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I have four kids, three are school age. I have a chunk of time where I do their "at the elbow" work one at a time.

I start with the youngest.

Then I move to the eldest because he has things he needs to have gotten done before I get to him that relate to his lessons but also has things that stem off the lesson that he needs to do after.

Then the middle one. Who has things to do before but not after.

If I don't but breaks in between for myself I'm spent a third of the way through the middle one's lesson. If I put in a break between each kid, I lose momentum.

I've been opting to forgo a break, but I don't think I can keep it up much longer. What are some breaks that I could try that hopefully would help keep up the momentum? Or are all breaks momentum killers?

Edited by macmacmoo
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Kids are 12, 9, 6 and 3. 
 

I’m spent in the sense I’m not focused. I’m looking all around to get away but know I need to stay put. 
 

It might be the change in levels. Or sitting still for too long. 

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I sit with them at the table and rotate between them, back and forth back and forth. While one is writing or computing I talk with the next. Yeah, you have to switch gears on a pinhead but you get use to it. Then you're done and they can do their independent stuff or whatever.

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49 minutes ago, macmacmoo said:

Kids are 12, 9, 6 and 3. 
 

I’m spent in the sense I’m not focused. I’m looking all around to get away but know I need to stay put. 
 

It might be the change in levels. Or sitting still for too long. 

I solve this by not sitting still.  The kids are in different locations and I move between them.

My kids are 4, 7, 9 and 11.  They all have neurodevelopmental challenges, so I can't afford to exclusively focus on any one of them for a sustained period of time.  Instead, I get everyone working and them rotate between them.

So I might have the 4 year old at the table working on a puzzle, the 7 year old on the floor under the table working on his math, the 9 year old in the adjacent room playing piano and the 11 year old hanging off the couch in the living room doing his Writing with Skill.  All of those activities require a lot of my attention, but not constantly.  I can rotate among them and strike a balance between teaching them and giving them time to work on their own.  Sometimes one will need a slightly longer lesson, and the others will have to work on their own a bit longer.  Other times, I check in and they are cruising and I quickly move on so as not to interrupt their flow.

There are times I want uninterrupted time to discuss something with one of the kids, but I tend to schedule that separately from our normal day to day lessons.

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We have similar ages. So I've been experimenting with a few different approaches recently. The most successful for us so far has been:

I group the kids in the morning, we do morning time and discuss what the day's going to look like if there's anything unusual.

Anything that can be done together, is. It doesn't work for every subject, but a few, so it's 3 birds with one stone. 

The older kids I more check up on than sit with now. I lean over, answer direct questions, give a direct lesson if it's not clicking (standing up), then move to the next one, no set time for each one. Then I go and do my own thing in the kitchen and the 1st grader comes with me so he can do handwriting and the reading stuff with me while I'm cutting stuff up, etc. I check in on the others once he finishes a subject, then rinse and repeat. During certain subjects it becomes asking from the doorway "Need any help?" then back to my thing. And, they do bring their books to me if they hit a spot they don't get. So the time I spend with them isn't set but I am always on call. 

It does help that my older ones are more independent now and prefer to try and figure stuff out on their own and I'm the backup plan. And the 3yo is chaos no matter our schedule, lol, but we've found some activities that she likes and I can buy 20 or 40 minutes by pulling out her favorites. And even though I don't have set times to spend with them we do have a schedule of time per subject, so I know what they are working and when I need to check in towards the end of subjects to see how it went. 

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macmacmoo, I could have written your post about 10 years ago.  (I think dh was deployed that year too).  I struggled between trying to combine kids to be more efficient vs. keeping them separate because it was less mentally taxing to me to be one on one.  I also remember feeling like everything had to happen early because I would reach a point in the day (not long after lunch) when I would be *done.*  I kept expecting my oldest to be more and more independent while at the same time trying to increase the challenge and level of his work.  He was around 7th grade that year, and as my first I was thinking it was time to get "serious."  But he wasn't ready for more independence.  We also had no co-op for a semester because we had just left one that was a poor philosophical fit.  But we found (especially with dh deployed) that we really missed leaving the house one day a week and we missed the social interaction.  We joined a different one 2nd semester, but it had some real dysfunction and ended up back with our original one a year later.  After that I did turn to more outsourcing.  I'm not saying that's your answer, just where I ended up.  If I could go back (not that I would want to - those were hard years!) I would cut back until I had peace in my home.  What's the minimum I needed to teach?  Math and one other LA subject depending on the age of the child (learning to read?  phonics follow up?  Spelling?  or if they were older maybe grammar? - but not all those for every child, imho.)  Then I would assign independent reading and either a "notebooking page" for younger students or a written narration from older students.  Hit the 3Rs in the most efficient way you can.  History/Science - I would put on auto pilot with books and videos.  Even with this, I think the teaching time required for those ages and numbers of kids is just a lot, especially if you lean more introverted or just have difficulty finding the energy to talk, communicate and engage that long (I do). 

Lastly, you asked if there are breaks you could try that would help you regain momentum instead of losing it.  You might experiment and see what works for you.  Would a short walk be invigorating or would it be harder to get started again afterwards?  Would 15 minutes in your room (alarm set) with your eyes closed (and maybe a small bite of dark chocolate at the end of it) be more beneficial?  Would a tea time for everyone help - a small snack and some classical music or any music you like?  When I think back to how I felt during those years, I think a few minutes in a quiet room might have gone a long way towards helping me feel refreshed.  And then getting going again with a treat - a cup of tea or coffee or bite of dark chocolate.   

 

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On 8/4/2020 at 7:09 AM, macmacmoo said:

I've been opting to forgo a break, but I don't think I can keep it up much longer. What are some breaks that I could try that hopefully would help keep up the momentum? Or are all breaks momentum killers?

Somewhere along the line this became me. I'm not sure when it happened, but probably late 30's. Turns out I needed progressives and have some attention issues. The fact that you wonder if yo can resume after a break reflects attention, and you need to create STRUCTURES to help yourself do that. I' working with dd on it now. We're doing a puzzle that is TOO HARD, so we HAVE to take breaks. It's a really hard skill.

As far as the glasses, yeah easy fix. Now it doesn't happen. The print you're looking at for read alouds, etc. may be very small and straining your convergence, etc. I have not only regular progressives but workspace for more up close focusing.

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SWB has a talk, “Avoiding Burnout” that may be helpful. One idea she mentions is block scheduling kids and getting each one set up for the week. She doesn’t really talk about your specific situation, but it’s still a great talk, it’s  $4 in the online store. https://welltrainedmind.com/p/burning-out-why-it-happens-and-what-to-do-about-it-mp3/?v=7516fd43adaa

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On 8/4/2020 at 8:17 AM, macmacmoo said:

Kids are 12, 9, 6 and 3. 
 

I’m spent in the sense I’m not focused. I’m looking all around to get away but know I need to stay put. 
 

It might be the change in levels. Or sitting still for too long. 

I find the bolded to make a big difference. Sitting for a long time is horrible for my body, which makes me hurt worse, which makes me irritable and unfocused. I try to make myself get up and stretch between kids, do what teaching I can standing up, we dance for 5 min mid-morning, just break up the sitting. 

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Maybe, you could all take a  15 min. exercise break together, or sing some songs, before you get into the brain work with the next student.

Or

You could pick curriculum that is as self teaching as possible for math, and learning to read, and a multi-grade curriculum for science and social studies.

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Sitting down, especially during and after lunch, makes me tired. I set up a standing desk by stacking decorative boxes on a countertop to elevate a laptop. I only sit as needed for instruction or after school, to do things that require extended focus on a book or computer.

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