Can I Homeschool My Child Who Has ADHD?

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Can I Homeschool My Child Who Has ADHD?

Children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) present a special challenge to new homeschooling parents. The differences between a child with ADHD and a child without lead to very different learning styles which require unique teaching techniques. However, homeschooling comes with many advantages for children with ADHD so they can thrive in ways are are unlikely in a classroom setting.  

What Makes Homeschooling a Child with ADHD Different?

Children with ADHD can be especially frustrating to parents because while they can perform certain tasks just fine, they can’t do them all the time. This inconsistency makes it look like they aren’t trying hard enough or don’t care enough. For example, a child with ADHD might struggle to focus on a math worksheet, but have no trouble focusing on a video game. Or they might struggle to sit still while listening to a book, but have no trouble sitting still during a television program. 

Here are two exercises a parent can try to help understand why focusing and sitting still are so difficult for their child and how the child feels during these episodes. 

1. Sitting Still is Challenging: Try It Yourself

Try sitting in a straight-backed chair without moving at all. You can breathe normally, and blink as much as you need to, but try to limit all other movements. See how long you can sit still.

Pay careful attention to the signals your body is sending you. Messages to shift when it becomes a little bit uncomfortable, or messages to twitch, stretch, or just move. Pay attention to how much harder it is to sit completely still as time goes on. 

Children with ADHD get these same impulses, but they are much stronger, more frequent, and more insistent.

Children with ADHD impulsive/hyperactive type have a hard time resisting the impulse to fidget. Asking a child not to move while engaging their brain with math problems and while learning new information means they are constantly having to fight against their own body. They can sit still better when their brains are not being strained, but even then, the longer they try, the harder it gets. 

2. Paying Attention is Difficult: Try It Yourself

Put on something that’s extremely boring for you: a child’s audiobook, a dull TV program you’ve heard 1000 times, or a documentary about something you’ve never been interested in. Try to keep track of how often your brain starts to think about other things not related to what you are watching or listening to. Then try listening or watching while doing other tasks that take up a lot of mental energy, such as doing math problems or making a complicated lunch. Then try turning on some music or reading a book while paying attention. Add in as many distractions as you can. 

Children with ADHD inattentive type have intrusive or racing thoughts that constantly interrupt or distract them. They try to pay attention, but with so many thoughts going in so many different directions, it can be far more difficult to not get distracted than it is to stay on task. Their own brain distracts them frequently, and they often have a very hard time filtering out outside distractions as well. Things most people can ignore, like dripping water, lawnmowers across the street, and lights that are just a little too bright can all be major distractions. 

11 ADHD Traits That Are More Easily Managed in a Homeschool Setting

While symptoms of ADHD can work against a child, especially in a traditional school setting, homeschooling provides many advantages that can help a child to overcome those difficulties. 

1. Fidgeting

Children with ADHD often need to be moving some part of their body. Even while doing math problems or reading, they have trouble focusing on the task on hand if their body isn’t moving. Consider adding in tactile, sensory activities such as sitting upside-down, using a balance ball, or having fidgets handy to help them learn. 

2. Difficulty Remaining Seated

Unless the task at hand requires them to be seated, allow them to move around. Children with ADHD often do better

  • standing on one foot for math
  • playing while listening to Read-Alouds
  • reciting spelling words while jumping on a trampoline 

3. Constant Movement

While movement can be distracting to parents, it is often beneficial to children. Use a variety of small and large movements to help your child’s body move, which allows them to focus better. 

4. Excessive Talking

While traditional schools often require students to be quiet to help other children concentrate, in your homeschool, your child is free to talk as much as they need. Talking through problems often helps children learn better and retain more, so use this trait to your child’s advantage. 

5. Difficulty Taking Turns

While this covers everything from blurting out answers to starting before given permission, this isn’t necessarily a bad trait in homeschooling. While you might need to work on skills like not interrupting in a conversation, you don’t need to make your child wait for many things unless it benefits them. 

6. Trouble Staying on Task

Constant internal and external distractions means staying on task can be a frustrating challenge for children with ADHD and their parents. But children who are in a homeschool environment often have fewer overall distractions, and have someone nearby to help them stay on task and teach them how to follow through. Consider using action-linking exercises to help them remember to do tasks to completion, and work with them to develop good habits. 

7. Struggles with Completing Assignments

Incomplete assignments are the bane of any teacher’s existence, but with homeschooling, you are able to quickly get to the root of any incomplete assignments and help the child finish. You don’t need to wait a week or two down the road to realize a child hasn’t done their homework. 

8. Difficulty Paying Attention

Unlike in a crowded classroom, with fewer students at home, it's easier to detect when a child isn’t paying attention and quickly redirect their attention. Also, with homeschooling, the school day is often shorter, especially in the elementary years when children seem to struggle the most. 

9. Difficulty Listening

Children with ADHD are often distracted by their own thoughts, so they can appear to not be listening or even hear that you are speaking to them at times. However, since the home allows you to catch these episodes quickly, you can get the child’s attention, hold eye contact, and have the child repeat the instructions back to you to make sure they truly hear and understand. 

10. Forgetfulness

As a parent with many children, I realize all children are forgetful, but my children with ADHD take this to a new level. They can forget they are looking for their shoes with one shoe in their hand, and act like they never heard me give them a math assignment, even though they were complaining about the assignment five minutes earlier.

Homeschooling allows me to establish routines to reduce the amount of forgetfulness on daily items, as well as intervene quickly and teach them good habits to use as an adult to reduce forgetfulness. 

11. Distractability

As I’ve mentioned many times, children with ADHD don’t need to actually be distracted to get distracted. They can get distracted in the labyrinth of their own thoughts. Homeschool parents can easily work with their child to reduce external distractions and provide reminders (such as alarms, apps, and sticky notes) to help children learn how to cope with forgetfulness and build lasting skills they can use as adults. 

Homeschooling a child with ADHD typically provides more opportunity for lifelong coping mechanisms and better tracking methods. As a parent with ADHD myself, raising two children who also struggle with it, I can attest that not only can homeschooling a child with ADHD be done, but it can be worthwhile and successful.

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To Those on the Fence about Homeschooling after Coronavirus Lockdown

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To Those on the Fence about Homeschooling after Coronavirus Lockdown

Quarantine-schooling and homeschooling are apples and oranges, but multitudes of parents have taken this period with kids at home as a snapshot of what a home education means. Before you take the snapshot seriously, take a step back and view the panoramic beyond the pandemic.

Homeschooling was never suited to be an emergency replacement for school, but it is suited to support you in recovering from grief together and rebuilding life together.

Quarantine Schooling is Not Homeschooling

Just as the world seems to be adjusting to homeschooling, I have never missed it more. Meaningful learning is

  • with other people
  • about other people,
  • and for other people.

Social isolation, therefore, has maimed our education beyond recognition. 

But life will not always be like this. More home-education communities will arise from these ashes. Whether in school or out of it, rebuilding community will be hard work. Will you join one that is provided by a school system or help create one that is aimed at service, life-long learning, and devotion to God?

It Gets Easier

Having the kids home all day is difficult. 

Doing it in isolation is among the most difficult tasks you will face as a parent, and you have nearly completed it. 

Every step from now on, towards sustainable routine and mutual re-connection, makes homeschool life more rewarding and balanced. Don’t make a life for yourself in the tunnel, watch for the light at the end of the tunnel. Being a homeschool parent before lockdown was the most gratifying work I had ever done.

Give the Whole Family Space to Recover from Grief

This morning I burst into tears while hanging up the washing. I was thinking of our routine on a Thursday: the people we saw and the life we had. Every day in our week has been gutted of major projects and social commitments. That is a serious loss.

We are grieving for a life lost. It will return, but not as before, and not without healing. The home is the best context for that healing, where hugging and singing is permitted, and where learners collaborate to bless a broken world.

Putting children back in school may give us parents some space in the short-term, but if you plan on putting them on a fast-track to exams in the cultural war-zone of school, you might experience disruption to your family’s recovery.

Boost Academic Success at Home

Among the many myths about homeschooling is the obdurate lie that grades will suffer. Although it is worth putting away a preoccupation with measurable success, those of us who are worried about grades ought to look at the evidence. Sandra Martin-Chang of Concordia University, for example, led a study in 2011, examining 37 structured homeschoolers and 37 public school students. She found that homeschoolers using lesson plans or a curriculum were at least one grade ahead of public schoolers on 5 of 7 test areas.

For many, school grades have suffered in the lockdown, but homeschooling is not the problem here—the lockdown is. In fact, if you’re looking to bump up grades, homeschooling seems to present a solution.

I, personally, flourished academically after being homeschooled with Sonlight curriculum. Reading about these Sonlight students is also a remarkable encouragement.

A World-class Christian Education

A master carpenter does not send his new apprentice out on his own to an important client. Nor does the master keep the apprentice cooped up at home to get book-smart. The apprentice goes with the master to the work site, where he learns the trade from the master. Eventually the apprentice is sent out to build his own business, using his acquired skills.

Before sending our children into the world to be ambassadors for Christ, allow your children to be apprentices at home alongside you. 

  • Let’s be an apprentice to Gladys Aylward on how to be unashamed of the gospel in the face of government pressures. 
  • Let’s be an apprentice to David Livingstone on how to be both a Christian and a scientist among unreached peoples
  • Our children must be an apprentice to Jesus on what it means to be sent of the Father.
  • And they must be our apprentices of what wisdom looks like in the midst of a worldwide crisis. 

Let your children be children before they hit the front-lines.

You may feel, like me, knocked down by the lockdown. We are still reeling, trying to redefine our place in the world. Not only will homeschooling with a high-quality Chirstian curriculum nurture your recovery, it will re-orientate you in the world, academically, and as ambassadors of Jesus. 

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100 Things Worth Memorizing with Your Child

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100 Things Worth Memorizing with Your Child

Young children tend to have great memories, and can often memorize things faster and easier than older children or adults.  This summer is a great time to work on memorizing key information with your child, as a way to keep their minds active, and provide a great resource for later years when they will need this information. 

Keep in mind, memorization works best when children learn small bits of information at a time. So, instead of trying to memorize everything on the list, or memorize large amounts of information, start with small nuggets, such as one phone number, and then gradually add to it over time, such as adding a second phone number once the first phone number is complete. 

Tip: Use Music

My favorite way to help children memorize information is to use educational songs, but not everything can be found in music form. If you have musically talented individuals in your family, see if they can set your phone number to the tune of a simple song or create their own songs. 

Tip: Create a System

I like to use index cards and book rings to create my own flash card sets. I simply punch a hole in the top corner of some index cards, and then using different colored cards, markers, or highlighters, color code the cards to different types of information. I create 3 rings. 

  1. Ring A is for new things we are memorizing.  We read through these each day, out loud together. 
  2. Ring B is for things we have already memorized.  We review this set of cards on days when we have more time, but not daily. 
  3. Ring C is for things I want to work on in the future.  

As soon as we can recite information 3 days in a row without mistakes, it moves Ring A to Ring B. Then, we choose another card to move from Ring C to Ring A. The rings make it easy to flip through and find information.

Eventually, I feel absolutely confident that we have memorized everything we need to from a card, and that card gets removed from the rings and placed in a drawer to wait for the next child.  

Personal Information to Memorize

  1. Their full name
  2. Parents' full names
  3. Complete address
  4. Parents' full telephone number
  5. The full name and phone number of at least one emergency contact
  6. The name of the place each parent's workplace
  7. The names of all of their allergies, medications (and dosages, for older children) and/or medical conditions and those of their siblings/parents, if needed
  8. Emergency numbers (911, but if you live in or are travelling to other countries, this number may be different)
  9. Emergency meeting place in case of disaster/fire
  10. Birth date and/or social security number

Kindergarten Basics to Memorize

  1. Days of the week
  2. Months of the year
  3. Colors of the rainbow
  4. The 3 states of matter
  5. Traffic light colors (green for go, yellow for slow, red for stop)
  6. Seasons of the year
  7. Shapes (trapezoid, sphere, etc)
  8. Major holidays
  9. Thirty Days Hath September poem
  10. Right hand/left hand

History/Geography Facts to Memorize

  1. States and capitals
  2. Names of presidents (or prime ministers or other rulers)
  3. Kings and queens of England
  4. Countries and capitals
  5. The Seven Wonders of the World (ancient and modern)
  6. Continents and oceans
  7. Directions on a compass
  8. The Declaration of Independence
  9. The Preamble to the Constitution
  10. Favorite famous speeches (I Have a Dream from Martin Luther King, Jr., The Gettysburg Address, Susan B. Anthony’s speech after being arrested for voting, etc.)

English Facts to Memorize

  1. Vowels
  2. Parts of speech
  3. Definition of each part of speech
  4. List of prepositions
  5. List of pronouns (possessive, subject, object)
  6. Coordinating conjunctions 
  7. Subordinating conjunctions
  8. Articles
  9. How to spell the 1000 most common words in the English language or 100 most commonly misspelled words
  10. Forms of the verb to be 

Math Facts to Memorize

  1. Addition tables
  2. Times tables/skip counting
  3. Metric conversions
  4. Equivalencies 
  5. Order of operations
  6. Digits of Pi
  7. Roman numerals
  8. Formulas (radius of a circle, quadratic equation, etc.)
  9. Prime numbers
  10. Commonly used laws (associative, communicative, etc.)

Science Facts to Memorize

  1. Names of planets in our solar system
  2. Order of taxonomy classifications
  3. Characteristics/needs of living things
  4. Types of bacteria/viruses 
  5. Bones/muscles/systems of the body
  6. Types of ecosystems/biomes/habitats
  7. Types of weather/clouds
  8. Periodic table of the elements
  9. Units of measurement
  10. Scientific laws and theories (laws of motion, thermodynamics, cell theory, etc.)

Language Topics to Memorize

  1. Colors in other languages
  2. Numbers in other languages
  3. Sign language
  4. Braille alphabet
  5. Morse code
  6. Songs for children in foreign languages
  7. Secret codes
  8. Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes
  9. Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes
  10. Hieroglyphic basic alphabet

Literature Topics to Memorize

  1. Synonyms/antonyms
  2. Literary elements (plot, characters, setting, theme, point of view, etc.)
  3. Literary devices related to sound (onomatopoeia, assonance, consonance, alliteration)
  4. Literary techniques (allegory, irony, simile, personification, etc.)
  5. Types of fallacies 
  6. Forms of poetry (limericks, haiku, sonnet, etc.)
  7. Types of writing styles (expository, descriptive, creative, narrative, and persuasive)
  8. Parts and order of citations for MLA and/or APA format
  9. Types of punctuation
  10. Proofreading symbols

Bible Topics to Memorize

  1. Names of the twelve disciples
  2. Names of the twelve sons of Jacob
  3. The books of the Bible
  4. The Ten Commandments
  5. The Kings of Israel/Judah
  6. The Lord’s Prayer
  7. Days of creation and what was created on each day
  8. Names/attributes of God/Jesus
  9. Full armor of God and the Fruits of the Spirit
  10. A catechism

Extra Topics to Memorize

  1. Favorite Bible verses
  2. Favorite hymns
  3. Favorite children’s church songs
  4. Favorite quotes 
  5. Common idioms and their meanings
  6. Favorite poems
  7. Common facts and mnemonic devices
  8. NATO’s phonetic alphabet
  9. Types of knots and how to tie them
  10. Musical terminology

This list is by no means complete. It’s simply a starting place to give you ideas.  Every child does not need to learn to memorize each item, and there may be many facts and skills you feel are important for your family that didn't make my list. 

For example, as a nurse, I often cover important medical situations with my children, such as using the FAST (Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties, Time) with my children to identify if someone is having a stroke, or Stop, Drop and Roll in case of a fire. 

Often, these items can be completed during a circle time or morning basket time with your children, or even a poetry tea time.  Even though the list is long, by picking just a few items to work on at a time, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to cycle through them.

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9 Things I’ve Learned from Homeschooling as a Single Father

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9 Things I’ve Learned from Homeschooling as a Single Father

When I started homeschooling, not only was I the only full-time father in my community, and the only homeschooling father in my community, I was the only homeschooling single-father that I had ever heard of.

Sometimes it was met with encouragement, sometimes with derision, usually with bafflement. “How little,” I imagined them saying, “must such a man consider his own masculinity?” Maybe the breed of masculinity that is preoccupied with its own public image is not worth having at all. Learning a sense of masculinity that centered on moral courage, I tuned out the gossip and turned to my responsibilities. 

1. Get up Early; Sleep in the Wasted Evening

When my toddler was my alarm clock, I always seemed to wake up cranky. I wasn’t starting my day. The day was starting me. I knew I had to start getting up before him. For a few months, that meant inflicting an alarm app on myself at 4:30 am that would not turn off unless I took a picture of my kettle. Because I was starting the day earlier, I started sleeping earlier too, instead of wiling the evening away on Netflix. After a few weeks, I was awake enough at 6am to apply myself to something before the kids got up. I could use the time to…

2. Read Like My Life Depends on it

Having emerged from a tricky degree in theology, I thought the intellectual side of homeschooling would be a breeze. I was wrong. I encountered problems that could only be surmounted with careful reading and examination of my principles. Must my daughter stick to the literature assigned to her age? I had to create time for myself to think and read about it. With Sonlight Advisors on the other end of a phone line, I was in a better position than some to tackle these questions.

3. Use Failure to Connect

After months of discussing Aesop’s Fables, Sonlight’s daily Bible readings in the History, Bible and Literature program, and the discussion questions for the literature in the Instructor’s Guide, I noticed that the curriculum was inviting us to examine our life. Taking the invitation, I was seeing things about my heart that I’d rather not see. I could either hide my impatience, hubris, fragility, or I could make a habit of facing it with my children. I started the daily habit of apologizing for my own wrongdoing.

4. The Compromises of Young Kids are Temporary

It takes a certain frame of mind to bear the mental burden of caring for an under-five-year-old in the long term. One is expected to listen to countless impassioned cries and respond with perfect equanimity. It takes a strong sense of hope to continue doing so at all, let alone with purpose and creativity. I’ll admit that on some evenings it felt like the impositions of my needful children were walling me in. But, “Follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it” (A Door in the Wall, p16).

When I keep the end in sight, suddenly the wall is no longer walling me in. Walls mark a city to be defended, just as the impositions of my children mark a sacred life to be cherished. I will man the walls.

5. Less Is More

I started to think seriously about toys when my three-year-old ignored his gifted toy truck in favour of the cardboard box. I experimented with keeping all the toys upstairs, and ditching the TV. They spent more time in rewarding imaginative play, and I spent less time officiating disputes. What I learned about curating an environment became crucial for understanding how to direct a child’s attention during lessons.

6. Call My Friends

I always knew that crises test friendships. What I didn’t understand until I had my own personal crisis, is that I actually have to call my friends.

7. When I Rest, Rest

With three little hearts in my sole care, I felt that if I looked away for a moment, chaos would ensue. Every moment I spent with them was spent focused on keeping order. I could be with the kids every hour of the day, without spending a single moment with them. My Atlas-complex begged the question of what I loved more: my children or my to-do-list. It shouldn’t have taken me that long to take the sabbath seriously and to set apart a day for unbroken rest. 

8. Take My Shoes and Socks off

Everything my children do without prompting, I had to relearn as strategies for mental health. I turned my phone off and went on barefoot adventures. Removing artifice helped me ground myself. I relearned how to play and cry and adventure and sing and feel untrod soil under my toes. I wanted to prevent myself from closing in on myself, in bitter rumination. I wanted to leave myself open to feel the world. As if my toes were roots, seeking soil to re-root an uprooted family. 

We will always remember reading Red Sails to Capri by bonfire-light on one of those adventures, or A Door in the Wall, leaning against the ruins of a 12th century manor house in England. We were planting our learning in the world- in the old earth. They were crucial successes in the business of re-rooting.

9. Lift Up the Boy

Ishmael is born in Genesis 16 amongst hatred, self-importance and recrimination. When he was left in the desert to die, the news was brought to his mother by an angel who said, ““God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”” God listened, and His lovingkindness was Ishmael’s, “Door in the wall.” 

My days as a single-father bear the scars of sin and sickness. Every one of those days I hear the command to, “Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand.” God has promised to heal, even the gruesome wounds of sin in my family. Even when the, “Door in the wall” is difficult to make out, I commit myself to “follow the wall far enough.” I will “lift up the boy.”

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17 Scheduling Tips for Homeschooling the Very Large Family

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17 Scheduling Tips for Homeschooling the Very Large Family

A few years ago, in part due to foster care and health issues among family members, we had eleven children under age twelve at our house every day for close to a year.

Growing from four children to eleven almost overnight was hard. However, I still had older children who needed to continue their homeschool curriculum, and I had groups of younger children who needed to be kept entertained all day long. We were forced to reframe how we viewed homeschooling. These 17 techniques evolved during that intense period to help my large family thrive. 

1. Create a Routine

The single most important thing I did to create a more peaceful homeschool experience when I had a lot of very young children in the house was to create a daily routine. 

The first few weeks of that school year, I got very little work done, but I spent a lot of time creating a routine and going over expectations for work and behavior. Once the routine was established, we could start our days and get through quite a lot of work, even with interruptions, and always had a plan for what to do next.

The routine did not guarantee we completed every subject daily, nor did it magically bring peace and tranquility. But a good routine meant the children knew what to expect each day. While my attention was distracted, the older children who were used to the routine could seamlessly transition between activities and subjects, while the children newer to the routine could quickly adopt the routine as their own. Even if we got interrupted during the day, moving on to a different part of the routine could bring us quickly back to a more structured day and help us get more work done. 

Doctors appointments, therapy visits, and the needs of many small children often dissolved our routine into chaos. Many days, we could accomplish only part of our routine before we got derailed. However, once the routine itself was well-established, we could easily jump back in at any point and pick up our routine with a minimum of fuss. 

2. Teach Year-round, Week-round and/or Day-round

We usually follow Sonlight’s 5-day program, which runs 180 school days per year. But I quickly realized we had 365 days with which to teach those 180 days. We weren’t limited to weekdays only.

If I shortened our summer break dramatically, I could have more days to teach, and we would break our routine less often. I also began shortening our breaks for other holidays, and we soon wound up with enough extra days that we could teach less each day and still finish on time.

If we only completed half a day, we could find another half a day to complement it. Using extra time on the weekends and evenings helped us fit in even more learning without overextending ourselves further. I often tell new homeschoolers worried about schedules that we are much more likely to be found homeschooling at 10 pm on a Saturday night in July than on a Monday morning in September. 

3. Teach in Short Bursts

Sometimes 10-15 minutes is all we could expect in between major interruptions. If we could, we kept going straight through longer time periods. But when my children were very young, we would plan to homeschool in short bursts. We would pick one subject, and I would assign just enough to fill up that time frame.

We would repeat these short bursts all day long, with plenty of breaks in between to give attention to the little ones. Exercise and physical play helped children release stored energy during the breaks, so when it was time to sit down again, everyone was ready to concentrate for a while. 

4. Try Loop Scheduling

Loop scheduling is a simple way to organize a schedule to help keep you on track, even if you can’t find time to finish every subject every day. When using a loop schedule, every time we got off track, we just came back and did the next thing on the list. We had a couple subjects we tried to do every day, and let the loop schedule help us track the rest. 

5. Stagger Activities

When homeschooling my very large family, I tried to break up our activities so we had a quiet activity that needed a lot of concentration, such as math, followed by a louder activity, such as music, or an activity that needed less deep concentration such as handwriting. This way the toddlers didn’t need to be quiet for long periods at a time. This flip-flopping between types of activities helped me reduce the number of breaks so we could finish our school day faster overall. 

6. Stagger Meal Times

Often I would feed the younger children first, which allowed the older children to finish assignments and readings. Then, when the younger group finished, I would have the older group eat while the little ones played.

Toddlers tend to be less disruptive when their hands and mouths are busy, so I would often use this time to complete the subjects that needed the most concentration. 

7. Read During Meals

At other times, I would read to my children while they ate, using the Bible lessons at breakfast, and Read-Alouds or History during lunch. Again, because they had something to concentrate on, the younger children would be more content to listen. I had my own meal afterward, while the children who were old enough would complete the after-meal chores.

8. Schedule the Little Ones First

Playing with the younger children first let them know I was willing to spend time and attention on them. When we were finished, they were usually more content to let me spend time with the older ones for a while. 

9. Use a Buddy System

When homeschooling my very large family, I scheduled one or more of the older children to play with, read to, or spend time with one or more of the little children while I helped the others. This set-up not only helped to reinforce the bond between siblings and taught them to play together well despite age differences, but it helped show my little one they weren’t being forgotten. 

10. Incorporate Music

Listening to educational music such as Bible memory work, or geography songs at strategic points during the day can help little ones to release energy. I often saved music learning for periods when tension was building.

11. Play Audiobooks

Using audiobooks, such as The Story of the World from History / Bible / Literature (HBL) G and HBL H allowed my older children a chance to listen while I entertained the little ones. You can also use audiobooks of Read-Alouds to catch up or get ahead while out and about in the car. If you’re going to be someplace where audiobooks might be less appreciated, such as a doctor’s office or therapy appointment, headphones are a godsend. 

12. Switch Readers

A couple children were capable of reading the heavier Read-Alouds themselves, but I wanted to keep on top of the difficult topics discussed. So I had them read to me while I changed diapers and prepared meals. This allowed me to get more done while still addressing those hard topics and sensitive areas. 

13. Use Video- or Computer-Based Teachers

One of the reasons I love Math U See is because I don’t have to be as involved in teaching as I do with some other programs. I can allow my children to watch the video and do the worksheets. If they have trouble with the problems, they can come back and watch the video again. And if they are still stuck, then I can help them. That leaves me more time to play and read with my younger children while knowing they are really learning. 

14. Earmark Naptime

If you are fortunate enough to have children who take naps, you can use this time for your older children to do seatwork or other quiet activities. They can listen to audiobooks or music in their room, finish their reading, or even help you clean or make meals to help your school day go more smoothly. 

15. Begin New Bedtime Stories

Many Sonlight books make great bedtime stories. After the little ones are tucked in, you might consider reading a chapter or two of a book before your older ones head off to bed. Some children might be upset by sensitive stories right before bedtime, so it does pay to look ahead and choose less intense books. 

16. Get Others Involved by Asking for Help

I quickly learned that I can not do it all. There was no way I could be a teacher, babysitter, chef, art director, principal, taskmaster, timekeeper, school nurse, and psychologist all while playing housekeeper and mother as well. I had to learn to ask for help and, more importantly, I had to learn how to receive it.

Most importantly, I needed to learn to take time for myself so I could have the energy and desire to care for others. 

One great aspect of homeschooling is that the entire extended family can be involved. My child can read a book to Grandma over the internet, or discuss their favorite story over dinner with dad. We can enlist an uncle to teach science, or an aunt to teach woodworking. We can delegate spelling practice to a cousin, or even have an older sibling read to a younger one

17. Build in Cleaning Breaks

Taking the time to make sure the house is clean and organized before starting your day, and throughout the day helps to reduce distractions and help improve mood. Getting the toddlers involved by picking up their toys and wiping down tables, or the preschoolers involved by folding towels or vacuuming the floor works their large muscle groups, making it easier for them to sit more quietly later on. 

That period of my life has passed. While I still have many children at home, the busy, chaotic, time of never-ending demands and constant need-filling has diminished to a much more manageable level. But I still use all of these techniques regularly, to manage my homeschool. 

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3 Ideas for a Peaceful Homeschool in Quarantine

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3 Ideas for a Peaceful Homeschool in Quarantine

After the kids and I, one after the other, showed the dreaded symptoms of covid-19, we were fated to a month-long self-isolation. Without a co-parent, or even a walk around the block to ease the pressure, I’ve had a crash-course in homeschooling in a lockdown. 

My first lesson was to get our school work done in the early afternoon , so we can play in the garden for the rest of the day. Here are three other tips for staving off the bickering when we all feel cramped as homeschoolers in quarantine.

1. Focus on Readers and Illustrated Read-Alouds

Before being cooped up, we were all enjoying being transported by A Door in the Wall to the plague-ridden 14th century, but in our present state of mind, the delicate, archaic language is a little hard to take in. I’m hitting pause on beloved Marguerite De Angeli, and focusing on shorter, illustrated books. 

How is it possible to get three rowdy children of various ages interested in a French scientist’s discovery of microbes in 1800s without a generous dose of twaddle to sweeten the deal? Pasteur's Fight Against Microbes is the answer. Three squirming bottoms were no match for this biography. Pasteur’s journey from problem to experimentation to solution has earned its place as our favorite history of science book so far.

If I finish my dinner before the kids, out comes a book like Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky. I use the abacus and globe we keep on the table to discuss it. The discs on the abacus show the number of men who set out from Iceland and how many made it to North America. On the globe, we found his journey to Greenland and back. This, with the illustrations of Eric the Red, the weather-worn Scandanavian and the author’s matter-of-fact description of a breathtaking and under-appreciated journey, gave them something to chew on with their lunch.

Though she will not take in forty minutes of a chapter book, my seven-year-old is glad to read aloud a Reader like Helen Keller as she paces back and forth like a caged cat. It’s a tall order to focus on being an ambassador for Christ when she’s not even seeing any of her friends, but encouraging her family with a story like this is a reminder that service is a guiding principle for her education.

2. Use an Immersive Reading Nook

Even a socialite like my seven-year-old daughter needs privacy, sometimes contrary to her own opinion. When her less emotionally mature brothers are impossible to negotiate with, she needs a space where she can achieve without interference.

The problem is, when it comes to her daily Math-U-See workbook, she doesn’t want to retreat to a room alone. As a solution, I bought her a pair of noise-cancelling bluetooth headphones. 

She sits in the writing desk we built together, facing the corner of the living room and listens to a combo of fireplace ambience overlaid with Chopin’s nocturnes. It is her zone within our collective zone. She is not alone, but even her youngest brother knows it is not permissible to distract her. 

In the reading nook, she is responsible for her to-do list. One chapter of The Horse and His Boy, following along with the audiobook, two pages of the Math-U-See  workbook, and finally, reading and replying to letters from friends. Having conquered her small and specific to-do list, she emerges with a sense of control that takes the panic away from her subsequent interactions. Now compromise with her little brothers can come from a slightly deepened well of calm.

3. Encourage Complaints

Handwriting and math have always elicited the fiercest complaints from my little students. It’s possible that the inflexibility of the subjects are partly to blame. Creative types want to feel like they’re trailblazing, rather than acting as containers for set techniques. 

Since quarantine, however, I’ve had to confront a few complaints that I would otherwise have dismissed as a bad attitude. Instead of shushing complaints, I ask them to make a note, and bring it up during the morning meeting

The following morning I sit down with them and this conversation ensues:

“Thank you for being honest about how boring you find handwriting at the moment. I can see how beautiful your letters are after these ten pages of handwriting. Do you think the solution is to stop handwriting altogether?”

“No, but I only want to do one page.”

“Would that be best? Maybe we can try one more week, and if it’s still frustrating you, we’ll change it next week. Every time you feel angry about it, make a note, and we can look at it together next week and decide.”

After complaints are heard and discussed, they become few and far between. 

Complaints are attempts to make change, and I want to encourage that impulse. I also want my children to take on the responsibility of examining their own impulses. Let’s talk about whether the change is desirable, then let’s meet together and strategize. That process is too difficult when tempers are high, so we set a meeting time to talk calmly.

Encouraging change-makers while examining the change has helped me move from managing balls of chaos to purposeful and sensitive team-work. Sensitive team-work, I’m learning, is the only strategy for peaceful homeschooling in the coronavirus lockdown.

All-Subjects Package are based on our best recommendations after 30 years of ongoing research, development, and feedback from families around the world.

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Ingenious Ways to Keep Younger Children Busy While Homeschooling

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Ingenious Ways to Keep Younger Children Busy While Homeschooling

Anyone who has toddlers and preschoolers at home knows that homeschooling is a challenge with little ones underfoot. Most preschoolers don’t have the patience to wait a few minutes while you work on a math problem with your 12-year-old or to play with one toy until you reach the end of a chapter. You will likely find your preschooler interrupting every few minutes,or your toddler finding trouble every time you try to focus on teaching spelling. 

Plan Ahead for Younger Children

After many years of homeschooling multiple children across wide age spans, I have learned tips to corral some of the chaos and keep us running more smoothly.

1. Create a Safe Play Area

Perhaps not all children were as adventure-seeking as some of mine, but I had a few escape artists over the years. By locking all exterior doors and windows and creating a safe play area (usually within eyesight) where I didn’t have to worry about their getting hurt, I didn’t have to spend as much time worrying about their physical safety. Also, because they could see and hear us, they were content to play longer.

I have seen families use baby gates, large indoor play areas, and pillows to create sectioned off areas for the young ones to play.

If you are homeschooling outdoors, large play areas, fencing, or even play pools (with water if you are very close by or dry pools filled with toys if you are not) can create a safe play area.

2. Plan Baby’s Schedule

We all know that babies don’t keep to a schedule. So planning for one might seem rather silly. But babies can have some predictable actions.

Check the baby’s diaper in between subjects so they are less likely to interrupt you while you are busy. Use a sling and feed them while reading aloud. Older children can help you turn the pages if you need both hands for a little bit. Try to predict the baby’s naptime so you can cover Table Subjects™ while the baby is sleeping.

3. Create Busy Bags and Toddler Trays 

Busy bags are simply a series of small bags, each filled with one activity a young child will enjoy. Bags can contain almost any toy or educational project.

Toddler trays are simply food trays with larger activities that might not fit in a bag, such as games, sensory bins, and puzzles. The storage device does not matter.

I usually had on hand about one bag for each 10 minutes I wanted my children to keep busy. I would hand them one bag at a time, and they had to play with the activity on a special rug we had near our learning area. When they were done, they picked up the pieces, put them back in the bag, and handed it quietly to me. Then I would silently put it back into a basket we had nearby and silently hand a fresh busy bag. Our basket also had books, art supplies, and ready-to-make crafts. 

If they didn’t pick up their pieces or were being too disruptive, they didn’t get a new activity. I tried to change up the bags every few days (cycling some in and out of the rotation and making new ones), to help keep them fresh. We did not allow them to play with the busy bags or toddler trays outside of school time, so as to maintain the novelty. These were school-only toys.

Sometimes, the activity would only last a minute or two. Other times, they would play for an hour or more. The choice of how long to use each activity was up to them. 

Easy Busy Bag Activities

To get you started with busy bags or toddler trays, here are some simple items you might already have on hand.

  • puzzles
  • games
  • lacing activities
  • blocks
  • paper with crayons, colored pencils, etc. 
  • coloring books with crayons
  • colored paper and scissors
  • shapes and shape mats
  • play-dough
  • fun books (or library books)
  • letter shapes
  • toy cars
  • toy animals
  • masking tape or scotch tape
  • wooden craft sticks
  • pipe cleaners
  • stickers

4. Use Read-Alouds as Bedtime Stories

You might wish to read some Read-Alouds or History books from your curriculum after the little ones have gone to sleep for the night. This will give you extra bonding time with your older children, while still checking things off your schedule. 

5. Let Family Help

Perhaps your mother would like to take the younger children for an hour a day while you get some work done. Or Aunt Sue would like to help out for a few hours every other weekend. Dad can even do math or science in his free time while you bathe the baby or play with the toddler (or vice versa). Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. 

6. Use the Buddy System

If you have a large family, the buddy system might help. Have any older children you are not currently working with play with or watch over one younger sibling while you help other children or get some reading done. By pairing children for short time periods, you can be more assured that each youngster is getting attention while you focus more fully on the homeschool task at hand.

Buddies can change from day to day or even from minute to minute. The same two children do not always need to be buddies. For example, a 7-year-old can watch a 3-year-old sister while you do spelling with the 9-year-old, and then the 9-year-old can take over little sister duty while you and the 7-year-old work on math. 

Activities to Keep the Little Ones Busy

1. Finger Foods

I’ve found very young children who are hungry or thirsty are more likely to whine, cry, or want attention rather than ask for a snack. To keep them satisfied, I made sure to have a lot of healthy, protein-rich finger foods on hand.

2. Homemade Finger Paints

I would often buckle my nearly naked toddlers into a high chair and give them yogurts and puddings to use as finger paint. A washable drop cloth under the chair helped to contain much of the mess while giving them a safe place to explore the world of art. 

3. Swimming Pools

When some of my children were younger, we lived in a house that had an enclosed, heated porch. This was the perfect place to pull out a little kiddie pool and let the younger children splash and play while I read a book or helped the older ones with homework around the edge of the pool. I was right there to keep an eye on them every moment, and I still was able to get schoolwork finished as well.

Very often, I would take a child messy from the high chair painting session and place them in the pool to help clean up the worst of the mess.

4. Educational Videos, Audiobooks, and Music

Over the years, we have amassed a huge collection of educational music and songs. Sonlight helped get us started with their Sing the Word CDs and Geography Songs. Their Lyrical Life science songs quickly became favorites as well. We used these songs to branch off into finding other great sources of educational songs about a wide variety of topics. We often put these on and dance and clean together as a family. It helps the little ones to feel more included, and it provides learning of things they will need to know in the future. 

We don’t use audiobooks as much as some families do, but there are a lot of great books out on audio now. I use these with caution with my younger children, as they tend to tune them out more quickly than other forms of audio learning, but they still are great for quiet time. 

Educational videos are also great. You can have the little ones watch along with what the older children are learning, or fall back on great videos such as Veggie Tales or LeapFrog Letter Factory to teach values or letters with minimal effort.

I have found that if we break up our day using video or music which includes the toddlers and preschoolers, I fill up their attention buckets. Then they are more cooperative when we go back to Couch Subjects™ and Table Subjects™.

5. Include the Little Ones

Young children truly need greater levels of attention and often hate feeling left out. So where possible, try to include them in your homeschool day. If you have older children sitting at a table doing math, give the toddler paper and let them pretend to do math with you. They can scribble or draw, but if they want an actual lesson to learn from, you can try teaching them to make straight lines, Ts, or Os.

I have found that for me, the hardest time to teach was when we had many children under age seven in the house. Those days were chaotic; however, I found that by planning ahead, I was able to corral the chaos and keep our homeschool on track.

Homeschool Multiple Children Successfully

Teaching multiple children at different ages can sometimes feel difficult to manage. Sonlight makes it easier by dividing our curriculum into two types of subjects: Couch Subjects™ and Table Subjects™.

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