How can I keep from getting overwhelmed, sea homeschoolers, blair lee, ask blair

2 kids who can’t be taught together. How can I keep from getting overwhelmed?

How can I keep from getting overwhelmed, sea homeschoolers, blair lee, ask blair

2 kids who can't be taught together. How can I keep from getting overwhelmed?

My kids have a large age gap, different interests, and different learning styles. There isn’t really anything that I can teach them together. My 13yo can do some things on his own, but really needs my support and attention as we move into the more rigorous academics he is requesting. I am struggling to find balance and meet both their needs. Do you have any advice to keep us all from getting overwhelmed? In case it is relevant, my 8th grader uses AoPS, MCT, Conceptual Science, GAPro History, and weekly Art and French classes on Outschool. My 1st grader uses All About Reading, RSO Astronomy 1, RightStart Math, weekly elementary social studies and Spanish classes on Outschool.

From Sara J.
Homeschooling 4 years
1st grade (7yo) and 8th grade (13yo)

Hello Sara,

Finding balance is often the hardest part of homeschooling. This is a large age gap. Add in rigorous academics coupled with different interests and learning styles and it is easy to understand how you might feel overwhelmed and struggle to find balance. Here is my advice for you.

  • What is going right? Start by making a list of the things that are going right. For example, are there subject areas that are going smoothly where your learners are showing age and stage appropriate mastery of the concepts they are learning? As you work to find balance, recognize and acknowledge the successes that do not need you to do anything except to keep doing what you are doing. These can be big things, but they can be small things too. The caveat to this is if what is going right is taking an inordinate amount of your time and attention. If that is the case, look for ways you can streamline what you are doing.
  • What do your children have to say? Have a brainstorming session with your children. Be honest about needing help from them. Get input and advice from them about ways you can all find balance and keep from feeling overwhelmed. If the kids start pointing fingers at each other, don’t let that happen. You are all in this together.
  • Get help from the kids! Look for tasks outside of academics they take over for you. For example, could your children help with meals? What about the laundry? If each of your children took over one of “your” chores, you would consistently have more time each week.
  • Outsource for academics and extra time. Outsourcing some academics can help, something you are already doing. My advice with this is to be strategic. Use online classes for both academics and as a tool to give you more time to work with your child who is not in the online class. Let the teacher in the online class do some of the time-consuming parts like evaluations.
  • A good working schedule is a must. You probably already have a schedule. My question for you is, “Is that schedule working?” All three of you are feeling overwhelmed and out of balance, so something is going on with the scheduling. I am going to assume that the courses and materials you are using are working well academically. The question then becomes, how can you fit all those courses into a schedule that works for both kids without you being stressed.Start by keeping a journal for a month. Pay attention to where there are stressors and what consistently goes smoothly. At the end of the month, come back to this and ask yourself if all choices are working well, or if one or more causes stress on a regular basis. If there is stress with one subject area, it does not necessarily mean it is the materials. It might be something else, so pay attention to that in your journal too. In addition, the schedule must make sense for all three of you. Often, academic schedules are made around the materials. That is a great starting point. However, it needs to work for each of you individually and as a whole. An important consideration is that the schedule aligns with energy levels. Energy levels fluctuate throughout the day. Make sure the schedule is timed so the most challenging subjects are learned when energy levels are at their peak. Another way this could be helpful is if you have an early bird and a night owl. In that case you can start one child’s academics earlier and your other child’s later in the day.
  • Take a hard look at the schedule. Are you trying to do it all?There is a saying that, “You can do anything, but you cannot do it all.” Is there a way to tailor some of the lessons? Or, to skip some parts where your learners show they have mastered the concepts? Can you use a video lesson (while you work with your other child), followed by Q&A to take the place of a more time intensive (for you) assignment?
  • Me and Us time is essential for all three of you! Make Me Time non-negotiable even if you must schedule it. Homeschooling is a lot of work! Make sure you get the breaks you need to be in the best headspace. What this looks like is individual. Some people need a lot of down time to relax, while others like to be busy much of the time. Some people like being more connected, while others appreciate more time on their own. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, as long as you get some time for yourself. Along with Me Time, make sure there is downtime for your family. Sometimes when we homeschool it can be all-consuming. If this is you, make sure to take the time to be present with your children outside of academics. Laugh, find joy, and skip school some days just to hang out with each other.
  • Teaching as a tool for learning! Could your 8th grader help in a mentoring capacity with your 1st grader? I do not recommend this for more than one subject, but if there were one course that this could happen in, you could take this time to work on other tasks.
  • Are there outside stressors you could eliminate? Take a hard look for these and be ruthless in eliminating them. Finding balance and eliminating stress is a mental health issue. Outside stressors that are affecting your (and your children’s) mental health deserve a hard look to see how you can change them.

I hope one or more of these resonates with you. {{HUGS}} Blair

Check out more articles through the Ask Blair Page on this website.

This article appeared in the January 2022 issue of the SEA Homeschoolers Magazine.

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