This school year I have 5 kids in elementary school. This makes for some crazy mornings of homeschooling. I’ve learned to stagger the subjects so that no more than 2 kids are doing math at any one time, since math requires lots of mom-help. But I’ve been frustrated with the way kids will badger me with constant requests for help, interrupting me while I am helping another child.
Finally I decided to make sure that each child had at least 3 possible subjects lined up in front of him. For example, alongside the open math book, let’s put the handwriting book and the reading book. I told my kids that if they were stuck on math, they were NOT to interrupt or sit waving their hand frantically, but instead
1. Skim the math lesson for other problems they can do unassisted
2. Do their handwriting assignment for the day
3. Get a jump start on their required 1/2 hour of independent reading each day.
To top off this plan, I made the kids flags. Each flag is just a little paper rectangle taped to a wooden skewer. Because I wanted the flags to be free-standing (leaving the kids’ hands free to keep working!) I stuck the point end of each skewer into a tub of playdough, right through the lid of the tub. This makes the flags stand up nicely. I made four, labelled 1 through 4.
During school time I set the flags in the center of the table where four of my kids work. If a kid gets stuck on an assignment while I am occupied, he takes the #1 flag. The second kid gets #2, and so forth. That way when I look up from helping one kid, I can tell who to go talk with next.
It may sound a little impersonal to tell your kid to take a number. But my kids really like the system because they know whose turn is next. Once they’ve grabbed their flag, they can go back to working on another math problem, or begin another assignment. I think this has really helped them use their time more efficiently. Often I find it encourages a few more seconds of thought about the problem too. Sometimes my kids give up too soon if I seem *too* available, ya know, when with just a little more thought they could come up with the answer on their own. This has made our mornings much quieter and less distracting.
I realize that not nearly everyone is homeschooling or dealing with the numbers of kids that I am. But I think that even a mom doing homework with 3 kids in the evenings might find some of these tips helpful.