It’s January! We have three birthdays in just a few weeks including our oldest and youngest. One turns 14, the other 1.
Homeschooling teens and tots together is interesting to say the least.
Throughout the day I’m trying to remember the plot of To Kill a Mockingbird to talk with Jayme about her 8th grade English. Then, my brain switches gears for singing The Alphabet Song with the littles. Somewhere in there I’m doing addition and sight words with my middles.
Homeschooling teens and tots is never boring! It’s a combination of being mentally taxing (pre-algebra anyone?) and physically taxing (Peek-a-Boo where’s Brynna? Or Owen, take that sock out of your mouth!)
So how do I help everyone academically when dealing with everything from Dr. Seuss to coding?
Six Tips for Homeschooling Teens and Tots
1. Teach Independence
This tip is first because I couldn’t do it without independence. My kids start learning to entertain themselves at a very young age, so by the time we start school, they know how to sit and do something on their own.
This means I can give the toddler an activity and know it’ll almost certainly be played with for 15 minutes or so.
It also means I can give my 7 year old a school task and know that he will take it and do his best.
My teen works very well independently. I’ve been careful to select curriculum that supports this. I’ve taught her when to ask for help. And I make sure to check her work–it’s easy to let things slide when you think mom isn’t paying attention!
2. Provide a Quiet Work Space when Needed
Preschoolers and kindergarteners are by nature MUCH louder than older kids. Think about public school classrooms–where are you more likely to hear singing and playing?
In the younger grades!
Singing and playing are developmentally necessary for young kids–it’s how their brains work!
So we sing and play a lot during the day.
But, it’s hard for Jayme to concentrate on writing a paper when it’s loud. So when she needs quiet space, she takes her laptop and heads upstairs to the big desk.
When Jayme has a big project or a test, I work to meet her needs by engaging the others in quiet activities. That way we find a balance between loud and quiet, and give the teen the quiet space needed.
3. Talk to the Teen!
I love talking with Jayme about her school. It gives my teacher brain a nice change of pace from Pre-K-Grade 1.
Jayme and I talk frequently during the day. She comes in the kitchen while I’m making lunch and sits and chats about everything school. We talk through the novel she’s reading and the character she’s developing in writing.
It also opens the door for talks about other topics. We talk about politics, headlines in the newspaper and more.
Teens have different emotional needs than tots, and these chats help keep the communication doorways open.
4. Have a Few Whole Family Activities
Last year it was science, Bible, and history.
This year those didn’t all work because of the classes Jayme needed to take. They were just too far ahead of where the others were.
This year it’s Bible, Family Writing Time, and Art.
Writing time and art are perfect because everyone can be working on a developmentally appropriate task on their own, but together.
Bring everyone in when it’s possible. Your tired brain will thank you–at least mine does!
5. Play Games
We love games!
Games tend to bring everyone together. We can make adaptations to the rules so the young ones can play right alongside the bigger family members. That means everyone has fun!
Games are SO educational. From soft skills like turn taking and strategic thinking to academic skills like counting, critical thinking, and vocabulary, games definitely count as school. We play them as often as possible.
6. Supplement with Media
I started doing this one because of Owen. His disability means he doesn’t do well with books and paper style of learning. In fact, he just eats them.
But I realized he really paid attention to YouTube videos, apps on his iPad, and movies on the TV. So did all the other kids.
Media is an attention holder for my entire family, so I welcome it into my homeschool. Finding a balance has been tricky, but it’s been a blessing.
We can all watch a documentary on animals–providing new information for my younger kids, and nicely supplementing Jayme’s biology studies.
The little ones can play an alphabet app with Owen while practicing their letters.
I’m embracing more media in our homeschooling, even though I never thought I would.
How Do You Do It
Are you also homeschooling teens and tots? What are your best tips for balancing such a wide range of ages?