ages and multiple grades into the lessons, or at least for certain subjects like history, science, and literature, a sort of “one-room school room” approach.
I do think where appropriate, it’s a fantastic idea! You may want to specifically create activities to help all of your children learn something about the topics being discussed.
Tip #8: Do the Bulk of School During Nap Time.
This is of course what I do. While all the kids and I can read books together on the couch, color or do art together, sing songs, and snack it up, I can’t focus on schooling my older kids when the little kids are running rampant through the house unsupervised or conversely are crawling all over my lap and messing with our school stuff.
Planning the big school stuff during naps has been so important for balancing multiple kids while homeschooling.
Tip #9: Use Educational Electronic Learning.
I don’t know about your preschoolers, but mine loves playing games on our iPad. But, some of his favorites are not educational. When it’s “school time” I ask him to only play certain educational games on the iPad that are perfect for his age level.
We recently downloaded Reading Eggs Junior for him to try out (it’s FREE for the first 4-weeks!).
Reading Eggs Junior is the brand new online learning program designed by experienced educators, and brought to you by the creators of Reading Eggs, where toddlers aged 2-4 take their first steps in learning to read – and they guarantee your child will love it. It helps nurture an early love of reading through play, discovery, song, and laughter. You can learn more about it at www.readingeggsjunior.com and try it out for free for four weeks!
The great thing about the free trial is that it gives you access to all the ReadingEggs award-winning programs, including the regular Reading Eggs (which my twins have played on as well), Mathseeds (for ages 3-9) and Reading Eggspress (for ages 7-13).
So far my son (and my older kids too) have all enjoyed playing and learning through it and I’ve been pretty impressed as well.
I don’t always love sticking my son in front of a screen for learning, so I do limit the time he’s allocated, but I feel good knowing that it’s educational rather than simply entertaining. And it ensures a little quiet time for us to homeschool during (though I have to make sure he turns the volume down as my twins always want to check out the game too!).
Tip #10: Read Together.
I’ve hinted at this throughout, but reading books – picture books, chapter books, early readers – aloud with the kids is a great way to help them all develop into readers. You can also pick up audio books for the kids to listen to as they create, craft, paint, draw, puzzle, or otherwise do quiet time activities.
I am thankful for the advice from homeschooling moms more experienced than myself and will work to remember and incorporate these 10 tips as much as I can so that as we homeschool multiple ages, I will know how to homeschool with toddlers and preschoolers at home too.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Reading Eggs Junior.