How to squeeze in one-on-one reading (and spread smiles)

How to squeeze in one-on-one reading (and spread smiles)

Written by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley of My Little Poppies

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to homeschooling multiple children is how to squeeze in that oh-so-precious one-on-one time.

Amazing things happen when we invest individually into each of your children.

Whenever I spend time with a child, I learn something new about him or her. And afterward? I notice more smiles, increased kindness toward siblings, and improved cooperation overall.

(Plus, feel good.)

I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering how this is even possible.

I mean, let’s be honest: Homeschool mamas barely get a minute to themselves. How can we manage to carve out daily one-on-one time for each kiddo when we can’t even use the bathroom alone?

About a year ago, I stumbled upon a super-simple solution to this  conundrum. It’s not perfect and it doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s beautiful. And it’s so simple that I almost didn’t write about it.

But then I thought about how much this one change in our homeschool routine has improved our homeschool and I wanted to share here.

The best part? This simple solution involves reading aloud to your child, so we’ll be crossing off some of our homeschool must-dos as we make memories with each child. It’s a win-win!

How to squeeze in one-on-one reading (and spread smiles)

I’ve mentioned before that we are a family of book lovers.

Our homeschool days are built upon carefully selected read alouds. We begin each day with our version of morning time, Coffee and Books, and we end each day snuggled in bed with a fantastic chapter book.

One day last year, I was feeling nostalgic. I found myself reminiscing about the days when my youngest was a toddler and we would spend entire mornings reading books of his choosing, together.

It occurred to me that I rarely get this opportunity nowadays. We read aloud together plenty, but it’s rare that we find that precious one-on-one reading time.

I wanted to make it happen again. I wanted to find space to read to each child individually.

How to squeeze in one-on-one reading (and spread smiles) | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

But I knew, in order for it to work, it needed to be simple and feel easy

(The last thing we need is one more thing on that never-ending to-do list, am I right?)

And then, I thought of it. At the end of the day, as my children were brushing their teeth and getting into jammies, I asked them to pick out one picture book that they loved.

I told them we would read it together the following day. I collected each book and placed them on the kitchen island, where I would see them first thing in the morning.

Having a little book stack staring at me all day was key. Those books were itching to be read.

How to squeeze in one-on-one reading (and spread smiles) | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

When I found myself with a minute during the day, I grabbed a picture book and the child who selected it and head to a couch or comfy chair where we would read, together.

I’d repeat this for each child, throughout the day.

Sometimes this meant the books were sprinkled here and there during our daily routine. On more chaotic days, this often meant one-on-one bedtime reading before our normal bedtime read aloud.

Regardless of how or when it happened, the results were pretty fantastic.

Most picture books can be read in fifteen minutes or less and while the thought of one-on-one time can feel impossible, I learned that reading a picture book together felt easy, manageable … and fun.

Carving small chunks of time for each child has huge benefits

Spending just a few minutes reading a picture book to each child had an immediate impact on our family life and homeschool rhythm.

There is something special about reading aloud, especially when you are reading a book that the child hand-selected and you are reading it together, alone.

I found that these small chunks of time with each child helped us feel more connected. My children were more cooperative throughout the day after our one-on-one reading. And I noticed fewer sibling squabbles.

Best of all, these read aloud sessions helped me to learn more about each child and helped with homeschool planning.

How to squeeze in one-on-one reading (and spread smiles) | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

What I learned from reading aloud to each child

It was through this simple strategy that I learned my oldest loves poetry and mythology and anything by William Joyce. It is how I discovered my daughter’s penchant for biographies, social justice, and history. And it’s how I figured out my youngest could read way above the level I thought he could. (Turns out, he didn’t love reading aloud in front of his older siblings!)

I use this information to plan our homeschool days.

The read alouds I choose for our morning Coffee and Books often expand upon my children’s current interests. I also select library books, documentaries, and board games based on current passions gleaned during our one-on-one read aloud time.

Do you want to see this in action?

I try to share our favorite read alouds on Instagram or in our Family Book Club, but I thought it would be fun to list the books that my children selected last week.

My 9-year-old’s picks:

How to squeeze in one-on-one reading (and spread smiles) | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

My 7-year-old’s picks:

How to squeeze in one-on-one reading (and spread smiles) | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

My 5-year-old’s picks:

How to squeeze in one-on-one reading (and spread smiles) | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

Is it a perfect system?

No, it’s not perfect.

Sometimes we have sibling squabbles or frequent interruptions. Some days get away from us and we aren’t able to squeeze this in. Sometimes, we fall out of our rhythm after an illness or a vacation.

But we keep coming back to this simple one-on-one strategy because when it works, it works really well.

How do you carve space for one-on-one time with your children? Share here.

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support of Simple Homeschool!











About Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Cait is a school psychologist, mom to three amazing children, and an unexpected homeschooler. She loves nature, good books, board games, strong coffee, and dancing in her kitchen. You can read about all of these things and more at My Little Poppies. You can also find her hanging out with Kara at The Homeschool Sisters Podcast.


  1. Sweetpea says:

    This is such a beautiful idea. Thank you for sharing a lovely post. I have found that as our 4 children get older (they are now all teens) and our lives are busier, it is even harder to find time outside of our longer homeschool hours to connect with each child. I would love to hear suggestions for connecting with older kids one on one.

    • Thank you, Sweetpea.

      While I don’t have teens, I do have a friend who schedules once/week coffee dates with her teens. They go to a local coffee shop and play a game together. Just a thought and I hope that the Simple Homeschool readers have more been-there-done-that tips for you!

      Have a great week!
      Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley’s latest post: Hands-On Animal Study with Spielgaben

    • Jennie Putnam says:

      I have a a preteen and two teens. Recently when I have to run out on a short errand I invite one of them along. It may only be a 5 min. drive to the post office, but it is alone time, and my kiddos have begun asking if I have errands to run. Sometimes if I have time we stop and get a coffee. other times I pull over at a look out in town and we just talk. Recently I say bring your book along, and the grab whatever they are currently reading. Funny thing it doesn’t seem like squeezing them in. It becomes a real
      moment together.

  2. This is something we recently started doing as well. It’s amazing what a difference one simple change can make. I haphazardly stumbled upon the idea because my youngest is a struggling reader, and I wanted to add more read-a-loud time into her day. My oldest is a very advanced reader so sometimes I forget that she enjoys read-a-loud time just as much as her sister. I love the quality time individual reading gives me with each of my girls. Excellent post, sometimes it’s the smallest thing that makes the biggest difference in our day.

  3. Awesome idea! We’ll be having another baby shortly, making one-on-one time both extra difficult and extra important. Thanks to this post, I will be stashing their book selections by a good nursing spot.
    My husband has recently found a new favorite one-on-one activity. He bought the kids each a “fancy” coloring book and enjoys sitting and coloring with each of them in turn. They chat while they color; it is sweet to watch.

    • I love that, Laura! I find that doodling alongside my children is calming for all involved.
      Best of luck with the new addition! I found that making our own audiobooks worked well for when nursing interrupted our read alouds. We still treasure those audiobooks. The audio is such terrible quality but you can hear all the sweet baby noises from my youngest, who will be turning six in a couple weeks. (Where’s that pause button?!)

      Enjoy those newborn snuggles!
      Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley’s latest post: Hands-On Animal Study with Spielgaben

  4. I love this idea Cait. I have been able to do this successfully with my 6 year old, but not so much with my 10 year old. I think because reading a chapter one-on-one feels slightly overwhelming. But maybe she will enjoy choosing a picture book too…it never occurred to me!

  5. Great post! One question – do your other kids try to butt in on your time with the one? That is usually what happens in my house and I never know what to say. How can I turn someone away from a book?? 😉

Share Your Thoughts


CommentLuv badge

Never miss a blog post,
PLUS get Jamie’s FREE ebook: