Updated: Jul 6, 2022
If you are homeschooling pre-schoolers as well as older kiddos at the same time, this one is for you!
All the way through our homeschooling journey (until the last few years), I was homeschooling older kiddos and a pre-schooler (or at least an inquisitive toddler!) at the same time. Our homeschool was play-based for our younger ones which sometimes presented a challenge when we had older kiddos who had more structured rhythms they were working on. What do you do when this happens? Let's break that down for a minute. Before I do though, please hear me when I give this little disclaimer: there are different seasons and different approaches that have worked for us at different times. There hasn't been a one size fits all and so we have gone between these things below. Talking about them might give you a card or two up your sleeve ;)
Here are 3 approaches you can take if you are homeschooling pre-schoolers and older kiddos.
1. Come together for a joint activity first
Bringing everyone together for a read aloud can also be a great starting point for the day. If your idea of read alouds is that everyone sits perfectly still then I would encourage you to shelve that idea for now and instead think about read alouds as an active (but quiet) time. Building is fine! Drawing is fine! Colouring in is fine!
Before read aloud time, we would encourage kids to go to the toilet. We'd get our drawing things (clipboards from the local news agency/stationery outlet and pencils in a big tub that were easy to grab definitely helped). We'd get our snacks or tea time* sorted. We had a big box of blocks that slid underneath our tv cabinet in the loungeroom and while I read aloud, the kiddos could build together with the chunky Duplo blocks on the loungeroom rug. This meant that the older ones sometimes helped encourage the little ones with building and stacking. This also meant my hands were free to read to the older ones. Of course this doesn't mean I didn't have to stop and interact with the kiddos (breaking up fights etc) but there was learning happening all the time even in this one little activity. Our one rule was that any quiet activity was fine as long as they listened and didn't talk. Some of them drew. Some of them coloured in. Some loved to lie there with a weighted blanket. If they wanted to ask a question that was fine and we often stopped to chat about the story or to answer a query.
*If you plan on doing a tea time read aloud with the pre-schoolers involved, you might like to ditch the idea of bone china cups and saucers and opt for a lovely baked enamel, retro plastic or second hand set from your local op shop. What happens if coming together first up in your day doesn't work out for you? You could try this.
2. Nurture the youngest ones first
In seasons when read alouds altogether were just straight up impossible, sometimes the best thing was to set the older kids up with a simple activity (like following on in their MUS maths books) while I did some little play activity with the younger ones before it was their nap time. Proximity. Post-it Notes. Plan.
I would try and in close proximity within the house so that the older ones felt like they could ask for help. We had some small sticky post-it tabs for the older kids to mark problems they had with pages and we'd go back to them together later once the toddlers were down for rest.
The plan would be that the older kiddos would do a certain number of Math U See pages (we'd have the pages written up on the whiteboard so they could refer back if they got 'lost' As they got older they moved across other books or work they wanted to do). Then, they'd move onto spelling. They already had a spelling list for the week and they would alternate doing their spelling list by writing it out on a small lap-size whiteboard (you can find these at Officeworks) or they'd do their list in Spellingcity.com (we had an annual subscription) or they could spell their list words out using fridge magnets which we kept within reach in our resource cupboard. Tried this and it hasn't worked for you? That's ok. Shelve it for another season (or disregard it altogether!) and give this one below a go.
3. Pair up a big kid with a littlie
Shared learning. Something together.
In some seasons, we had a bigger kiddo paired with a younger kiddo so that they could do some shared learning. It would help reinforce learning for the older child and would enable the younger child to learn in a new way from the older sibling. Of course, sometimes it didn't work terribly well but other times it was lovely.
Some ideas of games to play together suitable for this: Triminoes
Zingo Snakes and Ladders
Marbles Tummy Ache Lapbooking (see part 2) together
Floor puzzle (pieces depending on how old the youngest is)
(and so many more of course!)
The idea of course is to set the pair up with an activity to free you up to spend some quality time with a younger child/children so my top tip here is if you are going to do this, make sure the games or activities are familiar to both children. Don't choose any activity that you know they typically fight over. Choose one that needs minimal intervention/refereeing!
I hope you have found something useful in this post. If not, try part 2 and see if there's something in that post that might help. Lusi x