As far as I can tell, there are two questions posed here:
- Do my younger children actually learn along with the older kids?
Well...I, too, believe that 0-3 years old is an important developmental time...but probably in a different way than a lot of people think it is. I think a 0-12 month old baby should have all its needs met immediately in order to create parental bonds, make him/her feel secure and loved and all those "Hey, I feel safe here" reasons. (Which is a lot of the reason behind why this last year wasn't as productive as I would have liked it to be--I was very busy with nursing Monkeyboy, taking care of his immediate needs and fighting sleep deprivation from being awake with him during the night.)
I'll walk you through our schedule as it stands now to show where the kids are throughout the day, keeping in mind that the schedule does a lot of evolving from season to season:
Breakfast is at 7:00AM. I clear the table at 7:30AM and if someone hasn't gotten out of bed by that time, they don't eat breakfast. It's my way of helping them develop the habit of getting out of bed in the morning.
We do the majority of our homeschooling during Monkeyboy's morning nap. He takes a nap from 8:30-10:30AM and also at 2:00-4:00PM. We can usually square away Math and all five Language Arts (Penmanship, Phonics, Spelling, Grammar & Writing) subjects during his first nap. Bluebird is very much engaged, Penguin is engaged for most of that time and Junebug likes to tag along with Penguin during her Math and Phonics lesson.
Then, if we have an activity to go with the lesson, we do that together as well. The Littles love science experiments and art projects just as much as the Bigs. I have to help the Littles, obviously, but it's time well-spent. Bluebird is required to do write-ups and narration pages afterwards, and I can sit with her and help her because my Littles are generally content to wander off and explore by themselves for a bit after so much stimulation.
After that, I prepare Lunch while everyone plays whatever they feel like playing. We eat lunch together and talk to each other and clean it all up together.
By then it's 2:00PM and Monkeyboy goes down for another nap, and if we haven't finished something, we do it then. (This next school year will see this hour scheduled for Latin, starting in the Second Quarter.) If all the schoolwork is done, then Bluebird and I do some chores while Penguin and Junebug amuse themselves with a little bit of video-watching or computer game playing. I am not a fan of television, video games or computer-time for kids; but this time of day is Quiet Time and they are far more quiet with these activities than other activity choices.
We have a snack at 4:00PM and try to clean up the house a bit and play outside. (Starting in the next school year, Bluebird will do her piano practice at this time.) Then we embark on the usual Evening Routines that any family would have, public-schooled or not. We play trivia games during dinner in which we all ask questions of each other to answer; I use it as a review session for school. I try to read out loud to everyone again in the evening after Family Scripture Study so their brains get a little more stimulation.
I'll stop there before I cause any toothaches. :)
I hope this answers your questions, AmyJane. None of it is said in a condescending or self-righteous manner. (I have experience with people interpreting my written words that way, so I just want you all to know that that is NOT where I'm coming from.) Homeschooling works for my family and myself. We like it. It doesn't mean that Michael and I love our kids more or that we're better parents than anyone else...ugh, please don't read that from my words. I am content with our lifestyle and see no benefit in hiding my happiness with it. (I also acknowledge that I am far from being a expert on the subject!)