Homeschooling Younger Children

A couple weeks ago on the Homeschooling for the Challenged post, Kate asked a great question...

Patty, what do you do with kids younger than third grade? My three are ages 3-7 and I'm struggling to finish the school year from last year (we did just adopt a 3 year old in March, so that got us way off schedule)... It's hard to homeschool with a three year old around, especially since she doesn't speak English very well yet and we're still working on learning obedience and just everyday living. Any advice is much appreciated.

Kate's question reminded me what I did when the kids were little, but Kate, with a new daughter who's just learning English, that totally changes everything. Hold on to the last point I make. ;-)

Homeschooling for the Challenged is what I do with my older kids, but until they've learned to read we sat and did school together—whether it was at the kitchen table or on the couch, we were together. To change things up, we used both locations throughout their school day, going back and forth as needed.

My sister Cheryl happened to have Christ-Centered Curriculum and since her boys were beyond it, she passed it on to me. I laminated the flashcards and have used it to teach my kids to read. When they were ready for it, I moved them into Abeka's Language Arts third grade book. Christ-centered Curriculum gave them a great foundation.

For readers, we used Abeka's readers (which I purchased at used curriculum sales—one here, another there), and Pathway Readers , all of which the kids loved. Pathway Readers are about Amish families but do not put forth Amish beliefs or doctrines. Both sets are wholesome stories. I've spent hours listening to kids read to me—at the table, in the living room, as I fold laundry or cook. Anytime I could listen while my hands were busy was fair game for reading time.

The first year or two...

we only did phonics and math. It was enough. When they could read well enough to muddle through a paragraph of History or Science, those were added in. It was completely based on the child's readiness.

That meant my oldest went through that first “school year” twice (he wasn't ready the first time and neither was I), my older daughter (#2 in the line-up) went through once, and my younger daughter (#3 of 5 kids) went through zero times, officially. That was when I finally wised up.

See, while I was doing school with older two, the little ones played on the floor nearby. I thought my daughter was just playing with her toy dishes on the floor, but she was listening too. She listened as we drilled phonics, read History and Science lessons together, and as I asked them questions about what we had read. And then she answered those questions. After I was done with her older brother and sister, I sat down with her and the flash cards. She knew them. So, I pulled out First Steps—the first reader—and we began to work through that. I didn't have to teach her—she already had it figured out because she played quietly, nearby, during school.

Break times...

They happened when I needed to help one child but not the others or when I had to take training time with the toddler. One on one time with the kids happened while the others were doing things in school that they didn't need my help for—worksheets, penmanship, running around the house. Yes, there were days I sent my son out to run around the house two or three times. He loved it and it cured his wiggles.

Did things always go that smooth? 

Of course not. I was schooling three kids with an infant in my arms and a toddler playing on the floor. Some days we quit after an hour and other days we caught up because everyone was co-operating. Some days it took three tries to get school done and Jim was walking in the door when we called it a wrap. Life happens. Especially when you have little ones.

Be willing to try different things to find what works for you, realizing what works one week might not work the next.


  1. Hi Patty! Thanks so much for answering my question, and even making an entire post out of the topic! It's very timely because we start the new school year today! While I have everything ready for my sons, I haven't thought much about what to do with my daughter other than printing out some coloring pages for her. It's encouraging to be reminded to just move forward and be okay with not accomplishing the day's goals. There's always tomorrow...and the next day...and Saturday! I've had to focus on using curriculum this year that requires more individual time rather than one-on-one until my daughter is able to get through a few minutes without screaming out for attention or getting into my nightcream or Chapstick, while I'm helping the boys (all our high shelves are full of things to keep away from her). We'll be maximizing her nap time for our on-on-one learning and I'll read literature with the boys at bed time while my husband puts my daughter to bed. It's what seems to work for us now until we get her into a place where she can sit contently for longer periods of time. I'm praying I'll be patient this week and let my goals be lower than what is in the plan book. :-)

    1. Woot for starting today, Kate! =]
      Yes, forward momentum is important. Baby steps add up to make real progress, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time--in school and child training. ;-)

      Praying for you. You're doing a great thing.

    2. Patty, God's timing is so perfect. He knew I needed your reminder and encouragement yesterday. Things did not go as planned in the morning. I wanted to learn about the Arctic. My sons were more focused on drawing a giant hockey rink and making a notebook for his stuffed animal harp seal. And my daughter looked at the arctic books on my lap while smacking my arm to repeatedly get my attention. Ha ha! While both The boy's interests have to do with cold weather, it wasn't part of my plan. But I went with It anyway, and remembered your post. We ended up getting a TON done while my daughter napped and just before bedtime. And my youngest son prayed how thankful he was for school at dinner time -that's NEVER happened before. Praise God!

  2. Praying for you, Kate - and thanks, Peej, for the great post.

    1. Thanks Joanne! God's listening! :-)

  3. Great post, Patty. It's true about the little ones learning while the bigger ones have school. We used Shurley English and before my daughter even started kindergarten, she had all of the jingles memorized. You have to be flexible with homeschooling. It will get done and they will learn. Do what works for you and for them when it works for you and them. After lunch, my son was done. He couldn't work in the afternoon, so we finished what we could before then. While I'm not homeschooling right now, we might be back to it next year. Enjoy your school year! I'm jealous - I loved homeschooling.

    1. Liz, I've heard tremendous things about Shurley English and would've checked into it except I had the CCC in hand.

      I love that homeschooling allows for such flexibility!! If something isn't working well, we can change things so they DO work. Love that!!! =]

      Hope you get to go back to homeschooling.


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