I think this is really important, because homeschooling is first and foremost about family. All of the children have needs to be met, and the schedule cannot revolve just around the oldest child. This emphasis on only the older child is a clear and inherent danger in coming up with a rhythm that works for the whole family.
So, what to do? Here are some of my suggestions by age:
What does the baby need? Can the baby stay in a sling or take a nap or have a snack during part of school? Can you bring a high chair into the school room? Do school in the kitchen? Can the older children take turns entertaining a sitting or mobile baby? When will songs and nursery rhymes for the baby take place? Do you have those songs and rhymes picked out for the baby and penciled in your school rhythm? Use the same ones for a month, but do pick them out. Are you going too much for the older ones when the baby just needs to be home?
What does the toddler need? Toddlers are developing their gross motor skills and language. They need to be outside to run around and just explore nature, and they also need time to be on your back in a sling and observe what is going on in the home. Can you homeschool outside in your back yard? Can you homeschool in your garage or on a driveway? What stories and nursery rhymes will you be using with your toddler each month? Are they written in your schedule? What songs will you be singing? What practical work are you showing your toddler each day and how can your toddler help? When will you head to the beach, the forest, the meadow? Some families like to do concentrated things with their older children when their toddlers sleep; I personally find myself tired by the middle of the day when my toddler naps and want the whole family to be resting. Experiment and find what works best for you!
What does the three, four and five year old need? In two short phrases: WORK and MOVEMENT OUTSIDE. When will they be outside riding their bike, their scooter, playing with a stick in the mud and the sandbox, swimming, picking berries, helping you in the house and cleaning? If you do a circle time, do you have that laid out for the month or the season? (Some families take one circle and build on it over a whole season; again this is family preference!) What story will you be doing with your child each month? Is your child of this age still napping? If not, when is their quiet time and what will they do? Do they need a spot at the table so they can draw when big brother or sister is drawing? Where can they be when their interest quickly fades and they want to play?
What does the six year old need? Strong boundaries, a sense of purpose through work and contribution to the family and involvement with friends. The things for the three, four and five year old still apply as well. When will your six-year-old get out in nature? Can you homeschool outside? What will they do inside whilst big brother or sister is working on something? Do you have stories, songs, wet on wet paintings, longer craft projects, preparation for festivals picked out? What will the baby and toddler do when this is happening? Can your six year old ride a bike with no training wheels, swim, roller blade, roller skate, ice skate, ski, toss and catch a ball? When will your six year old play with friends?
What do your grades aged children need? Main lessons, perhaps lessons outside the home in what you feel is necessary, time and space to create and dream and play. What will your younger children be doing during main lesson? If you have multiple children in the grades will you rotate through work (ie, math with child number one, help child number two, go back to child number one) or will you present separate main lessons? Where are the breaks for movement and practical work? Does the active precede the sitting down part? How long are these lessons? If you have children in grades 1-3, are you expecting way too much? Are you requiring too much work?
For the ten year old and up, what is their responsibility for independent work? For helping the family through work in the home?
Just a few thoughts….