Mom-to-Mom Support/How do I balance 4 children homeschooling while trying to keep a toddler quiet and busy?

How do I balance 4 children homeschooling while trying to keep a toddler quiet and busy?

Mom and four kids all homeschool together


How do I balance 4 children homeschooling while trying to keep a toddler quiet and busy? At the end of the day I don’t have any energy to check the 14 yo’s work and certainly not to try and homeschool the 7 yo.

Dear Mom,

Many times, we find that we are pulled in different directions, making the transition to a more structured time of study difficult. Let’s look at some of the issues that you are facing.

Of all the children in your homeschool, the older three children probably need the most structured of efforts. Your 14-year-old should have a time with you that is uninterrupted and focused. This gives the child the message that his/her time spent in independent study is important.

Certainly we should encourage our high school age children to work on their own and help them to establish a positive work ethic, but they really need the feedback that our participation provides. For example, if Math is the challenge that your high schooler deals with on a particular day, then your time spent with him/her will give you insight into how he/she is managing. When we make this time spent with the student a priority, then the student will make his efforts a priority as well.

The 7-year-old needs to be establishing an independent spirit with regards to her school work as well. This is not to say that she is supposed to work entirely on her own—that would be counterproductive. However, she needs to be able to do a certain amount of her study by herself and return to you to show you her progress.

Try to begin your day with your oldest three children in the formal setting of homeschool. Allow that the younger children will play or even watch something suitable on the television while you begin your instruction and get the school aged children’s day kicked off. Give each of them a set amount of work to have accomplished independently according to their skill and ability. Then, as they are working on their studies, give your efforts over to the younger children. These efforts would certainly not be nearly as focused on formal schooling as they would be focused on day-to-day activities (getting dressed, simple chores, and outdoor play, etc.). In this way, you are able to give the younger children a good amount of time, allowing you to meet their needs and get them settled before you check in again with the older children. Try to develop a pattern whereby you are allowing the school age children the time to work on their own, and then they bring the work to you.

At the end of the day have a time when you can sit with the children and check in about their day in the homeschool. Perhaps this is a good time to discuss challenges and grade papers. I like to call this time “checking time.” Each child has time with me so that I can tie up the loose ends of their day and see if they are being responsible for the amount of work they were given.

It has always helped me to begin my week with lesson plans in place and complete. In this way, students can take their lesson plan and work independently without waiting on me to assign work. For me, the small interruptions of family life are a reality that must be embraced and worked around. Remember that homeschool is not our bringing the public school mindset to our homes, but instead our allowing that we school through the rhythm of our homes. There has to be a certain amount of give and take, but there must be a certain amount of structure as well.

I think it is vital that you seek a teaching system that will accomplish your priorities, keeping in mind that people are the priority. I can tell you truthfully that the CHC program is solidly Catholic, user-friendly, academically sound, and cost effective. It is designed to encourage students to work independently. Each lesson plan clearly explains which subjects are priorities and which are not. This is the same discernment process all teachers must use when preparing a day’s work.

You want flexibility, not rigidity, in planning. A prepared lesson plan and curriculum should relieve you of a major amount of work and give you the flexibility so important in real family life, where people’s needs are priority.

I know that you are a caring and creative mom. I can sense in your letter and by the number of years that you have been homeschooling that you are aware of the challenges that you are beginning to face as the high school years approach. You are wise to start now to set down a pattern of study and attention that will allow you to face the upcoming challenges with ease. The rules do change, so to speak, as the rhythm of our household changes. This is the beauty of being flexible and open to the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Have a family talk with all the children and enlist their invaluable help. Ask them to describe the challenges as they see them. I am always uplifted by the creativity of my children when it comes time to work through a challenge.

I hope these few suggestions will be a catalyst to help you further explore alternatives and solutions. Keep praying, and keep after the Holy Spirit to guide you and direct your efforts.

Sending out a prayer,
Rita Munn

About Rita Munn

Rita Munn is a veteran homeschool mother of ten. For many years she was a popular speaker at Catholic homeschooling conferences. Writing has been a passion of hers for as long as she can remember, and she loves to use her writing skills to share her homeschooling experience with other parents. Her “family journal” reflections are featured in CHC’s Educating for Eternity e-newsletter.