Do you have a big age gap between your oldest and your youngest? We have 8 years between our two kiddos and have homeschooled both of them. At times, it was the best thing ever to have a big age gap. At times, it was the most challenging thing ever to have a big age gap. And it’s out of those experiences that I am sharing today’s three tips!
Hi, I’m Paige Hudson and welcome to season 6 of the Tips for Homeschool Science Show where we are breaking down one of the lofty ideals of teaching science into three building blocks you can use in your homeschool. In this episode, I'll share three tips to help you homeschool with a big age gap!
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If you have listened to this podcast for a while, you know that we have an 8-year gap in between our kiddos. It’s not the way we would have originally planned things, but it’s what we have. And over the years, I have learned to embrace the beauty of that big age gap, especially when it comes to homeschooling.
Learning to do this all starts with your own attitude. The truth is that we homeschooling moms and dads set the tone for our homeschool. If we see a big age gap as a positive thing, it opens up possibilities and gives space for ideas that will fulfill our vision. If we see that gap as a negative thing, well that’s exactly what it will be.
I have shared before about the importance of embracing the season you are in and it applies here, too. If you embrace your big age gap and see it as a positive, it will be much easier to apply these tips. Okay, off my sunshine soapbox and onto the tips.
There are the standard tips of taking advantage of nap time – our youngest gave those up around two years old – and having your older student help with the younger ones, but I wanted to share tips that we discovered through trial and error. Ones that help us to make my load just a bit easier.
So, if you are homeschooling with a big age gap and need a bit of help, here are three tips will help you…
For me, the first piece of the puzzle was always connection as a family. I was worried that my children would grow up as two onlies that share a house for a bit.
I didn’t want that, I wanted them to be friends. I wanted them to know that no matter what, there was another person in this world, besides their parents, who had their back. And I knew that the best way to do this was through loads of shared experiences.
If we couldn’t combine for our homeschooling subjects, we could connect over morning time. We connected over stories that I read aloud, we laughed at poetry, we listened to music, we attempted memorizing Shakespeare, and we did art together on Friday Fun Day.
Connecting at morning time gave our kiddos lots of shared experiences, which provided the space for them to develop a close bond despite their 8 year age gap.
So, embrace that big age gap and use a part of your homeschooling time to connect with each other.
The beauty of having a large age gap is that by the time your new little one comes along, your older one is well on their way towards mastering the basics. And what really helped us was to choose curricula that fostered independence during her middle school years and especially during the high school years.
I looked for programs that would allow me to teach a quick lesson and then assign work for her to do. Or for ones that would assign work and then give me the tools to discuss what she learned adequately without having done the work myself.
We always had a meeting together to discuss her plans for the day just after morning time and before I would work with our little man. In middle school, I would follow up with her again before lunch to see where she was with her assignments.
We found that the key to independent learning was to realize that it is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why I say to foster it. Assign the work but be sure to review it frequently. Don’t just let those older kiddos loose or you will lose them. Instead, encourage them as they learn to manage their own learning and hold them accountable through routine check-ins.
So, embrace that big age gap and use it to foster independent learning.
Even with connecting over morning time and fostering independence, there were still random times in the day when my oldest needed my attention right then and there. In the early days, I would try to divide my attention, which is a bit like trying to read and listen to a podcast at the same time.
I can remember one day very clearly where I was trying to help our oldest with an algebra assignment while simultaneously teaching our youngest his numbers. Let’s just say a few things got jumbled up and there was quite a bit of frustration displayed!
And that’s when I decided to pull an old trick from the toddler days out of my homeschooling hat. We set aside a bin of toys just for when mommy needs to help big sis. I would get it down when one of her questions required more than a quick answer. This way, little man was occupied with toys he didn’t get to play with a lot. And I would be able to focus on helping big sis with her homeschooling questions. It’s a win-win situation.
It’s one of the ways I found to meet both the needs of our kiddos without having to divide my attention. We also used movies, snacks, and five minutes outside with a ball in the fenced-in yard to provide a bit of space for me to help our oldest.
In other words, instead of trying to divide my attention between the two pressing people in front of me, I provided one with something for them to do which allowed me to help the other with her homeschooling assignments.
So, embrace that big age gap and don’t divide yourself in two, instead find creative solutions to provide for both kiddos.
Having a big age gap between your kiddos may not allow for easy combining of subjects, but that doesn’t mean you can't homeschool successfully. Connect as a family with morning time, foster independent learning, and find ways to meet both your kiddos needs without having to split yourself in two.
These three things mixed in with a whole lot of grace for the season will help you to successfully homeschool, and even get a bit of science into the mix, when you have a big age gap.
Thanks for listening and I hope you have a great week playing with science!
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