My small humans fall into the high school, primary school and preschool age categories Well, I mean those are the boxes I tick on forms and such like – in real life the boundaries can be much more blurred. How do I manage to ensure that all of their needs are met both educationally and emotionally?
It isn’t a piece of cake so if you are looking for a through rose-tinted specs piece you may as well leave now. I have three children. One is taller than me and exhibits the surly, cheekiness of an almost teen. One is a seven-year old package of gibbering, bouncy exuberance. The other one is a toddler – enough said. They each have very different needs which calls for some work on my part.
My eldest is increasingly able to work independently. He has his goals and a pretty clearly defined life plan already – it staggers me because I don’t think I’ve ever been that sure about anything. I hope, I really do, that a little of his confidence is down to our constant mantra that ‘you can achieve anything with work and determination’. He loves physics – the hows and whys of our universe are a constant marvel to him. My husband and I support him in every way possible which means setting up workshops with physicists, constantly buying science books to support him and doing a hell of a lot of maths – a hell of a lot.
My seven-year old is gregarious. His passions are books, the Beano and anything he can build. He is extremely dexterous for a pint-sized person which makes us wonder if he might be an engineer one day. He loves to get stuck in with difficult hands on activities and can knock an expensive Lego kit together, without help, far too quickly. He can undo jars and open difficult packaging where his older brother struggles. He is showing a completely different skill set. The challenge is that his his way of learning is hands on. He needs to be busy doing. That isn’t to say that he can’t sit still and write a story – he can but I know more knowledge goes in if he is able to move. I add making activities to dry topics to bring it to life. My husband has introduced some dad led singing English using a Youtube channel. He can dance and sing and learn. Perfect.
My little one is in the must-walk-constantly stage. She marches around the house only stopping to reverse into small spaces periodically. She loves dancing so the singing engages them both albeit on completely different levels. This dad time means that I have a little one-to-one time with my eldest when we can do intensive maths, English or science. At other times we all sit together. My girl draws quite happily as the boys work.Experiments bring us all together and are one of the easiest and most fun activities to manage. Even my 15 month old can sit in her chair and watch as we brew up a marvellous concoction.
Reading times are essential – not just for literacy but for providing focus and calm. It can happen just as easily at home as it can on the tram or in the library. My eldest will just read as will my seven-year old. He is currently enjoying the ‘Horrid Henry’ series and my eldest is reading a massive science encyclopedia from the beginning. As I read to my toddler I am interrupted by interesting facts from one and amusing tit-bits from the other. I like reading time – I get to lie on the sofa for half an hour.
Outdoor activity is still a massive thing for us. Times do change and where once upon a time my eldest would be thrilled to go to the park, these days he is a little less keen. I sympathise completely but he still needs exercise other than weekly athletics. I take the younger two to the park or forest to let them run of steam. He will come with me for a walk to the shop and three times a week we have a huge walk to his music centre. It just means that the times of chasing butterflies have long gone for him. Exercise is a great leveler, I couldn’t get through the day without it.
These are the times when we are at home which is a little more this year, or at least for the winter, because last year we were out every day. Daily events and activities can be exhausting so for the next couple of months we are planning on having at least two full home days a week although the afternoons will probably be punctuated by visits from local friends. We see friends pretty much everyday either just one or two or a blooming great swathe. Luckily at this time I seem to be able to take all of them to everything event wise, long may that continue.
Taking time out for myself is imperative because without half an hour to collect my thoughts at around lunch time I flop. I have learnt that just stepping into the laundry area or forcing myself to have a cup of tea in peace provides enough time for me me to wind down after a hectic morning. When I am relaxed everyone else is. My biggest tip for home educating multiples is to make sure that you take 5 for yourself during the day because it benefits the whole family. I’d also say that without my faithful planner I would be lost. My children pester which makes it easy to forget things so a diary is a must. I fill it in at night when the children are asleep so that I can refer to it the next day.
Having three with such big age gaps can be a tricky but by being organised and taking time out it is easily managed. Remaining calm is the key but don’t think for one minute that I am always super chilled – I do have three children, remember?