Right now I'm exhausted after taking care of my baby who still nurses to sleep 3 times a day. cooking healthy meals/ snacks and cleaning up after everyone all day ( I even have a cleaner twice a month for the big things!) I barely get a small activity planned with my 5 year old( we usually do something creative/personal interest that he doesn't get to do at school) . It's though to make it to swimming weekly due to my babies naps, but then hard to read a book while she is up and really she deserves some time with mom other nursing/ care taking. Of course we do lots together, but its not easy with the age difference. I could see things getting even harder when my baby drops one of her naps. My 5 year old is pretty time demanding, he is very creative and loves to learn, but needs/ wants help with everything. So even if I wasn't exhausted by the end of the day and had actually time to look at a curriculum, plan something, how should I find time to teach my 5 ( by then 6) year old anything with a 1 year old wanting up and attention all the time.
My other worry would be with attending outside of he home activities. There is a large homeschooling network where I live with tons of great activities spread all over the big city of which some we would really need( like French as we live in Ontario) . I would feel like we would spend so much time in the car, it not being very fair to my little one as she will need to come along too. And the looking into the future she will need activities that would be to young for my older one.
Hope my ramble made a little sense, I really would like to homeschool and feel its the right thing, but deep down think its not the right choice for us. Please let me know how do you find time to do the basics (regular chores, planning schooling, basic skills like swimming, slightly bigger projects, marriage, tiny bit of me time, especially with kids who have different ages.
Some thoughts that come immediately to mind:
1. Teaching independence. It sounds like both kids demand a lot of time and attention from you - which is fine. They're little, they should. But if you decide to homeschool, one thing each of them will need to learn is how to entertain/play/work by themselves for short periods of time. You'll need to be able to focus on your 5 yr old at times to help him, and the baby will have to learn how to handle that. But you'll also need to focus on the baby at times, whether it's to nurse, change a diaper, or play, so you'll want to teach him how to, for example, work on a worksheet and simply skip over the things he can't answer or doesn't understand and wait for you to be free to help him with those things he needed help with. That will go a long way toward helping manage it all.
2. Activities with the wide age difference. I don't know your whole family situation, so I don't know if these suggestions will help. But if it's something you can do, consider using those individual activities that one would be either too old/young for as some one on one bonding time. Leave the child that wouldn't be able to participate or benefit much from the activity with Dad or Aunt Sue or whoever, and take the other child to the activity and spend that time together. Also, keep in mind that you don't have to participate in every activity that a group you belong to offers.If something doesn't work for you (whether because of ages, location, timing, whatever), just skip it.
3. Combine. Look for ways to combine things that need to be done. If you're nursing the baby to sleep, maybe you can read a book to your son at the same time. The baby might be lulled by your voice as well as the nursing, and your son is getting the reading time he needs. You can also have him read to you. Or tell him he's reading to the baby. Have him help you with preparing dinner or lunch. He can learn math that way - you're having carrot sticks with dip for lunch, so how many carrot sticks do you need for 2 people? Or now the baby is eating carrot sticks, too, so how many do we need to add so she has some, too? Things like that will help with math, but doesn't require him to use any sharp knives or anything you might be uncomfortable with.
4. Curriculum. Take some time to look at options. Look at things like Charlotte Mason, unschooling, various ones you can buy, or creating your own unique mix of any and all homeschooling methods and curriculum. You may find that one method resonates more with you than any other, and that it doesn't require you to buy anything specific or to put in a ton of time that you feel you don't have. Homeschooling is time consuming, there's no way around that. But whether it consumes your time with planning and preparing or with having fun and spending quality time with your kids while they learn and grow depends on how you go about it.
Look into homeschooling in your area. You might find a group closer to you than you think, or maybe you could create one. I know, at first glance, that sounds like a lot of work and time to create one, but if you do it right, with the right people, you would have people who would help plan events and activities, and with time, you'd find those that you could trust to help you out with your own kids.
If it's any consolation, when I first pulled my kids from public school to start homeschooling, I worried about how to do it all, too. I always felt overwhelmed and frustrated and like I wasn't getting anything done. Over time, though, you start to learn what needs to be done, what can be done later, and what doesn't really need to be done at all - or at least, doesn't have to be done perfectly (meaning, you can let little hands help you do X, and it doesn't matter that it's not perfect - say folding laundry. The folds might not be perfect, the shirts might be inside out, but hey, it's folded and in the drawer, so call it done! lol).
I think homeschooling sounds a lot harder than it really is when you haven't done it yet. You think of all the things that need to be done, and you don't know how you'll do it. But once you start actually doing it, you learn that some things don't need to be done, some things do need to be done but they get covered naturally in the course of doing other things, or that one thing that sounded so overwhelming is really so much simpler than you thought. I think we also have this tendency to look at everything that needs to be done, and feel like it all (even 12th grade testing), has to be done RIGHT NOW THIS VERY MINUTE - when we have years to teach them everything they need to know.
Along with what everyone else has said, take it one day, one semester, one year at a time. Your family can always decide on a different method of education next year. It's not all or nothing. And home schooling isn't classroom/group learning where the teacher spends most of his/her time herding and corralling 20-30 (or more) children, testing, and reviewing. You will go at your children's pace. Cover basic addition facts in a week but spend several years to get to reading fluency comprehension. Or vice versa. IME, Kindergarten is the easiest grade to start with. It can be just a matter of picking out historical fiction to read while nursing the little one or using regular pencils and crayons instead of the preschool fat ones. After all, you were her first teacher and she still learned to eat, walk, talk, go to the bathroom, etc. Way more important milestones than when she will learn to read.
I think the other thing is that education-wise you don't have to cover everything. Kids pick up oh, maybe half or three-quarters of what they need to know -- or more -- just organically, in the course of living life. Three of mine learned to read with no instruction at all. Two of them learned addition, subtraction and multiplication facts with no direct teaching and no drill. They all learned about the electoral system, and music history, Greek and Norse mythology and a thousand other topics, with no effort on my part.
They're not unusual in this respect. I'm convinced most kids can pick a ton of stuff up naturally. But with homeschooling natural learning is hugely efficient for three reasons. First, homeschool children have more time and opportunity for "natural exposure" to things, because they're not in school for 6 hours a day, out of the flow of family and community life, with their environment structured and limited. They're surrounded by family and community life and conversations and highly varied real-life activities: they'll pick stuff up. Second, there's more flexibility about when things are learned, so a parent can notice that the concept of multiplication just isn't sticking, and decide to let it go for the rest of the spring to do some geometry stuff instead with plans to return to multiplication in the fall, and then in the meantime the child's real readiness for multiplication kicks in and by the fall it has already been magically learned. Thirdly, because you're intimately involved with your own children, rather than teaching a classroom of 20 kids you hardly know, you are aware of what has been naturally learned and you can just skip right over it. In a Grade 2 classroom, they have to teach the six (?) different phonetic ways of spelling the 'ah' sound and practice them in word families for days and weeks with spelling tests, because a portion of the kids won't internalize accurate spelling without that. Even the 40% of kids who have already mastered it will have to cover that ground in class. But at home if your child is a brilliant natural speller, well, you don't have to spend hours and days working on basics that were mastered long ago.
All of which is to say that as a homeschooling parent, even one who wants to ensure progress through a conventional course of study, you can get away with very little "schooling" compared to what you might think.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
I wanted to add that the time you do sit down and help one-on-one does not to need to be during the day. Often our best, most "academic stuff" gets covered right around and/or after dinner, with dh home. In fact when he does get home, they want him to "mail" them a "math test" he writes out, play board games with him and he usually obliges (do not discount family board games--they can be the primary source of academics for the younger set--math, reading, logic, etc.) Not only can before/after dinnertime be the best time for the parents, in my house it seems to be the best time for my kids as well. It just so happens that they are in that perfect place-- mentally active and curious, physically *calm*. Evenings find us at the table doing projects, origami, sketching, scotch-taping. Earlier in the day they are focussed mostly on play or their own explorations--physical or academic. Mornings their brains and bodies feel dull. Bedtime finds them bouncing off walls. For some reason, dinnertime finds us all together and lively.
Otherwise, we have also discovered what moominmamma shared--our girls have also learned most of what they know without explicit instruction. I do give them the credit for teaching themselves to read and other academic skills. I have added to that, for sure, when they wanted, but it has been minimal compared to the work they do themselves. When I'm feeling doubtful, I keep track of the things they do or what they say during the day that helps me assess what they know, and in some part about what might be the next step for them. It really can save you a lot of time and headaches, especially having littles around to care for, not to work hard to cover ground that will be covered eventually in the course of their days.
"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
We're doing it! Homeschooling, homesteading, living green with a big kid and a baby- both of them very intense/high needs. I felt just like you a year ago, so I want to write a ton...but I don't have time right now. Be encouraged though, as busy as we are, it's not the kind of harried ,draining busy that I felt when I was working and DS was in school. It's a lovely, full life kind of busy.
Living life instead of school leads to learning by osmosis. Kids just absorb information from what's going on around them. Having a garden leads to life cycle of plants, diet and nutrition, chemistrry, botany, biology, reading, writing, math. Home schooling can be (and imo should be) a holistic approach to learning.