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, I 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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
My 9-year-old’s picks:
- The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest – and Most Surprising- Animals on Earth by Steve Jenkins
- The Man in the Moon by William Joyce
- The Sandman by William Joyce
- Jack Frost by William Joyce
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
My 7-year-old’s picks:
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
- Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
- Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee
- What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss
- The Prince and the Porker by Peter Bently
My 5-year-old’s picks:
- The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
- Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems
- Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi: A Math Adventure by Cindy Neuschwander
- The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola
- Wizardology: The Book of the Secrets of Merlin by Candlewick Press
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.
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