Thursday, September 28, 2017

Balancing Multiple Ages and Stages (Or How To Survive Toddlerhood)

When I get asked what the biggest challenge of homeschooling/unschooling is I say that it is balancing multiple ages and stages. With four children ages 3 to 10, I find that my kids' needs and interests don't always intersect. 

I think this is especially true if a toddler is in the mix. Toddlers and homeschooling can be a tricky combination. Spending our days exploring our children's interests and ideas can be tough when a toddler's needs and interests are so immediate and often so different from those of older kids. And they are urgent! Mommy, I need food NOW! Daddy, I need to go to the bathroom NOW! 

I wish I had some perfect solutions and astute wisdom to share with you about how to navigate toddlerhood while meeting the needs of your older homeschooled children, but the truth is that I am very much in the weeds of this now too! I think flexibility, support, asking for help, and gaining perspective are important for all this juggling--regardless of the ages and stages of the kids.

For some families, managing the multiple and varied needs of homeschooled children with different ages and interests involves some reshuffling of priorities and routines. For our family, we try to divide and conquer when possible. As some of you may recall, my husband left his crazy job with long hours and weekly travel a bit over a year ago so that we could both be more present at home. He now runs his own business part-time and I write part-time so that we are both able to dedicate time to our kids and their blossoming passions, while also supporting our family. 

For example, yesterday morning I took my eight year old to the skatepark with his friend and did some work calls there while Brian did chores at home and played games with the younger ones. My 10 year old spent the time at her sewing machine working on the dolls she is making for an upcoming fall craft fair. In the afternoon, he took the three older ones (10, 8, 6) to the Omni planetarium show at the Museum of Science where they headed into deep space. I took my 3 year old for a walk to the bank and to the park and to get ice cream. It has been hot here in Boston!

That's just one day-in-the-life of managing multiple ages and stages with homeschooling, and it certainly varies based on class schedules, work schedules, play dates, visitors, seasons, and so on. The key, I think, is flexibility, collaboration, communication, and the acknowledgement that this is all temporary. Toddlers grow up and their needs become less of an emergency, and older kids grow up and are able to go off all on their own, pursuing their passions without us in tow. 

In the meantime, when we're in the weeds, it's reassuring to know that this is simply life with littles. It's busy, it's loud, it's unpredictable, it's frustrating, and it's exhausting. But it is also beautiful, and fun, and rewarding, and hilarious, and fleeting. It's life. And it's learning.

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