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None of my kids can work independently


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After homeschooling for almost a year now, I've come to the conclusion that homeschooling my three boys (ages almost-10, 8 and almost-4) is going to be even harder than I thought.

 

I've read lots of strategies for managing multiple kids of different ages and aptitudes. Most of them revolve around working individually with one, while the others either a) work on stuff they can do independently or b) entertain each other.

 

These strategies usually don't work, because no one seems to be able to do anything independently for more than about 5 minutes at a time. It seems like the only one getting any work done is the one that I am sitting with, actively involved with what they are doing. And even then, we are interrupted constantly by the other two.

 

If I'm working with one boy and the other (school age) boy is trying to work independently, we are constantly interrupted by the second boy's questions and the preschooler's needs. If I'm working with one boy and the other (school age) boy is trying to entertain the preschooler, it is very rare that they will just play together and leave us alone. Either they can't agree on what to do, or the preschooler gets hurt/clingy/bored etc., or the boy trying to entertain him isn't really trying because he has his own agenda.

 

And don't even mention trying to get an older boy to try to teach the preschooler or read to him. They just won't or can't.

 

Whaaaaaaat can I do? Because of all this, our school days drag on and on and on...and we STILL don't seem to accomplish much!

 

ETA: I am aware of the concept of "busy boxes" for preschoolers. But I just can't see pouring hours and hours (and who knows how much money)  into setting these up, when they will occupy him independently for all of five minutes, during which time he will get all the stuff out and drag it all over the house, creating chaos and necessitating more time spent on cleanup and/or trying to get him to clean it up.

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It's hard. I think I'd start first with training the 4 year old to stay in his room or somewhere contained for I don't know, 15 minutes or somethng, playing quietly, doing something alone. Then increase the time. Set a timer that's visible so there are no "WHEN CAN I BE DONE" interruptions. Start with less time if necessary. Then get your less distractible/less needy 8 or 10 year old to go complete a few problems of something wiithout coming to ask questions while you work with the other. Start very small and work up. You will probably have to be a bit of a meanie to get them to understand that you mean it when you say "Don't interrupt," whatever mean/firm/Mom means business looks like in your house. We have a saying in our house, "Don't interrupt unless there is blood, fire, vomit, (and we had to add ticks because one time dd found a tick in her bed and well that is an emergency :)" Getting that message across and that you really mean it is probably the first step.

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I'm guessing you are new at this. It sounds like growing pains.

 

Three things need to happen.

 

#1 Train your children, gently, to not interrupt quite so much. 

 

#2 Work out some kind of system whereby you can divide your attention between them. Park all the kids at the table. Round robin them. Independent work at these ages might be 5or so minute intervals. If you need 10-20 minutes of uninterrupted instruction, you might need to send the other school aged boy of to have a break by himself. If all our most of your curriculum requires focused one on one instruction, you might want to consider a different program that allows combining, more independent work, or shorter lessons.

 

#3 Your littlest needs something constructive to do. Coloring books, crayons, small blocks. Expect each activity to last 10 minutes. Be ready to switch them out.

We don't use busy boxes. We have a school cabinet. School toys consist of quiet games like puzzles and lacing beads. They are only accessible during school time, only one at a time, only with supervision and only at the table. They are inexpensive( many came from the dollar store, others were gifts), and require no prep from me.

 

You will figure this out. They will get older and less demanding. You will learn to juggle better.

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#3 Your littlest needs something constructive to do. Coloring books, crayons, small blocks. Expect each activity to last 10 minutes. Be ready to switch them out.

We don't use busy boxes. We have a school cabinet. School toys consist of quiet games like puzzles and lacing beads. They are only accessible during school time, only one at a time, only with supervision and only at the table. They are inexpensive( many came from the dollar store, others were gifts), and require no prep from me.

 

But that's the thing...while I'm supervising him with something he gets out to do, the other two seem to self-destruct. Or, they complain that with him in the room doing "stuff," they can't concentrate because of his constant prattle. But if I put him in a different room, he is not supervised. If I go to a different room with him to supervise him, the other two self-destruct. And round and round it goes.

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We have a saying in our house, "Don't interrupt unless there is blood, fire, vomit, (and we had to add ticks because one time dd found a tick in her bed and well that is an emergency :)" Getting that message across and that you really mean it is probably the first step.

 

I have often been known to ask: 

 

1. Is your hair on fire?

2. Are you standing in a pool of blood?

3. No? Then you shouldn't be interrupting.

 

:lol:

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You may have to evaluate the curricula you choose in order to allow for independence.  I allow screen time in my home, so my littlest is occupied while I'm working with the others.  He uses Starfall.com and other sites for his own lessons.  I have had to split the kids up for reading and math now, but until necessary we did these lessons together.  Whenever possible, I do group lessons.  Sound blocking headphones might help your older block out the younger.  For independent reading, my two older students go to separate parts of the house. 

 

It is necessary to address true distractions, my little can't be playing a noisy game in the same room as the working students.  But, it is also necessary to train the children to get into a  routine.  "You are working on X for 15 minutes while I do something else, hold all your questions until the end of that time."  Children who hassle me because they don't have anything to do or want to get their work done quickly by interrupting me for answers when it isn't their turn get chores or busy work to do. ;)

 

 

Currently, my kids each have a checklist that they can work on alone- it includes copywork, reading, video lessons and some math.  I round robin to  check math, etc. and then we do our group lessons. 

 

Does your 4 y.o. need you in the room when he is playing?   Do you not feel that he is ready to play unsupervised in your home or is he just not ready to do so?  This may be an area to work to change.

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But that's the thing...while I'm supervising him with something he gets out to do, the other two seem to self-destruct. Or, they complain that with him in the room doing "stuff," they can't concentrate because of his constant prattle. But if I put him in a different room, he is not supervised. If I go to a different room with him to supervise him, the other two self-destruct. And round and round it goes.

Lay down the law, mama! 

Inform them that self destruction is not an option. Have everyone sit silently at the table with hands folded neatly until they are ready to try again. Tell them they need practice at being quiet and sitting nicely. Repeat, repeat, repeat. At the first sign sign of antics, call a time out. They will get the hang of it.

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I have often been known to ask: 

 

1. Is your hair on fire?

2. Are you standing in a pool of blood?

3. No? Then you shouldn't be interrupting.

 

:lol:

I have found the best way to limit interruptions is to not reward them. I will raise one finger, and offer no further acknowledgement until I'm finished.

A child who interrupts twice loses his turn.

Children interrupt because it's gets your attention. Don't give it to them, and it will stop. 

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Does your 4 y.o. need you in the room when he is playing?   Do you not feel that he is ready to play unsupervised in your home or is he just not ready to do so?  This may be an area to work to change.

 

It's hit or miss. I feel he is able to play by himself; i.e. I don't worry about him getting hurt or destroying anything. It seems to be more of a social thing for him. He usually just doesn't last long by himself; feels he needs a playmate.

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When I need to work with one child alone, I will often assign another child to entertain the little.  We have set up a jobs system in lieu of a straight allowance where the kids get paid for certain tasks.  Playing with the little isn't on it (yet) but making him snacks is- he eats a lot and often. :rolleyes:   I expect the kids to pitch in regardless of pay, but getting a little cash doesn't hurt.  They also get a non-monetary reward for successful completion of their checklist items.  Doing things for their intrinsic value is great, but I my kids seemed to need to learn that those who do, get and those who don't, don't get. 

 

These are mostly things I've come up with in the last year as I wasn't getting the cooperation I wanted in the past.  FWIW, ages 4-7 seem to be particularly demanding.  My 5 y.o. keeps the 4 of us who are home hopping all day as he seems to need constant input.

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I'm right there with you.  Mine are younger--6, 5, and 3--but I have the same issues.  I can't do more combining (I actually just separated the older two for math and spelling), and the little one wants "work", too, which requires 1-on-1.  I've decided that a) educational screen-time may have to be worked into the routine, since it will keep one kid engaged and actually be productive (Starfall, MathSeeds, various learning apps for the little guy and skill drills or logic games for the olders) and b) I may have to re-evaluate my materials and methods and see if there's a way I can possibly make things less Mommy-intensive without sacrificing quality.  I've got a few ideas on things I can change...  Now to see if it works. 

 

At least PP's post about ages 4-7 is encouraging...hopefully there will be an end!  GL!

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It takes some practice.

 

I started life as a K-8 country school teacher. From 8th down to K, the kids knew that when I was busy with one class/student, they were not to interrupt and were to be working productively on something, or reading a book. I didn't train them to do this, they'd always been in country school and were raised by parents who schooled the same way. They just knew.

 

After having my own kids and taking a few years off, I went back to work. This time in a village of a couple hundred who were in the process of moving their school to multi-age classrooms. I had the 2-3-4 room.

I thought it would be easier than K-8, simply because of numbers.

Not so.

I spent the entire year teaching those kids how to manage their time and themselves when I was busy with other students. (The push-back from parents was the most baffling part, btw)

 

 

I hadn't even considered the fact that my first school came pre-trained. I had nothing to do with it.

The second is more realistic to what a new homeschool family would face.

Kids in school are used to all being in the same place at more or less the same time. The teacher is available when they need her almost immediately...

Give them time. They'll get it sorted out. Surely they're a *bit* better than they were a few months ago?

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Little ones are hard. You're not alone. There are many threads about schooling with littles. Preschoolers are amazing, curious, wonderful little creatures with a beautiful sense of wonder. . . But that sense of wonder does tend to spill into our schooling. :)

 

This is what I would do:

 

Accept that he's going to make messes. He and the big kids can help clean it up later. My kids rotate rooms for afternoon cleanup, and sometimes that means they're cleaning up a lot of toddler toys, and sometimes they don't have much. If they complain that they didn't make the mess, I remind them that I didn't eat their food or wear their clothes but am maintaining them anyway, and that their little brothers get dragged out of the house to wait at their activities, so it's all part of being a family that we make sacrifices for each other.

 

Set up a place where he can play near you, as well as one in a different room from where you school. Let him know what he's welcome to play quietly in the room with you, or he is welcome to play in the other room, whatever he chooses, but if he chooses to be with you, he chooses to be quiet. Some days my three year old chooses to be near us, and other days he has his own games going in a different room.

 

Definitely set up a few things he can do. Finger paint or water colors next to you, audio books in a different room, whatever. Mine plays in the play kitchen and brings me pretend meals all the time. If you school near the kitchen, water and cups at the sink are good.

 

Spend a little time with him, just you. Read whatever preschool books he wants, and just fill his mommy cup. Some little ones really need that time first, before you work with other kids, and others can use it as a reward for playing nicely while Mom works with bigger ones first. At our house, it rotates, so sometimes I work with the little guys first, and sometimes they have to wait.

 

Make your big kids each a list of Things You Can Do While Waiting For Mom. And get them started on whatever routine you want. At our house, that's clear breakfast dishes, brush teeth, start work. We've been doing this a while, so the older ones know what they can work on. You may need to remind them: "Johnny, I will be reading to Billy now. This is your time to read your history assignment." Next day, same thing.

 

We rotate blocks of time here. First 45 minutes, I work with one child (or the two littles), second child the next 45 minutes, and so on. Then I spend a block doing group subjects or catching any other questions they have, with more time after lunch for going over the big kids' work. They know that they're to be working during blocks when I'm with someone else. They also know that they're not to interrupt me with non emergency questions, and largely, they're pretty good about it. If they get stuck, they go on to a different subject, or they are allowed to go play for a bit. This has really helped with everyone needing me at once or not being able to do anything.

 

Also, rewards. You want screen time later? Don't fritter away your school time and dawdle when there is work you are able to do.

 

But routine, routine, routine. It takes a while to hammer it in.

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Yes, the training takes much longer than the teaching some days. :glare:

Hahahaha, yes it does!

 

But seriously, the blocks revolutionized my schooling. Everyone knows when it will be their turn with Mom, and they also know that if they screw around during their block with me, chances are high that they won't be able to finish their work that day. It makes it much easier for ME too because I only have to focus on one child at a time.

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If this is your first year, it's really okay. Not only are you learning the ropes, so are your kids.

 

Sit down the older kids and tell them, Mrs. X from the old school did not constantly have you interrupting. She expected you to work quietly on your page and if you hit a rough spot, she didn't DROP EVERYTHING to assist you. You did what you could and quietly waited. Right? That's what I want you to do when I am working with your brothers.

 

Try sitting all in the same room and working 10 minutes at a time with each kid including the littlest one. Your bigger boys should have a list of "independent work" that they can tackle if they finish up early. This could include reading a book quietly, handwriting, etc. If they have a question, they need to wait until their 10 minute turn comes around.

 

Of course, you may need to juggle this around depending on the lessons. For instance, teaching math probably will will take longer than 10 minutes. So you will have to adapt this schedule to make it work for YOUR family, YOUR curriculum, and YOUR kids.

 

I also use online resources to help keep my kids' attention focused on school work. For instance, I use SpellingCity.com and Fun4thebrain.com as educational resources. Each child is supposed to work on these two things for 20 minutes each every morning. Altogether, that means I have 40 minutes where one kid is occupied so I can turn my attention to what the other siblings are doing without interruptions.

 

By the way, I found if I gave my preschoolers a turn in the rotation, they were less demanding and less interrupting. They knew their turn was coming so they could wait a bit.

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It's hit or miss. I feel he is able to play by himself; i.e. I don't worry about him getting hurt or destroying anything. It seems to be more of a social thing for him. He usually just doesn't last long by himself; feels he needs a playmate.

That sounds like more of a training thing, teaching him that he will be okay by himself for a little while. Perhaps set a timer for just before you know he's going to come out, encourage him for that success, then extend the time gradually. Learning to be alone is a great skill.

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I've read lots of strategies for managing multiple kids of different ages and aptitudes. Most of them revolve around working individually with one, while the others either a) work on stuff they can do independently or b) entertain each other.

 

These strategies usually don't work, because no one seems to be able to do anything independently for more than about 5 minutes at a time. It seems like the only one getting any work done is the one that I am sitting with, actively involved with what they are doing. And even then, we are interrupted constantly by the other two.

 

------

 

It seems to be more of a social thing for him. He usually just doesn't last long by himself; feels he needs a playmate.

How much do you combine your older two in anything? Is there anything you do with all three together? If you read aloud or do projects with your older two, will your youngest listen/participate? What engages him?

 

My three are closer in age (about 1.5 years between each), but I had the same problem with juggling. I came to the conclusion that we needed to work more as a group and rely less on independent work. So we moved to doing content subjects as a group in the morning (and folded in some skill work) and saved individual skill work for the afternoon, by which time everyone's social cups had been filled to the brim and they weren't vying for attention, happy enough to part ways (and leave me the heck alone, LOL). I needed physical energy for them all in the morning but only mental energy in the afternoon, so this worked great for me, as I want to chill after lunch.

 

My schedule became:

 

Morning Meeting (fun, seasonal, organizational stuff, miscellaneous)

 

History (read-alouds, sometimes a bit of quiet individual reading, mapwork, timeline work, projects done at child's individual skill level)

 

Science (reading, experiments, notebooks...ditto...scribble stick drawings a-OK for youngest)

 

FLoop (a subject I invented called Fun Loop, during which we rotated through stuff we never seemed to get to, mostly games; can be outdoors, and include physical activity/recess)

 

Writing Workshop (writing instruction with grammar built in to reinforce their individual programs; we write across the curriculum so this folds in with content work seamlessly) Your youngest can play along quietly or play independently (and I wouldn't do busy boxes; I would buy him a killer new toy like Snap Circuits or LittleBits or a big bin of k'Nex) or doodle or watch Magic School Bus or some other educational show.

 

Art (I start them on a project...could also be science or history related...and they work while I prepare lunch. Play music and you've got a twofer with music appreciation, LOL.)

 

Lunch and Lit (They eat; I read. I eat prior, while they finish up their art.)

 

Then after lunch, at your kids' ages, I released all but one to recess. Then I took them one by one, starting with the oldest, each for an hour, for skill work. Bam, bam, bam! We hit it hard and stayed focused. You can assign oldest something for the next half hour to hour, even if it is just reading for that time or, as a reward in the beginning you can release him to recess. At first I let both of my younger kids off for play right after lunch but as they got older, I would assign some work before their one-on-one time that was based on what we hit yesterday.

 

Tea Time (After all one-on-one was over, we came back together for tea time, a snack and poetry, which has now evolved to tea and poetry/memory/logic/speech/debate, depending on the day of the week. LOL) This is the end of our school day. So we start and finish together.

 

This was a great schedule for teaching them to work independently, assigning work just after or, as they got older, just before their one-on-one session (and these got longer too...our schedule has been tweaked a lot this year especially). You can get a lot done in one uninterrupted hour. And the secret to being uninterrupted after lunch is that they had their social/attention buckets filled to the brim all morning. But again, my age spread wasn't as big. I do recommend a Killer New Toy. Or a giant sandbox in the back yard. Can you do that? We had a 10x10 sandbox that was the bomb. My boys could play for hours every day in that thing, safe and happy.

 

This is evolving now as they are getting older, but we still follow this basic schedule. I see so many here focused on independent work, even at young ages, and I get that it is hard to juggle. But at the same time, I like the idea of our family as a team, a small community of learners with shared interests that we can all discuss together. My oldest will be in seventh grade next year, and we have definitely been increasing his independence the past couple of years. They definitely need to be able to work more independently as they approach high school. But while training toward independence, we are still balancing family/group learning to maximize what I think is one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling.

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AVA always has so many good points! Combining can be so helpful!

 

I should mention that when my kids were younger, and fewer, did combine more. But my older two are three years apart, and my second and third four years apart. My older two have distinctly different skill strengths and weaknesses, including that my second child isn't an auditory learner at all. I loved doing history with all of them together, but my second child was completely not getting any of it when I read aloud. We switched to him reading independently, and he flourished. (Also, my oldest needed more oomph to history than my younger ones did, so reading SOTW aloud wasn't giving her enough. But I will be starting it with my third child next year, and my fourth and probably my fifth, will listen along, and I will combine the little three as long as I can.)

 

But we have a post-lunch time together where we read aloud from a family novel, go over memory work and vocabulary, etc., and we combine for science labs, and we do art, picture study, music study, and geography as a family, everyone getting out of it what they can, and I'm totally happy with that.

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I didn't mean to imply that I don't want to work! I'm just trying to figure out how to work smarter. :)

Strawberry is right on. Nobody's kids come to the table, new to homeschooling, especially if they've been in a group school environment, with the ability to work independently. A CRUCIAL piece of beginning to homeschool is training the children how to work, how to ask questions, and getting them used to you as their new teacher - your limits, skills, management style, etc. And you, as a teacher, need to get familiar with them.

 

It is crucial to remember that where they begin isn't where they'll stay. Really. It sometimes feels like it, but you will get better and better at organizing them and their time. Preschooler and toddlers are hard. My system isn't ideal, and it involves activities for them, toy boxes, and judicious use of movies when those run out. That's good enough for me right now, even if it is a little Blues Clues heavy!

 

My oldest students are still little-ish, and even they can manage some independent work. For me, that means I schedule tasks intelligently - only ONE teacher heavy subject at a time. It makes our school day longer because I slipped in some more recreational activities so it could work, like workbooks, copywork, tangrams, puzzles, etc. When one student is doing math the others are doing coloring and anatomy coloring books. When one is on English the other is doing a math warmup worksheet or copywork. I can teach a subject and answer questions for another, but I can't fully teach two teacher intensive subjects at once. So I have a folder system (based on Sue Patrick's Workbox system) that lets me stagger their assignments in such a way that the pieces fit together and the school day gets done with minimal downtime or time wasted. That level of preparation and organization is crucial for me right now, because my students are all of the ages here mommy has to facilitate everything and supervise all learning closely. Even then, though, I am able ton tru true ten to fifteen minute blocks of independent work, where I give instructions and then just work at keeping them focused and on task.

 

That, right there, is the beginning of independent learning. It is baby steps. It's five problems one your own, with NO questions asked until you've tried them all. It's twenty minutes of silent reading, a page of copywork, or completing your problem set after the lesson so mom can start someone else on their next task. It's using LOTS of play doh and puzzles and not allowing your toddlers to jump activities too frequently (they need training on how to act during schooltime, too!). It gets better, you get better and more competent, and your kids grow and develop their study habits and skills, too.

 

Nobody starts this journey with all the answers. Those of us who do end up changing half of them before the second week concludes. I promise ;)

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I used bribery to help DS learn to play alone in his room for a little while (as soon as he turned 4). I made sure there were interesting books and toys around (not anything like a busy bag), set a timer that changed color when it was time to come out, and offered a reward like a matchbox car after three successful occasions. He could do fifteen minutes right away, and soon thirty, and then I could reduce the rewards to once a week... eventually (over maybe a year) we built up to 90 minutes, no reward, and he learned to enjoy it.

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One thing ds3 enjoys while I work with dd7 is music.  I put on Veggietales or other little kid music CDs in the living room; we work at the dining room table.  That buys about 30 minutes.

 

From time to time, dd has complained that the music distracts her, but she is entirely capable of ignoring it and if she were in PS would have to work through a LOT more distractions, so I tell her to suck it up and focus.  (I'm so helpful.   :coolgleamA:   I should clarify that she has no disability in this area - she can do it.  I wouldn't say that to her if she had a problem that needed accommodation.) 

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I've only skimmed some of the replies, so if any of this is redundant I apologize. :) 

 

My kids are 13, 11, 9, 6, 4 and 8 months. Getting them to work independently takes time and practice. It's your first year! Give yourself some grace and know that it'll get better each year - each month really! If I were to give you some advice, it would be to shift your priorities entirely. For the next 6-8 weeks (or however long you're schooling before summer) make it your goal JUST to train them. Give them the gift of good habits! It doesn't really matter what gets done in between training them properly. Believe me, when balancing multiple kids, order and good habits are really, really important. (Caveat - unless you're the type who enjoys the off the cuff, creative and chaotic, which it sounds like you aren't). Here's how it would look if it were me: 

 

Note - we use marble jars - I have two canning jars and a bunch of marbles. The marbles start in one jar and are moved to jar 2 as a reward. Marbles get moved back to jar 1if kids are not behaving/listening. When the jar is full, we get a treat. For us (we have a lot of marbles) it's something like going out to a movie. I'm using that in my example but obviously you could do whatever works for your family. 

 

8:00 am - 10 and 8 year olds, you're going to read these books for 15 minutes while I read to 4 year old. I'm going to set the timer. If you can read for 15 minutes without interrupting, you may each put a marble in the jar. Each time you interrupt, you'll take a marble out of the jar. I'll set the timer. Go! 

 

8:15 - Good job! Now here is a work sheet for each of you. I'm going to set another timer, this time for 10 minutes. I'll keep playing with 4 year old. The same rules apply about the marbles. Go! 

 

8:25 - Well done. Now we're going to go outside together! 

 

8:45 - Ok, I need to do math with 10 year old. 8 and 4 year olds, you're going to watch this 30 minute documentary while I do. If you can watch it together peacefully and not interrupt, you each get to put one marble in the jar. 

 

9:15 - Good job! You managed to watch that show without interrupting! Let's have a snack. 

 

9:45 - Now I'm going to do math with 8 year old. 10 year old is going to watch the documentary and 4 year old is going to play with (play doh, legos, coloring, shaving cream, books, whatever). Now 4 year old, I know it's hard not to interrupt, but if you can make it through the whole 20 minutes, we'll do something fun together. I know you can do it! You sit here, and we'll be in the same room, over here. No interrupting or you'll have to take a marble out of the jar. 

 

10:05 - Yay! We did it! While 10 year old finishes the documentary, we're going to play Go Fish (or whatever). 

 

By 10:15 you'll have done math, history or science (the documentary) and your kids will have read silently. That's a great start! I know the math sessions are short, but short lessons are often best for boys their ages. It's better to get short lessons in and have a good, peaceful day than try to do longer lessons and burn everyone out. At this point I'd do something together - a read aloud, a history or science lesson they can all participate in, art, music or p.e., Foreign language (check youtube!), or even puzzles or learning games.

 

At 11:30 have some lunch and free time - outside if you can. Boys need to MOVE. 

 

12:30 - have the 4 year old nap, rest with books or watch a movie. That'll give you an hour for language arts with the older boys. You didn't mention what curriculum you use, but you could either have them both at the table with you and bounce back and forth, or you could assign some reading or writing to one while you work with the other, then switch. 

 

1:30 - I would do some memory work. We memorize poetry, times tables and other math facts, dates, the Preamble to the Constitution, the periodic table, whatever. This is something they can all do together. 

 

2:00 - Have a snack. Read aloud to them while they eat - this can be literature or a science, history, poetry or biography. 

 

2:30 - Do some chores together and call it a day! 

 

I know the academics seem light, but getting these habits down is really important. 

 

Alternately, look for things you can do together - library classes, trips to museums, videos to watch, audiobooks while you all color or do a puzzle. Get cds of math facts and play them in the car. Work up to longer periods of independent work. 

 

You can do it!

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I have not read any other comments . . .yet. However, I will tell you what I tell every homeschooling parent because it is so important:

Your first year of homeschooling is a lot like the first year of marriage. You are now spending inordinate amounts of time with a person/people you 

thought you knew but are now learning things about them you obviously did not know previously. This first year of schooling is more about your

relationship with said person/people and less about academics. You will not get done even half of the academics you planned and that's OKAY!

 

Homeschooling is a lifestyle, it is not 'school at home.' EVERYthing can be and is a learning experience/opportunity. My kids are 10 and 16 (the 10yo

is a boy), and only my daughter has now arrived at the point where she can and is willing to do SOME work independently/unsupervised. Let go of all

of your previous expectations and take some time to write down some goals. Talk to your kiddos about what they would like to learn! Obviously they must

learn to read, write, and do math. Beyond that, let them have some say in the subject matter. I think you'll find they'll tune it better and might eventually take

over some of the subject matter! 

 

And most of all, DON'T COMPARE your homeschooling to others' and DON'T WORRY! You've got this!

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This is our second year and I hear you on juggling! I have a 10yo, 9yo and 3yo twins. One of the things I've had to realize is I can only do so much one on one time so I have to choose our curriculum wisely. I do phonetic zoo and math mammoth because they are open and go streamlined curriculum. Some stuff that sounds great won't work in our household since I spend so much of my time divided. I have my girls doing stuff in the morning that is independent. Reading, switched on schoolhouse bible, xtra math, cursive practice and they spend 10 min on ixl. All of that takes about an hour so I devote that time to my twins. Then I send my twins off with their nabi's for another 30 min while I do writing with my girls. We take a short break and then I do math one one with one daughter while the other is with my twins. My rule is they can't disturb me for any reasons other than an emergency during that 30 min. We have lunch then I put my twins down for a nap and we finish off grammar, spelling and history/science. Our days aren't ever perfect but I made a schedule specifically with my twins in mind. Today they decided to do their hair and used up half of the hair gel while we were doing writing. After I chased them out of the bathroom and went to finish they decided to use the dump truck to dump dirt all over my living room. For my daughters 30 min with them I had her mopping while they were using towels to dry. I just have to accept it as is for now and do the best I can. They are learning and their test scores prove it. My house is a mess but the kids are fed, clothed, relatively clean and school gets done. At some point things will get easier. 

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I really shouldn't be saying anything since I am a newbie too and you have veterans giving you such great advise, but if it were me, I would start training 10 yr old first, then 8 yr old, etc

 

Bc I would think a 10 yr old should be able to understand a concept of working by himself and not interrupting better than a 4 yr old.

 

I made a deal with my 3.5 yr old that he can do "school' first with me, but then he can't come into the school room. 

 

So I start youngest to oldest - spend about 30-45 with the two of them in total and then off they go to play.

 

They still interrupt, of course, but nowhere near as much as they did in the beginning of the year.

 

BTW, while I am doing "school" with DS2 and DS3, DS1 sits at the table and writes a sentence or works on Word problem in SM.  He hasn't mastered the art of concentration yet, but we are working on it.  So I am kind of killing two birds with one stone there

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You've gotten some great advice. I wholeheartedly agree that it takes intentional training to develop independence. I don't recall seeing the following tips in what's already been mentioned:

 

-Use mealtime to do school. When my kids were younger, we did read alouds at lunch and Bible at breakfast. When their mouths and hands are busy, their ears will be open. :)

 

-Make sure your older two have a list of assignments or some sort of work boxes. Having a list teaches them that there is an END to school work, which means free/play time for them. If they learn to stay focused and finish the list, they can play. But if they get distracted or self destruct, school will take that much longer.

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How much do you combine your older two in anything? Is there anything you do with all three together? If you read aloud or do projects with your older two, will your youngest listen/participate? What engages him?

 

My three are closer in age (about 1.5 years between each), but I had the same problem with juggling. I came to the conclusion that we needed to work more as a group and rely less on independent work. So we moved to doing content subjects as a group in the morning (and folded in some skill work) and saved individual skill work for the afternoon, by which time everyone's social cups had been filled to the brim and they weren't vying for attention, happy enough to part ways (and leave me the heck alone, LOL). I needed physical energy for them all in the morning but only mental energy in the afternoon, so this worked great for me, as I want to chill after lunch.

 

My schedule became:

 

Morning Meeting (fun, seasonal, organizational stuff, miscellaneous)

 

History (read-alouds, sometimes a bit of quiet individual reading, mapwork, timeline work, projects done at child's individual skill level)

 

Science (reading, experiments, notebooks...ditto...scribble stick drawings a-OK for youngest)

 

FLoop (a subject I invented called Fun Loop, during which we rotated through stuff we never seemed to get to, mostly games; can be outdoors, and include physical activity/recess)

 

Writing Workshop (writing instruction with grammar built in to reinforce their individual programs; we write across the curriculum so this folds in with content work seamlessly) Your youngest can play along quietly or play independently (and I wouldn't do busy boxes; I would buy him a killer new toy like Snap Circuits or LittleBits or a big bin of k'Nex) or doodle or watch Magic School Bus or some other educational show.

 

Art (I start them on a project...could also be science or history related...and they work while I prepare lunch. Play music and you've got a twofer with music appreciation, LOL.)

 

Lunch and Lit (They eat; I read. I eat prior, while they finish up their art.)

 

Then after lunch, at your kids' ages, I released all but one to recess. Then I took them one by one, starting with the oldest, each for an hour, for skill work. Bam, bam, bam! We hit it hard and stayed focused. You can assign oldest something for the next half hour to hour, even if it is just reading for that time or, as a reward in the beginning you can release him to recess. At first I let both of my younger kids off for play right after lunch but as they got older, I would assign some work before their one-on-one time that was based on what we hit yesterday.

 

Tea Time (After all one-on-one was over, we came back together for tea time, a snack and poetry, which has now evolved to tea and poetry/memory/logic/speech/debate, depending on the day of the week. LOL) This is the end of our school day. So we start and finish together.

 

This was a great schedule for teaching them to work independently, assigning work just after or, as they got older, just before their one-on-one session (and these got longer too...our schedule has been tweaked a lot this year especially). You can get a lot done in one uninterrupted hour. And the secret to being uninterrupted after lunch is that they had their social/attention buckets filled to the brim all morning. But again, my age spread wasn't as big. I do recommend a Killer New Toy. Or a giant sandbox in the back yard. Can you do that? We had a 10x10 sandbox that was the bomb. My boys could play for hours every day in that thing, safe and happy.

 

This is evolving now as they are getting older, but we still follow this basic schedule. I see so many here focused on independent work, even at young ages, and I get that it is hard to juggle. But at the same time, I like the idea of our family as a team, a small community of learners with shared interests that we can all discuss together. My oldest will be in seventh grade next year, and we have definitely been increasing his independence the past couple of years. They definitely need to be able to work more independently as they approach high school. But while training toward independence, we are still balancing family/group learning to maximize what I think is one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling.

First may I say...WOW you get a lot done before lunch! It sounds amazing! And I really love your idea of releasing everyone to recess but bringing them back in one at a time. In this way, it sounds like yours don't really do that much independently either, right? I think the kids would feel like they were getting away with something if we approached it that way...and that would be a good thing! :)

 

We do have several subjects all together. Our mornings usually start with Bible and/or history and/or memory work all together including the little guy (who interrupts quite a bit but we try to just roll with it), then sometimes some other reading aloud if I still have everybody's attention. Lately this has been picture books focusing more on either science, nature or art...or more history if the mood strikes us. :) I try to get my guys to do some of this reading.

 

After that I had been trying to work individually with each of them for some time before lunch, while the other would theoretically entertain the 3yo. Then, afternoon would be more of the same, and/or "independent" work while 3yo napped. However, he's dropped his nap in the past couple of weeks so now he is in the mix too. Good times. Fortunately, Classical Conversations is over for the year so we now have a lighter load. Prior to that, it was pretty crazy with weekly presentations, and with this year being our first year homeschooling, first year of CC, and first year with my oldest in Essentials which was rather demanding.

 

I'll stop here with this post; maybe reply more to other posts down the line. Maybe not tonight though.

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Strawberry is right on. Nobody's kids come to the table, new to homeschooling, especially if they've been in a group school environment, with the ability to work independently. A CRUCIAL piece of beginning to homeschool is training the children how to work, how to ask questions, and getting them used to you as their new teacher - your limits, skills, management style, etc. And you, as a teacher, need to get familiar with them.

 

It is crucial to remember that where they begin isn't where they'll stay. Really. It sometimes feels like it, but you will get better and better at organizing them and their time. Preschooler and toddlers are hard. My system isn't ideal, and it involves activities for them, toy boxes, and judicious use of movies when those run out. That's good enough for me right now, even if it is a little Blues Clues heavy!

 

My oldest students are still little-ish, and even they can manage some independent work. For me, that means I schedule tasks intelligently - only ONE teacher heavy subject at a time. It makes our school day longer because I slipped in some more recreational activities so it could work, like workbooks, copywork, tangrams, puzzles, etc. When one student is doing math the others are doing coloring and anatomy coloring books. When one is on English the other is doing a math warmup worksheet or copywork. I can teach a subject and answer questions for another, but I can't fully teach two teacher intensive subjects at once. So I have a folder system (based on Sue Patrick's Workbox system) that lets me stagger their assignments in such a way that the pieces fit together and the school day gets done with minimal downtime or time wasted. That level of preparation and organization is crucial for me right now, because my students are all of the ages here mommy has to facilitate everything and supervise all learning closely. Even then, though, I am able ton tru true ten to fifteen minute blocks of independent work, where I give instructions and then just work at keeping them focused and on task.

 

That, right there, is the beginning of independent learning. It is baby steps. It's five problems one your own, with NO questions asked until you've tried them all. It's twenty minutes of silent reading, a page of copywork, or completing your problem set after the lesson so mom can start someone else on their next task. It's using LOTS of play doh and puzzles and not allowing your toddlers to jump activities too frequently (they need training on how to act during schooltime, too!). It gets better, you get better and more competent, and your kids grow and develop their study habits and skills, too.

 

Nobody starts this journey with all the answers. Those of us who do end up changing half of them before the second week concludes. I promise ;)

This all sounds like a great day for the students. However, it leaves me wondering HOW you find the time to get everything prepped, organized and set up for each day. I see that you have a folder system, but I'm guessing those folders don't populate themselves. Me, after they finish school I slide right in to household/paperwork/church business mode (I coordinate the nursery, for example), which goes right into dinner prep which goes right into dinner time which goes right into the nightly bath/meds/teeth/storytime/bedtime circus which goes right into mama exhaustion. I can't imagine coming back down for an hour of prep for the next day after all that, nor can I imagine getting up any earlier than I already do to do it in the morning. What's your secret? Less sleep?

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One other thing I should say is...when I refer to the older two "self destructing," it's not always complete anarchy. A lot of times, it would be more accurate to say that they just get off task. They stop doing their work. So if I'm working with one and the other is supposed to be working independently, he often just drifts off into doodle land. A lot of great pictures get drawn this way, but not much academic work. 

 

And...honestly, it's kind of hard for me to figure out what "work" to give them that they CAN do independently, that isn't just busywork. I chose Math Mammoth because of it's open-and-go nature and because I'd heard that it can be done relatively independently...but found that my guys can't do it without me at their side and sometimes can't do it even then. I've posted about this elsewhere. Copywork/handwriting...you would think that could be done independently, but in their case we are trying to correct some bad letter formation habits that they acquired in PS, and if I don't watch them write I cannot be sure that they are doing the letters correctly.

 

So that leaves...what? I mean, there's always independent reading. My oldest guy is pretty good with that, but my 8yo would like to stick to a strict diet of Garfield, Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. If I try to give him real books, he doesn't want to read them.

 

Worksheets?

 

Documentaries? (yes...need to look more into that. I bought the subscription to Discovery Streaming or whatever it is, and have used all of about 20 minutes of streaming from it. : / )

 

Typing? (I've had them do DanceMat typing. I think my 8yo cheats.)

 

Or, just let them play?

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Play is good for kids. Especially creative play. Give them a box of recyclables and some duct tape. :) 

 

There are some really good apps out there. I don't use many but there have been threads here about them. That's independent. I would highly recommend encouraging the reading. There are good threads here about books to select, too. If you can get the 8 year old to read something easy and good, he'll work up to more difficult books and still enjoy them. I would assign pages rather than time with the reading. Start with two pages! Work from there. Homer Price and Frindle come to mind. But really, reading is key. 

 

Play to their strengths. Do they like building things? Get a kit to build a rocket or model car. Do they like art? Buy some high quality colored pencils and drawing paper. Robotics? There are kits for that, too. Remember that many things are educational. 

 

 

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One other thing I should say is...when I refer to the older two "self destructing," it's not always complete anarchy. A lot of times, it would be more accurate to say that they just get off task. They stop doing their work. So if I'm working with one and the other is supposed to be working independently, he often just drifts off into doodle land. A lot of great pictures get drawn this way, but not much academic work. 

 

And...honestly, it's kind of hard for me to figure out what "work" to give them that they CAN do independently, that isn't just busywork. I chose Math Mammoth because of it's open-and-go nature and because I'd heard that it can be done relatively independently...but found that my guys can't do it without me at their side and sometimes can't do it even then. I've posted about this elsewhere. Copywork/handwriting...you would think that could be done independently, but in their case we are trying to correct some bad letter formation habits that they acquired in PS, and if I don't watch them write I cannot be sure that they are doing the letters correctly.

 

So that leaves...what? I mean, there's always independent reading. My oldest guy is pretty good with that, but my 8yo would like to stick to a strict diet of Garfield, Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. If I try to give him real books, he doesn't want to read them.

 

Worksheets?

 

Documentaries? (yes...need to look more into that. I bought the subscription to Discovery Streaming or whatever it is, and have used all of about 20 minutes of streaming from it. : / )

 

Typing? (I've had them do DanceMat typing. I think my 8yo cheats.)

 

Or, just let them play?

Nothing wrong with playing!

 

These are the things on my 10yo's list of things he should at least attempt if he's not the first block:

-Any math corrections from the previous day's math (rare).

-Read his Writing With Ease assignment so that he's ready to discuss it with me.

-Do a DuoLingo Italian lesson.

-Do his history assignment (We use History Odyssey, so it's largely independent; he does the reading, note-taking, and mapwork, and we discuss it together.)

-Do science reading.

-Typing lesson with TypingWeb.com.

-Read a chapter or two from his current literature book.

 

I would start with having your 8yo pick a book to read.  Maybe pick a few from a list of Good Books and make him choose one.  Start with a few pages, and when he finishes them, if you're busy, he can go and play.  Work up to a few more pages.

 

As for planning and getting things together, I do a TON of planning in the spring and summer before the year starts.  That way, on any given day, every subject is at "open the book and do the next thing."  This saves me a lot of time each night and morning. :)

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First may I say...WOW you get a lot done before lunch! It sounds amazing! And I really love your idea of releasing everyone to recess but bringing them back in one at a time. In this way, it sounds like yours don't really do that much independently either, right? I think the kids would feel like they were getting away with something if we approached it that way...and that would be a good thing! :)

You know, when I switched the schedule to this arrangement, the kids probably did feel like they were getting away with something. LOL Because before, we were kind of in your shoes, and I was trying to find a balance, juggling one-on-one work and trying to get them to work on something for "just a few more minutes!" all day. This schedule saved my sanity for sure.

 

As far as getting a lot done, we didn't (and still do not) have any commitments outside of the house during school hours. No CC, no co-op, no homeschool PE, nada. Music and swim team are after school activities. Staying home constantly (except for field trips and occasional nature walks during science time) helps us get things done for sure.

 

I started this schedule nearly 4 years ago, at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, when my kids were in 3rd/1st/K. Now they are finishing up 6th/4th/3rd. My post above was kind of a general description of how it was, not as much how it is. They did less independent work then, yes. But now they do significantly more because the work and schedule have evolved (and been tweaked) to account for grade level.

 

At your two older kids' ages, my kids independently did/do math assignments after each one-on-one lesson, grammar work (ditto), Spanish on the computer, logic workbook exercises, subject matter reading, instrument practice...I feel like I am forgetting something (maybe writing, but we do that as a workshop which is a mix of group/teacher/independent). They do all of that now too, but more of it and more in general, and they do much more writing on their own, but the process always begins and ends with interaction.

 

As noted above for each subject, my kids did/do some individual work during group content work on top of what they do later in the day. It's just that I was/am still present for it. I think in the early years and even into the middle grade years, you are going to get a better result when you are sort of metaphorically "walking the classroom aisles" like a teacher. I am convinced my kids don't turn in sloppy junk now because I got into the habit of immediate (gentle) correction. Independence too early can lead to sloppiness, in my opinion. And that is aside from my usual prejudices against it (lack of true knowledge on the part of the teacher about how junior is really understanding/synthesizing the material and lack of connection and interaction between teacher and student).

 

Any chance at evolving your youngest son's nap time into quiet time? I would give that my all.

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...HOW you find the time to get everything prepped, organized and set up for each day.

 

What's your secret?

I do not have a file system but I do create checklists for the kids and prep for each day, physically (tidying, laying out supplies, etc.) and mentally (reading, taking notes, writing questions, etc.). I schedule time for this just like I would any other requirement in my day (meals, chores, school hours). I will say that I became most successful and confident as a homeschooler when I started looking at homeschooling the same way I would any other full-time job. In other words, it is not optional to show up unprepared or prioritize anything else but that job during designated hours.

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One other thing I should say is...when I refer to the older two "self destructing," it's not always complete anarchy. A lot of times, it would be more accurate to say that they just get off task. They stop doing their work. So if I'm working with one and the other is supposed to be working independently, he often just drifts off into doodle land. A lot of great pictures get drawn this way, but not much academic work.

 

And...honestly, it's kind of hard for me to figure out what "work" to give them that they CAN do independently, that isn't just busywork. I chose Math Mammoth because of it's open-and-go nature and because I'd heard that it can be done relatively independently...but found that my guys can't do it without me at their side and sometimes can't do it even then. I've posted about this elsewhere. Copywork/handwriting...you would think that could be done independently, but in their case we are trying to correct some bad letter formation habits that they acquired in PS, and if I don't watch them write I cannot be sure that they are doing the letters correctly.

 

So that leaves...what? I mean, there's always independent reading. My oldest guy is pretty good with that, but my 8yo would like to stick to a strict diet of Garfield, Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. If I try to give him real books, he doesn't want to read them.

 

Worksheets?

 

Documentaries? (yes...need to look more into that. I bought the subscription to Discovery qoStreaming or whatever it is, and have used all of about 20 minutes of streaming from it. : / )

 

Typing? (I've had them do DanceMat typing. I think my 8yo cheats.)

 

Or, just let them play?

I totally agree that copywork and handwriting need supervision until letters are well formed. And copywork will continue to need an intro at least, to lay out the lesson of punctuation, grammar, figurative language, etc. that is supposed to be the take-away.

 

I agree that Math Mammoth requires teaching. How that works here (but with a different program) is that I teach the lesson (or do a review), then we do a bit of buddy math (I do one, now you do one), then the child gets a problem set/workbook page for independent work. But because I led the lesson/review and did the buddy work, I am involved enough that I generally have a feel for what they are ready for independently.

 

We watch documentaries as a group, during school and family time. Science, history, geography... Look at the History Channel, PBS, etc. for interesting shows. You can frequently stream from their sites with fewer ads.

 

And yes to play! They only have one shot at childhood and one of my main reasons for homeschooling in the early years is to safeguard that time. But again, I am all about killer toys. LOL

 

And Calvin and Hobbes is a winner. Mighty fine vocabulary and imagination there!

 

Losing focus (self-destructing) is very normal at these ages, but a strong work ethic can be encouraged incrementally. I think lots of times it stems from craving/needing togetherness and attention, and front-loading that helped immensely here.

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We use MM and while I know it is taught to the student I don't consider math an independent subject. I go over the boxes with them and expand if needed. I watch them do a few problems then I stay in the room while they finish so that I'm avaliable whem they get stuck. I have the other kid scheduled with my twins during this time because I want to make sure I can devote all my attention to the child who is working. Math, grammar and writing I generally sit with them. Science and history I read to them and we also use brain pop and discovery education.

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Yeah I didn't mean I thought MM should be completely independent, but what attracted me was that it seemed to be less teacher-intensive than some of the other curricula. I was hoping I could get away with reading through the concepts with them and then letting them do the exercises more or less on their own, asking me for help when needed...but I've found that if I don't hover, they just don't do it. I posted about this in another thread, and got some good advice.

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I'd say yes to busywork.  I use it.  Schools use it.  It serves a purpose.  I use Math Mania and puzzle mania books (by highlights) to help my kids do something productive while they are waiting for me.  Also, they listen to the story of the world (headphones) and color the corresponding coloring page (or write a short summary). My kids practice their spelling words on spelling city, and also practice math facts on xtramath.com while they are waiting for their turn with mom.

 

We've checked out books on CD weekly and had kids read those when waiting. We have a large collection of Jim Weiss stories and we used those for a season. I have assigned history pockets projects to assemble in the past. We have a large engino set and I've had kids build one model from the set for busy work. I've set out puzzles for them to work on (required if they are getting noisy)

 

The younger ones I have set up in front of any educational DVD or streaming show for some part of their day.

 

Mostly I'm fine if they go play with each other (somewhere where I am not because they are noisy!) but if they are fighting or destroying, I start directing their time again.

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It took us about 2.5 or 3 yeras before I could really do the three ring circus (independent, work with mom, play with each other). Really, it was a lot of time training my kids. So start small. First, combine kids as much as possible (history, science, read alouds, etc). Next, when you have someone working "independently" have them do that for only 5-10 minutes, while you supervise their independence and the other two are playing. Start with your oldest. Don't try to teach a second child while someone is working independently yet. So really it's a two rotation -play with the preschooler OR work with mom/independent. Try doing things like "I am going to go use the bathroom, will you get three problems done while I am gone?" Any way of babystepping into is good. Also, do things that are natural to do indpendently (eg read a book) before expecting them to do more difficult individual work. Have the biggest read tot the smallest - that was another early independent thing we did.

 

It's a process. Work into it. Praise their efforts, and give yourself some slack. Best wishes!

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When my ds was four I let him play a Magic School Bus game on the computer while I did math with dd (11) and that kept him occupied long enough to get her lesson explained. I can still hear him getting mad at the game when he wasn't winning, lol.

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I spend the majority of our summer break working on organizing and prepping curricula for the coming year. This was the ONLY way I had everything "together" enough to finish all of our curricula in a given year. I tear or cut workbook pages out of their binders, 3-hole punch everything, sort them by week, and file them by week into two huge 3-ring binders. Then during the school year, every Sunday afternoon I get out the next week's paperwork, put it into workbox folders by day for each child, and hand write assignments for subjects I don't or can't schedule far in advance (for us, that's math and writing). Everything else is scheduled well in advance, and already on each child's assignment sheet for the week.

 

When life happens, like when my kids both got the flu, we skip a few things but keep going with math and any subjects that involve reading. Even if you are sick, you can still read your science for this week - I'll give you a pass on the notebooking. But we've never been so sick that we couldn't do math and reading.

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I think that some people are naturally more independent workers, some can achieve more independence, and some need almost constant supervision to produce quality work. Age is certainly a factor, too.  You may need to examine your own expectations of your children, and see if they are accurate according to their personalities and maturity. Not every person fits into the same convenient mold.

 

 

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