There are two idyllic pictures in the homeschool world:
- the peaceful mom reading aloud to her children as they snuggle on the couch beside her.
- the peaceful mom sitting at a table, moving between each child, gently explaining, discussing, and encouraging.
Neither of these visions panned out for us.
We were never a read-aloud-for-everything family, so we aimed for the “peaceful table”.
But instead of being at peace, we all felt scattered.
I was constantly jumping from one child’s list to another, and the kids were always waiting on me to finish with a sibling. They never felt they had my attention for more than a minute — and they were right.
I was never fully present with each of them because I was busy juggling all of them.
By the end of the day (actually, by 10 am), I was a very grumpy mama with no oxygen left in my brain.
What We Do Now
A few years ago, we tried something different and it. was. life-changing.
Ready for it?
I now work with each child, one-on-one, before moving to the next child.
Yep. It’s that simple.
During each child’s one-on-one time, we work on anything they can’t do independently; whether that’s because I need to teach it directly or because they’re just not ready for independence in it.
The other kids play (in my line of vision!) or do independent work while they wait.
How We Do It
I start with my preschooler, “filling her tank” with prayer, poetry, songs, read-alouds, and alphabet and number activities. We use one of Memoria’s programs for this so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. All I have to do is enjoy our “Mommy Time”…unless she’s being sassy that day. (She’s four. Enough said.)
My 8 year old then begins her independent work while I work with my 7 year old. This little one is easily distracted and overwhelmed and often needs “over-teaching” for things to stick; so I stay with her for everything.
Then, I work with my other struggling learner (10 year old). His reading and attention are well in hand now, but he still struggles with overwhelm and diligence. He’s reached a point where he can work independently for 5-10 minutes, depending on the area of study, but we still have a long way to go.
Lastly, I work with my 8 year old, reviewing her independent work and teaching anything that needs a direct lesson.
I was really concerned this way of teaching would make our days interminably long. Instead, on most days, we actually save time!
Because I’m fully present with one child, we both work more efficiently (even if the toddler is climbing all over us). No more dawdling for three hours over a single math page.
We also work more effectively.
I’m able to really work on each child’s problem-areas and catch new trouble spots sooner; which means we have less work that needs to be redone — and fewer arguments about redoing it!
What About Combined Subjects?
Over the years, I’ve learned that the decision to combine subjects has to be made on a child-by-child, subject-by-subject, and year-by-year basis.
My two high schoolers are in the same grade but I have to teach them separately. Otherwise, the one with challenges is tempted to wait for the stronger one to give all the answers.
And then there are the times when one of them is sick and that keeps the other one from moving forward. That can really cause problems at the high school level.
When my 8 and 10 year olds were younger, they worked at the same level for awhile. Then the younger one passed her brother in reading and I had to separate them before his confidence hit rock-bottom.
They were still in the same books, but from that point on, I taught them separately.
This coming year, they’ll be using the same books for science and geography. Now that my son is able to read almost as well as his sister, my plan is to read and discuss the books together; but any writing, illustrating, or journaling will still be done separately.
In their case, I’m not worried if sick days hold us up as these subjects will only be done once or twice a week. But I’ll still be watching for signs of unhealthy competition.
All that to say: combining has to be determined one year, and one set of children, at a time.
The Remaining Problem
The one thing I haven’t figured out is how to consistently meet with my middle schooler and high schoolers. They’re mostly independent now, but there are still one or two areas that need direct teaching and other areas that need discussion and review.
Our lack of meetings this past year was somewhat due to time; but most of it was a lack of diligence on my part.
I’m doing some soul-searching on this over the summer, especially since I won’t be able to rely on a co-op anymore for their teaching and review.
I’ll let you know what I figure out!
What do you think? How could one-on-one teaching bring peace to your homeschool?