As a homeschooling, work-at-home mom, I don’t have a lot of time for anything other than caring for my two year old and seven year old. Since I’ve decided my eldest would be homeschooled until he completes the equivalent of his K-1 requirements, I’ve had to structure our days a certain way so that I get everything done, both for the work I do and for the things my kids need from me. I’ve found that the best way to really manage the needs of two children with vast age differences is to master three key “habits” that form the bulk of our day.
Schedule. My kids are five years apart in age, so they still operate on a different schedule from one another. My older boy no longer needs to take naps, but my new two-year old still gets cranky in the afternoons and needs a nap within the day. As a parenting tag-team, my husband and I assume certain roles during the day, depending on our schedules for work. If I need to get work done during the earlier part of the day, then we agree that it’s his turn and day to take charge of the kids so that I can get a good, straight two hours of social media and writing work done, at least before I have to prepare lunch.
Co-operative play and homeschool. In the homeschool classic Better Late Than Early, Dr. Raymond Moore (considered the “grandfather of modern homeschooling”) proposes that cooperative play not only helps parents manage a varied spectrum of homeschool concerns, but is also beneficial for child development. For example, when I ask my eldest to “teach” his younger sister how to play or create with paints, I’m imparting two things to him (1) leadership and, (2) the ability to assume a creative role in helping his sister explore materials freely and leisurely. Of course, this doesn’t mean they don’t get into spats, especially when the older sibling gets frustrated with his little sister’s quirks (which are the polar opposite to his rather “ducks in a row” approach). When they do get into a rut with each other, it’s the signal for me to let the older sibling do his own thing, while the little one is usually in need of a snack, a washing-up or a nap.
Chores and shared duties. Even the two year old is taught to put her toys away when asked. Her brother acts as the “enforcer” in this case, a role he seems to enjoy. As the elder child, my son can take on certain responsibilities such as setting the table, putting the dishes away after meals, fixing his bed in the morning, and of course, making sure his workspace and belongings are packed up at the end of the day. Both children also join me in the twice-weekly duty of organizing the clean laundry into each family members’ drawer or cabinet space. In doing these simple tasks, both children learn to respect that hard work it takes to keep a household running. In the future, I’ll be able to introduce more complex chores, such as prep cooking, the proper cleaning up of the kitchen, and so on. Right now, they are getting a kick out of using the vacuum cleaner daily!
Our days aren’t perfect and nor is our home, but we manage. I used to be so particular with having things orderly and in their place, but now with two kids (and a very curious toddler who gets into every nook and cranny possible in our small home), I can only do so much. I find that it’s at the end of the day when they are both tucked in bed and snoozing that I can really get around to some proper cleaning, fixing and arranging (with the knowledge that in less than half a day, I’ll be repeating the process all over again as soon as they wake up!)
Martine is a work-at-home mom doing social media consultancy and digital platform management. You’ll find her tapping the keys behind makeitblissful.com