How to Preschool w Big Kids Around?


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  • Sarah Himbaugh

    I have been feeling like I’m not giving my little guy (4) the preschool time he deserves because most of our day revolves around the bigger kids schoolwork.  I recently read on the SCM Preschool Guide:

    “Instead of academic or social pressures, Charlotte Mason encouraged mothers to give their little ones a full six years of developing good habits, getting acquainted with nature, exploring with the five senses, growing in their spiritual lives, and playing outdoors.”

    I love this sentiment.  I’m just having a hard time figuring out how to do this and give him the freedom to be little with a 2nd and 5th grader in the house too. Any suggestions?



    Okay, I’m going to be brutally honest here.  Charlotte didn’t have preschoolers around.  Remember, kids came to her or her teachers after they had reached 6 or 7 years old (can’t remember which).  So she NEVER had to balance teaching with the preschool set’s needs at the same time.  Is she speaking of an ideal?  Yes.  Is it realistic for all families with multiple children? Maybe not.  And that’s ok!

    So here is my situation for an example.  I have 8 children and am supposed to have #9 tomorrow.  Their ages are 14, 11, 9, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2.  When baby arrives I’ll have 4 age 4 and under again.  We DO attempt to include all the things Charlotte advocated in the quote you shared – but we don’t have nearly the amount of outdoor time that she advocated.  It just isn’t going to happen where we live.  However, my younger ones thrive in the middle of family and homeschool life.  They play, explore, learn, snuggle, and we work on habits because having all of us together all the time means we get lots of opportunities to practice.   The thing my preschoolers have had to learn is to play respectfully -meaning respectful of their older siblings need for some semblance of quiet or at least not really loud noise going on.  The older ones, at the same time, are immersed in a real life situation that comes with interruptions like any real-world job will. They learn to work with some small distractions, that relationships are important and sometimes more important than academics, and they keep a portion of their childhood for longer than peers because they still have the fun of playing ‘little kid games and ways’ with their younger siblings.


    I realized that we’ve been spending little time outside now that it’s gotten a bit cooler outside.  Today I started an outdoor time.  From 3-4:00 I plan on having everyone get outside (as long as it’s not pouring rain).   That will give us plenty of time for school and chores and I can get dinner started once we get back inside.  I agree with Tristan that Charlotte’s schedule isn’t possible for most (if not all) homeschool famlies.  I just can’t see us having hours to spare outside on a regular basis, but I think we can spare an hour each day.

    Another thing I’m working on is to create a good environment for my younger ones.  We currently have a large basement.  I have toys at one end and our school area on the other end (with a TV area in the middle).  As long as they aren’t screaming, they can easily play quietly while I work with the older DC on the other side of the room.  I’be been going through our toys to find the most “CM friendly” ones: blocks (and other building sets), dolls, puzzles, good books, etc.  I currently have a 1.5 yo and a newly 6yo (plus 3 school-aged DC).  They often play together while I’m working with the older ones.  Sometimes the older ones take a turn with him as well, especially once we are done with family subjects.

    My 6yo does some school subjects.  I spend 10-15 minutes on phonics several time a week.  We also do a couple math lessons (using SCM’s Mathematics book/DVD).  When my DC work on dictation & copywork, she gets out a R&S preschool book to work on fine motor skills too.  She’s also doing some portions of the Wee Folk Art program (poetry memory, picture books, and some of the crafts).   She also joins in on some of the family lessons.  I feel like this is a good balance for her age.


    Work with the preschoolers in the morning first, before the older children.


    We do family subjects first (history, science, Bible, composer, etc.), all of us at the table.  Then I work with my littlest (who is now 5) while the other guys are working on their independent work.  One of the good things about having big guys is…they don’t need you all the time!  😉  My 5yo and I do a little phonics, do a little handicraft, work in her math book (yes, she has a math book, because everyone else is “doing school” and she didn’t want to feel left out), and we read together on the couch.  She gets me all to herself for a good hour.  Then I usually let her watch a little show (something PBS-esque) while I work with her older brother who is 7.  When he and I are finished, the two of them go off together and play outside, and I am free to meet with the other older siblings as needed.


    The most important thing with preschoolers is to schedule some time for them. Even if it is 5 minutes twice a week,  they love having their name on the schedule.  This year I called it Mom Time on the schedule.  My little guy holds me to it and loves it.  It is precious.


    I agree with retrofam. I have a preschooler who will be 4 next month. We spend 10-15 minutes per day after snack while the big kids are working on their independent work. Some days we clean toilets (which she loves lol!), some days we work on dinner, and some days we work on her R&S workbook or MFW preschool activities. I think the best time to fit in a little preschool is while big kids are doing independent work.

    Before we had new baby, I was doing preschool with my 3 year old after our family work and kitchen tidy while my older two did their independent work.


    This was always a difficult thing for me, but the year that we did Five in a Row was such a great year.  My girls remember so many of the books and activities that we did, and I didn’t spend more than 15-20 minutes each day.


    This thread is so encouraging to me, as I am struggling with this exact issue!  I see the huge benefits of outside time for ALL my children.  But how do I provide the teaching time that my school-aged boys need when I’m trying to be “masterly inactive” with my littles outside?

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