Monday, April 29, 2019

How to Homeschool Your Younger Children When Your Older Teens are Taking All Your Time.

Ten years ago (was it really that long ago?) I was blissfully blogging about how to homeschool with a toddler in the house.

I guess I thought it was difficult, or challenging, maybe.

I had no idea what was ahead, when I'd be trying to homeschool my younger children, consistently, with a high school senior in the house.

High school seniors are a lot like toddlers, really.  They are great fun to have around.  They're full of energy (increasing after 10 o'clock p.m.), independent, full of ideas, and ready to take on the world.  And, they take constant care.  Just like when they were toddlers, all that new found independence combined with a great sense of adventure (and often the need of a nap), can lead to a series of stumbling little missteps, and first tries, and occasionally a disaster or two to clean up behind them.

That kind of care and concern can wreak havoc on a consistent school schedule for said senior's younger siblings.  At least, that's what I was thinking as I was interrupted for the third time while trying to read through one chapter of  Around the World in 80 Days (which, it should be noted, has very short chapters) with my youngest three, to help A(age 18) field emergency calls relating to her summer travel plans, one morning last week.

Older teens can take a lot of time, but younger teens and tweens still need to study consistently to keep from falling behind (even if "behind" is a relative term in an almost unschooling household).   It can be tricky, but it is possible to keep homeschooling with older teens in the house.

  • Be flexible.  Just like back in your toddling toting days, this is probably not the best time to start a rigid curriculum that requires tons of teacher preparation.
  • Have fallbacks on the ready for those days when you "just can't".  A quick internet search will yield a plethora of historical films (think "Hidden Figures" or "Apollo 13") throw in an encyclopedia article, history-type channel interview or two, maybe a call to the grandparents, and you can keep history covered.
  • Apps can also come in handy.  Our app library has a number of language learning programs, games like Stack the States/Countries (geography) and DragonBox (math) added to an almost innumerable selection of word games and logic puzzles that can be downloaded and used as filler on a moments notice.
  • Make use of audio books and lectures (our favorites right now are the "Modern Scholar" series).  You can listen along with your students, and join into their discussions while doing the dishes or folding a quick load laundry, or driving their older sibling across town (with the younger crowd tagging along in the back seat of course).
  • Look to the books.  Children can read independently, or with their siblings. Well read children do better on college entrance exams (at least in our experience).
  • Encourage your older teens to get their driver's licenses as soon as they're ready.  It costs more in car and insurance fees, but the payback in free-time is worth it.  Just be ready to factor practice drives into your busy schedule in the meantime.
  • Outside classes can be great, as long as you can manage to get your younger students to them consistently (keep in mind the first item above - "be flexible").
  • Stick to math courses that lend themselves nicely to independent study, but preferably also give a progress report you, as the parent/teacher, can easily check up on (we really like Kahn Academy for this).  
  • Remind children on a regular basis that homeschooled, even if you're unschooling, does not mean uneducated.  Help them to identify future goals, and make them partners in the planning process.  It might seem like fun to skip out on "homework" whenever Mom is preoccupied, but where will that get them in the end?  
  • Praise your younger children profusely whenever you walk in on them studying something on their own.  It's good for them to know their independent studies have great value and the potential for lifelong worth.
  • Take advantage of every community event (history reenactments, symphonies, plays, you name it) to spark interests.
Life moves fast with high schoolers in the house, and while there are times that I miss the lazy days of being able to follow the entire life cycle of the ladybugs on the trees in our backyard, there is a crazy sort of satisfaction in being able to snatch, grab and fill-in a complete years worth of learning in the hectic, here and there routine we have now.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Dawn said...

All wonderful advice. This feels a bit like my life right now with a 10th grader who has a job and crazy dance schedule and a special needs 10th grader at home all day with me.
Blessings, Dawn

Ticia said...

Homeschooling with a toddler is challenging. Homeschooling with a senior is probably also challenging. Just a different challenge. I like your recommendations.