When schools were closed, parents become responsible for managing their children’s schooling at home. This challenge was amplified for parents with multiple children of different ages and abilities. Parents struggled keeping one child engaged while assisting another, with motivation of their more strong-willed kids, and with staying on top of the accommodations for their children with Learning Difficulties.
While every family’s situation is unique, schooling at home will certainly be easier if everyone is on the same routine. For instance, you can aim to eat breakfast, have play/free time, and then be on laptops for school by 9am in the hopes you can end the school day by lunch.
You can also implement time blocks during schooling at home. When instructing one child individually in a core subject (math, reading, or language arts), the others can spend thirty minutes working independently on reading, hobbies, or learning programs on the computer (some parent favorites are Teach your Monsters to Read , Reading Eggs, and Mathseeds). Then rotate out. Once each individual lesson is complete, come together for group “family style” learning of subjects that aren’t as age-specific, like science, history, art, music, health, and physical education. Reading can also be done individually (silent reading), in pairs (older kids make great listeners as the younger reader practices), or as a family (with the only requirement being that everyone stays quiet).
Keep in mind that before the “‘traditional school setting” (which did not become a national norm until the 1960s), there were 3 main school options: home school, private tutoring, or one room schoolhouses. This worked because elementary content builds on information taught previously. That is, the concepts are repeated in more detail as the student gets older. So a younger child who is sitting on your lap or laying on the floor as you work with your older child may not seem like they are paying attention and learning, but they are; and doing so will help them better grasp the content when it is their turn to learn it.
If older or special needs kids require more of your time during schooling at home, use learning-based entertainment to occupy the other children’s minds while you focus on the one. You can find many free/cheap educational resources for the younger kids here. You can feel less guilt about screen time if you look at it as independent academic time. Or allow your younger child to sit on your lap while you work with your older children. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, they are usually listening. So being exposed to what they will be eventually learning makes it much easier for them when that time comes.
Also, don’t be afraid to seek help with schooling at home. A good place to start is your state’s Board of Education website, which provides resources for different ages and subjects. You can also visit HSLDA.org for assistance with homeschooling, including how to get started, what to teach, and how to find homeschool groups. Additionally, you can seek out a professional educator who is trained and experienced in helping students of different ages and abilities. WorldWise Tutoring has tutors who can meet at scheduled times, standby office hours for last-minute help, and parent coaching for strategies on how to motivate and teach your unique children. Reach out to discuss further.