I have a unique challenge and also a unique advantage: I have triplets. I also homeschool. While I am still in the trenches of toddlers and the elementary years, I believe I can give some wisdom to other mothers who are wondering what to do for homeschool when you have multiples.
Currently, my girl-boy-boy (gbb) triplets are finishing up their 2nd year of homeschool. They have a 23 month and 9 year old sisters. Their oldest sibling, Evelyn, is finishing 4th grade this year. Our primary curriculum is My Father’s World, which is a unit based Charlotte Mason type curriculum (which I will give my review of later). This curriculum has worked well for my teaching style and for my children. I’ve made multiple changes in the curriculum for language arts, science, and math as it applies to my kids but the basis for our children’s education has remained the same.
As anyone with more then one child can attest, every one of my children is unique in their likes, dislikes, learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, etc. This is especially evident when you have 3 children of the same age. Ella, is muscular and thus always on the move. She loves girly things though has no problem engaging in a wrestling with her brothers. She excels in her writing skills and has the neatest penmanship. She often outruns other boys of her age. She struggles with reading and can have a bit of anxiety when she is right the first time. Henry, is also muscular and enjoys running, wrestling, and being a super hero. He was the first to know his letters and numbers. He is doing well at reading and math comes easiest to him. He struggles with patience and too much teasing. Grant, is my social butterfly and while he enjoys school is the most distracted when it comes to sitting and working. He and Henry spend a lot of time battling evil. He was the first to catch on to reading and does it the best. He loves to self-teach and has learned whistling and bike riding because of this. He struggles to listen, obey and his penmanship needs the most work. So with all of that said here are my recommendations for teaching multiples:
- Know your children. One cannot teach if you do not first understand the likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses of each child. Be prepared to change how you work with them based on this information. Be prepared to be stretched as a teacher by this information. Prepare your time in a manner that reflects this. For instance, because Ella struggles more with reading I have to be prepared to spend more time on this task with her. It can also be an area where I can grow frustrated as she sounds out words slower. How do I accommodate for this in our school day? Often I try to make sure that Ella reads first and that we get our school right away in the morning when I am at MY best.
- Know yourself. My patience isn’t as strong in the afternoon. I tend to have more distractions and want to move on to home care tasks or my own activities. Thus, I have worked hard in the last year to get school completed for the triplets in the morning. Sometimes, I make a cup of coffee for myself or reduce our load for the day if I need a mom boost. Homeschooling is not an easy task. We moms need to address our needs before we can take up the mantle of teacher.
- Homeschool in the morning. If I made any mistakes in my first years of homeschooling, it was that I didn’t start school until the afternoon most days. As I’ve stated, I am most often my most patient, calmest, and kindest in the morning. I can guess, dear reader, that you could say the same.
- Start YOUR morning out well. I am a huge advocate of rising early, before your kids to get an hour of “me” time. However, the reality is that at this time in my life I have a toddler who can sense when I am up early. Thus, right now, my morning routine is to be up by 7a. I still engage in and advocate giving yourself an hour to prepare for your busy day. Here are the things that I do for myself and highly reccommend.
- Energizing liquids. I chose Advocare’s Spark and wouldn’t do anything else. I’ve also recently added drinking at least 16oz of extra water in the morning. You can chose coffee…another favorite drink.
- Vitamins. I take my first batch with my Spark, often including an iron supplement. I also lay out my children’s multivitamins and Vitamin D. First things first. I know that I am a better mom, wife, homemaker, teacher, coach, driver etc. when I have filled my first hour of the day with self-care. Now, I am not going to ever admit to doing this perfectly. And as much as I would like to accomplish this early in the morning, without kids the reality is that I’m in a season where my toddler will get up when I do. So I chose to sleep in till 7a and often my morning routine is done with a toddler on the hip or lap. Here is how I recommend starting your day and how I most often start mine:
- God’s word. I chose to read a devotional from e-Bible app on my phone. I also read the verses or chapter my oldest has assigned for the day. Currently, we are reading the life of David from 1 Samuel. When it comes to quantity, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 16-17) This means that what I read and meditate on it more important then how much I read.
- Breakfast. I am not the best at this. I do eat, but usually I’ve waited too long and this is never a good thing for anybody. The term “hangry” applies to moms too. Or we can get the “mom fog.” Neither is conducive for a good day.
- Shower. Again, I’m not the best at this but there is NOTHING that refreshes me and washes the sleep from my eyes then a nice HOT shower (or bath if that’s your thing.) My kids are also more likely to get ready for their day when I do.
- Make sure the kids are ready for the day. Feeding the kids is pretty much a mom no-brainer. After all, if your children are like mine…they are constantly asking for food. However, some moms choose to let their kids remain in their pajamas all day. Maybe that is you. However, I encourage you to have your kids get dressed and showered (if you are dealing with a stinky tween/teen) in addition to their teeth and vitamins. School is their JOB and since no one would show up at their job wearing their pajajmas, our kids shouldn’t either. I think this is one of the best ways to prepare our kids to switch their role to “learner.”
- Prepare for your kids to do independent work. No matter what “grade.” Our students can and will have independent work or things they can work on solo while you are spending one and one time with their siblings. This is especially important when you are working with your multiples and especially when you are working on reading skills. Nothing undermines your children’s reading lessons then hearing his or her siblings read theirs. Many a times have my struggling readers heard the day’s lesson and “read” from memory more then from actually reading their work. Thus, while one is working on their reading, I send the others to their rooms or the living room. If/when the independent work is done then I give them permission to be on a tablet. Though that is limited and we recently purchased a reading game. So even that is “school” for them.
- Have other “busy work” available. Especially in the beginning there won’t always be school work for the kids to do. Therefore, I have several Usborne activity books, coloring books, picture books, games, etc. that are available for the kids to do while while their siblings are doing their work. I expect quiet in the school area at least while the kids are working on their reading. If they cannot be quiet then I often assign home keeping tasks. The triplets are old enough to fold laundry, clean their room, put dishes away, and clean bathrooms.
- Stop the distractions. Again, halo off, when I am on my phone while the kids are reading to me or doing work where they need my help I have a huge difficulty paying attention to them and this leads to lots of frustrations on their part and wasted time as we have to “re-do” what they’ve already done. Get off the electronics. Silence your texts. Turn off the notifications.
- Do the hard things first. I only recently decided on this last one. My daughter, like her sister before her, struggles with reading and if/when I work on reading last with her I am not a very nice teacher. I am a hot mess mom. However, on the days when I work with her first then I am able to give her my very best. If math is super difficult for your kids, work on that first.
Above all, take one day at a time. Whether you have multiples or just many kids, whether you have a chronic illness or a new baby, do what is best for you and your family. I’m sure in 2 more years of teaching my triplets, I will have even more wisdom and I may have changed my my mind about some of my advice.