Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Homeschool files : managing time and different ages

Two of the questions I get asked a lot is how do you manage your time when you work and homeschool? And isn't it hard to balance the needs of three children spanning such a wide age range? These are tough questions and we certainly don't have all the answers, in fact I would say they are challenges we struggle with regularly. However, I did think it might be useful or encouraging to someone to tell you what we do even if our solutions are not always perfect.

Balancing working from home and home education is not easy but it is a route that many home educating parents take in order to be able to spend enough time with their children. We have several ways of managing it. Firstly we both have set work times during the week which the children are used to and which we work hard to respect. That means that we try not to plan activities or meet-ups during those times unless everyone but the person working can be involved. Basically whichever of us is working is not available, for child care, for housework, for driving etc. 

The parent caring for the children tries to keep them occupied and away from the working parent's workspace. The spring and summer are easier as we spend more time out of doors and take more trips. Now that both of us are driving leaving the worker in peace is more common. Another solution has been working elsewhere, particularly at our local library; it's quiet and most importantly free of the interruptions inevitable at home.  

My partner also works in the evenings after the children are settled. I think the ability to do this or not depends on individual's rhythms and it's certainly not something I could do. I do try to get up early most days so I can do my yoga then, which frees up time on my work days and also to read poetry which is an important part of my creative process. 

So to the second question, the age disparity - we run a range from 3 to 10. Clearly our children have very different learning needs. We have several approaches to this. Firstly we think it's really important that each child has one on one time with both of us and we schedule that in once a week. Monday afternoons are with Papa and Fridays with mum. This means each child is getting two hours of individual time a week. It might not seem much when you think how long kids spend in school but it is not the only time they're learning by a long leap and also this is very effective, concentrated time when the adult's energy is entirely focussed on them and their learning. 

We also take advantage of moments that come up when siblings are busy, to read a book together, talk about something, answer some questions. I also often just adapt things to each child. So if I've decided I'd like the kids do dome some literacy work I might put out a couple of alphabet puzzles for Lotta, work on his alphabet and writing practice with Noah and help Maya write a letter to a friend. And if they're not all doing the same thing then I just get them started one by one and try to give everyone as much attention as I can when and if they need it. To be honest they're often very autonomous once they're started. 

These are just some ideas and as I said at the beginning they're far from perfect. Sometimes we get very frazzled and frustrated and envy our home educating friends who have only one child! But it all passes and in the muddle and the mess somehow everyone is learning, everyone is progressing and each of the children are emerging into themselves more and more each day. 

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