The following is a post from contributing writer Shannen from Middle Way Mom
Homeschooling with a large age gap between two kids can bring certain challenges, as well as opportunities. When there aren’t kids in between to bridge the divide, one of the challenges is how to manage an older child who is working on more in depth items and a younger child who is exploring the world on a surface level.
My oldest child Care Bear is 13, heading into 9th grade this upcoming fall. My second child, Little Miss, is two and a half, just barely starting to reach the preschool level. At Care Bear’s level, she is doing more book work, and Little Miss shows little to no interest in sitting down to listen to any type of lesson. I’ve learned a few things to try to keep the days running while allowing my oldest to get her work done and the younger kids can playfully act their age.
Plan focused work time
Nap time is the daily quiet time in the house, and that’s the time Care Bear and I work on the few items we do together. For literature and other courses, she likes things to be more quiet, and needs a larger time slot whenever possible. It worked wonderfully when I had midwife appointments that Care Bear would get much of her work done while we were gone. Whatever time slot you have planned, use it wisely. The older child should know that when the house is quiet, it is time to work. It’s amazing how much gets done when there’s no distractions!
Allow for play time
We don’t plan play time with the siblings, partly because it’s hard to know what mood Little Miss will be in at any given time. Also, while I like structure, I’m not the most consistent mom on the block, so allowing the kids to play at their whim (within reason) works for us. I love to watch them run around the house laughing, and you just can’t script that. Allow the little ones to play with their older sibling at some point during the day and I’ve found that the little ones will feel like they’ve had their fill and play on their own a bit better.
Do lesson plans with the little kids first
If your little one wants to be in the action while you’re working with the older child on school work, many moms have had success working on “school” with the little one first. That way they don’t feel left out, and they get one on one time with mom, just like they see their big brother or sister do.
Get out of their hair
As Care Bear gets older, she needs more concentration to do her school work, along with the courses taking longer to complete. This upcoming year, I don’t foresee her having any courses that she can complete in under 15 minutes, like she has now. Knowing what’s ahead, I’m planning more outings for the little ones so Care Bear can have the house to herself to work. Some things on the drawing board are nature walks (before we hit our six months of winter!), trips to the library, open gym times, membership to a children’s museum, and early childhood classes.
Let the older child be a teacher
The best way to learn is to teach, right? Well, there’s much that we can teach little ones that will enrich our own education at the same time. Nature walks are a perfect example, along with scientific experiments. The young children will be learning on a very surface level, but these types of exploratory activities can ignite curiosity in older children, leading to further learning. Bonus lessons in these activities where the older child acts as a teacher are: patience, working with children, and bonding with their siblings. What a win-win!
What ways have you found to manage homeschooling with a large age gap between children?
Shannen is constantly learning how to balance life with a teen, toddler, and baby with as few tantrums as possible. She is passionate about faith, living green(ish), and homeschooling. She takes a break (or just hides) from it all by blogging at Middle Way Mom. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.
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