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Homeschooling when your children have different interests

Newsletter · Sep 12, 2021


Dropping into your emails today with some thoughts on this question from Lindsey:

Your Questions & Answers

I have 3 children with very different interests and needs. I’m seriously considering home educating but worry I won’t be able to provide the best learning experience for all of them at the same time. Do you have any hints/tips/insights??

Finding a nice rhythm that helps foster the skills and interests of three different children will be challenging, there’s no doubt about it. But one of the most powerful aspects of home education is that you actually get to try.

Compare it to a classroom, with a single teacher. In that environment there might be 15, 20, even 30 children. Every one of them unique, every one of them arriving each day with things they’d love to do, or explore, or experience. It’s almost impossible to meet all of them where they’re at, so…we just don’t try.

Instead, we ask every one of those children to walk exactly the same path. It will suit some of them, on some days, but it’s unlikely any of those children will ever feel that their interests are truly the focus.

When you compare the challenge of working with a few children against the challenge a teacher faces in a classroom, it feels much more surmountable.

We have four children, all with different interests and needs, and one of the things we’ve learned together is that it’s super rewarding to help each other meet them. Our eldest, for example, likes his desk time (he’s a writer and illustrator through and through). But two of his younger siblings love getting out and about on adventures – beaches, walking trails, bike tracks – and he’s learned, over the years, that the feeling of sitting down to his next illustration session is that much sweeter when he’s been part of helping his brother and sister fulfil their needs by adventuring with us first.

I won’t sugar-coat that – it’s taken the building of a lot of muscle to get to that point, for all of us, and we still have plenty of days where we don’t find that nice balance. You can’t meet everyone where they’re at, every moment of every day. But I’ve seen enough examples of our children setting their own needs aside to help someone else with theirs to know how powerful a skill it is for them to be learning.

So yes, it’s going to be a challenge. Some days will balance and flow, and some days won’t. Some days will feel rich and full for everyone, and some days will feel hard and frustrating.

But there’s some very interesting learning and growth that comes from even getting to try.

All the best if you take the leap, Lindsey!

Thanks, always, for reading.

P.S. I have a fab new episode of the Life Without School Podcast coming this week, so if you haven’t listened to the first two episodes yet you can catch up here.

Issy Butson, aka Stark Raving Dad. Author of The Grandparent's Guide to Home Schooling

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