Teaching Tortoise and Hare


There are so many moments, like the one I’m having right now, where I sit at my desk in our cozy little classroom and I can’t believe my life. If you had told a twenty-two year-old me that I would be a stay-at-home mom who was homeschooling three kids in the middle of the country, I would have laughed. Sure, we have dreams that we’re working towards, but this really is some kind of Utopia I’m living in.

Homeschooling has proven to be an incredible challenge. There are days where I, and my pupils, have all cried in frustration. There are days where I can’t believe the immensity of the job. There are nights when I lay awake wondering if I’m doing right by our kids. Ultimately, I know that there are no other circumstances where they would receive such a quality, hands-on education, but it’s an enormous responsibility, and sometimes I shudder at the weight of it.

My daughters are opposites. This isn’t news to me, but applying this knowledge to our classroom has really proven to be my greatest challenge. Siblings, especially those close in age, are so naturally competitive.  I’ve found the girls continually trying to outdo each other, even though they are quite aware that they are in different grades. Their learning styles are so very different too, which is equal parts amazing and frustrating. Hannah, our ten-year-old is deliberate and careful and meticulous. She’s a gifted artist, and she spends vast quantities of time on a different plane, we think. This makes her very dreamy, romantic, and empathic. She’s a born nurturer and humanitarian, and her imagination is vivid and epic. As her teacher, my greatest challenge is drawing her back to the here-and-now, and keep her on point and focused. I also struggle to keep her working efficiently and completing her tasks in a timely manner. Ayla, our seven-year-old is whip-smart. She often grasps the concepts (particularly in maths) that I’m trying to teach her older sister long before Hannah does. She is wickedly funny, spirited, out-going and sassy. She’s the kid with the answer for EVERYTHING. My challenge with her is to keep her from getting bored, because that’s when she starts to get disruptive and naughty. She races through her work, often sacrificing neatness and care, and so I must always work to slow her down. If she doesn’t immediately grasp something, she gets lazy and frustrated and wants to skip on to the next thing to race through. You can imagine trying to balance both of these kids at one time is a bit mind-numbing. I don’t rightly know how teachers handle classes with multiple kids!

I forget sometimes the freedom that homeschooling, and my unique lifestyle offers. When I lean on these realities, great things can happen. Here’s how I’ve decided to approach my girls individual needs, and keep our classroom a happy, inspiring place.

I’ve turned our schedule on it’s ear. I’ve decided to work with one girl at a time, switching off between Monday and Thursday. The girl who isn’t in class spends the day “at work” with my man, who runs our family business from our home. The kid in the classroom gets a full day of one-on-one attention. This almost totally eliminates any issues of focus or behaviour. The kid “at work” learns all kinds of valuable skills, gets to contribute to our family business, and gets lots of one-on-one time with Daddy. We still do morning recess, lunch, lunch recess and afternoon snack together, and each working day ends at 3:00. Then the girls will do a household chore and relax into some screen-free playtime, as we try to only do screens on weekends.

This week was our first foray into the new schedule. I think I should mix it up, so they do get some time together, and so we can have some more opportunities for play, which I feel we may be lacking. Our new twist seems to be going very well. Once again, creativity and risk-taking prevails!

How do you handle difficult sibling dynamics?