In continuing our talk about homeschooling a preschooler, I wanted to write about what to do when you have a preschooler and an older child. It is definitely a challenge! There are many ways to go about it, and it depends a bit on what age your older child is. If you have a 4 year old and a kindergartner, there will be a lot more overlap than a 3 year old and a 5th grader.
Some of you are blessed with littles who will go off and play independently while you work with an older child. I, however, have a child who thinks we are two sides of a piece of velcro and wants to be RIGHT with us when we are doing a lesson. Typically on my lap or literally sitting on the table as close to his sister as he can get.
Sometimes he is happy to sit right next to us and play Lego while I work with DD7. He is only mildly interested in school work and not at all interested in worksheets or workbooks or anything really school-ish. If my kids were reversed in age, my daughter at age 4 LOVED playing school and asked for worksheets and work. It would have been a lot easier to have her do a little worksheet while working with big brother. But, that’s not the case for us!
If, however, you have a little one who likes to do worksheets, then the Handwriting Without Tears PreK workbooks or the Get Ready for the Code from the Explode the Code series would be great.
Some things we do to teach/entertain my 4 year old while my 7 year old works:
Do a Learning App
Duo ABC app (FREE! from the language app Duolingo)–it teaches beginning reading skills with letter recognition, early sight words, and basic reading skills for ages 3-6. DS4 can do it independently.
Wet, Dry, Try app ($4/year from Learning Without Tears)–teaches writing capitals, lower case, and numbers. I highly suggest using the LWT order option for the letters rather than ABC order as it groups letters that are formed similarly.
I’ll have DS4 do an app when I really need to be able to focus on DD7 and her work. It gives me a 15 min window to teach her new material or explain an activity.
Work 1:1 while Older Kids are Independent
While DD7 is doing something independent (one of her computer lessons like Vocabulary Spelling City or completing a worksheet or activity on her own), I will do something with DS4. Currently that is a lot of puzzles. He loves puzzles and they help work on many of his skills. We have ones on opposites, sequencing pictures, and matching pictures to starting letter. He also likes traditional puzzles. Or we might do his Number of the Day, do a board game, or work with some math manipulatives. Or it might be something like playing Lego (and I sneak in some math by having him count out pieces, find me a particular color or size, or copy my creation).
DS4 loves listening to books and will listen to whatever I am reading to DD7. He gains background knowledge, vocabulary and print awareness during this.
Have the Older Kid Read to Younger Sibling
DS4 loves to hear the same book again and again. That is luckily great for older kids to build fluency! When DD was starting 1st grade and reading simple books like Biscuit, he wanted to hear the same book over and over. Reading aloud repetitively helped her build up reading speed and practice reading with expression. Now she will read him longer books and it is great for both of them!
Do Science and Social Studies Together
At the elementary level, most science and social studies works for a range of ages. Our science and social studies includes a lot of my reading to them from nonfiction or historical fiction books and watching video clips on the topics. Then we’ll do art related to the topic, do a science experiment, or do something else hands on. DS4 doesn’t do the writing related to it, but he can do a lot of the other things.
For example, when we learned about the human body, he learned write along with his big sister. We did a system of the body each week and focused on a different organ or aspect each day. So for circulatory system say, we did the heart one day. I read some pages from our massive human body book on the heart to both kids, then they watched a short Youtube video on the heart, and finally we built a heart model using graham crackers, icing, and marshmallows. DD6 (she is now DD7) had a page where she had to write down the parts, but DS4 did not. But they both had to answer my questions before they could eat it. DS4 was asked things like “what does the heart do?”, “how many chambers are in the heart?” and “what color are oxygen-rich arteries?” while DD6 was asked things like “what is the difference between veins and arteries?” and “how do the heart and lungs work together?” Then they ate their creation!
Modify the Math Skill By Age
Most math skills are cyclical and come back at each grade level just slightly harder. For example, a preschooler might work with numbers 0-10 while a kindergartener does 0-20 and a first grader does 0-99 and a second grader does 0-999.
This means that many math lessons can have different adaptations for different ages. For example, in a geometry lesson on shapes you might decide to do a shape hunt in the house. Your 4 year old might look for shapes that are circles, squares, and triangles. Your 6 year old might look for hexagons, octagons, cubes, and spheres. Your 10 year old might look for pieces he can put together to form rectangular prisms and triangular pyramids.
Or if you are doing patterns using pattern blocks or unifix cubes, you might have your preschooler copy patterns you make in a simple ABAB format (red blue red blue or triangle square triangle square). Your 1st grader might build her own ABAB patterns or might make an ABC pattern (red blue yellow) or ABB pattern (red blue blue red blue blue). Your 9 year old might create a growing pattern (1 blue, 3 blue stacked, 5 blue stacked) or might create patterns using numbers instead (3, 7, 11)
Have the Preschooler be your Teammate in a Game
We love playing board games, but most are too hard for DS4. So when I play with DD7, DS4 is on my team. He’ll roll the dice and then I help him count how many places we move. Or he draws the card for me.
Do Art Together
Art is a great activity that multiple ages can do. DS4 isn’t overly interested in art, so often he just sits at the table with his Lego while we do art. But sometimes he wants to participate as well, especially if paint is involved.
I might help prep his paper by drawing the outline for him to paint, cutting out the pieces ahead of time, or simply giving him his own supplies (so big Sis doesn’t get mad when he mixes water color paints together). I might also give him fewer choices. For example, if we’re painting a sunset, rather than giving him the whole paint tray, I might only give him red, yellow, and orange so that anything he paints looks like a sunset. Oftentimes, though, it is simply process art–experimenting with different materials in whatever way he likes!
If you need ideas for games, math manipulatives, books, art supplies, etc to buy, here are my Amazon lists