By Jamie C. Martin of Simple Homeschool
So I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but kids can be LOUD.
Like REALLY loud.
Happy loud sometimes. Unhappy loud at others.
And when you get lots of them together? VERY loud!
Confession: I don’t particularly care for loud.
I also tend to be an all-or-nothing person, which shows in the fact that my husband Steve and I added three kids to our family in less than three years. Less than two years separate them in age–and even less separate them developmentally.
After our daughter Trishna joined our family, we had a four, three, and two-year-old. Suddenly, a good portion of my life was loud. And though I was no fortune teller, I was smart enough to guess that I had a decade, give or take, of more loud coming my way.
Some people handle loud just fine. I’m not one of them.
Back in 2007 when I was adjusting to my new life as a mom of three, I didn’t yet know that I was a highly sensitive person as well as an introvert. Looking back with that knowledge, it makes perfect sense that I would find life’s sudden, uncontrollable volume overwhelming.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I knew I had to make life at home at least a little quieter if I was going to survive it, as well as add homeschooling to the mix.
A parent’s desperation–I think that’s how some of the best life hacks have been invented over the years!
My own conundrum led to an idea. One that’s gone on to save my sanity and allow me to continue homeschooling for eight years and counting.
What it looked like then
I first came up with the idea of “sections” from remembering centers in a preschool I had worked in. It started with the play chart above.
Each child came downstairs in the morning and, in lucky day order, chose the area they’d like to play in after breakfast and morning reading. One child per area.
There might be toys in the place they chose or they could bring toys with them. If they chose the kitchen, they could play in the sink with water and cups.
This helped tremendously. It was not perfect, mind you, but it was better. Sustainable.
Suddenly there was a bit of breathing room in my day–it wasn’t completely VOLUME ON from the first moment we woke up. There was ebb and flow. We used this for most of the morning. The children could change their area if they got bored, providing another spot was free.
Over time, this concept naturally evolved. At some point we dropped the chart and the kids had assigned areas. At one point, we used a timer so they knew when to switch.
As a maximizer, I tried it all–tweaking as we went along. We even had a season when we did sections outside as well to cut down on outdoor bickering, before moving to the country with a much larger yard.
In all honesty, I should mention that a good part of my energy, at first, went to helping the children learn to stay in their assigned areas. Looking back, this investment of time was well worth it. Sections helped all of us be our best selves.
What it looks like now
I had no idea at the time, but I had actually stumbled upon something that would aid our homeschooling life tremendously.
As the kids got a bit older, sections allowed me to have nurturing Core Phase time with each child on their own. This was a huge blessing, as I love spending time with my sweet kiddos individually (i.e. not so loud!).
These were hours of snuggling with a book between us, working on a craft project, or learning handwriting and other skills.
But as the kids reached love of learning phase I was surprised to see how this time naturally transitioned to a more academic focus. My children now had goals of their own they wanted to work toward, things they knew they needed my help with in order to improve.
In the past week, for example, during sections I’ve helped kids with the following:
- editing a story (improving spelling and grammar),
- online piano lessons (Trishna adores these!),
- preparing for Skywarn Spotter Training with the National Weather Service,
- working on reading fluency, and
- reading aloud.
When I was busy with one child, the other two worked or played on their own projects–sometimes a continuation of what we’d started together, sometimes something new.
For more snapshots of how this has worked in our family, check out my day in the life posts over the years.
What’s the point?
If you’re a highly sensitive homeschooler, if you also have kids close in age, or if you just need a change and a way to spend time with each child, perhaps this idea is one to experiment with in your home. It’s been a lifesaver in ours.
But the main takeaway I want to leave you with today is this: YOU DO YOU.
If something in your day is consistently off, don’t immediately assume that homeschooling must not be for you. Get unconventional, try stuff again and again–even if it’s something you’ve never heard of anyone else doing before.
Like me, you just might find that your desperation leads to exactly what God knew you needed all along.
Originally published on April 18, 2016.