What a blessing that you have the wisdom and foresight from the Holy Spirit to begin at this time to prepare for your homeschooling year. I always think this is such a blessing. Your oldest child is five and this makes it possible for you to begin your journey with the homeschooling lifestyle at the beginning of her education. You will find that homeschooling your dear children will be as natural and challenging as parenting is for you now. In other words we do not necessarily eliminate all the challenges of parenting when we begin to homeschool. Homeschooling becomes a way to lessen challenges however there will be times when homeschooling presents challenges that are unique to this lifestyle.
You have brought up one of the greatest challenges and probably the challenge that is first encountered when we begin to homeschool. When I began homeschooling I had two preschoolers. My orientation was 'siblings go to school and I stay home with those babies too young for school'. I knew how to do the stay home with the babies part but I had to learn how to combine this with effective teaching. I can tell you from personal experience some of the tactics that helped me. However I feel very strongly that the Lord will empower you uniquely in your challenge. The Lord works with each of us singularly and personally to empower us to do His will. What works for me may not be suitable in your situation.
Your little girl is a very young student and as such she will not need lengthy instruction. 1-2 hours of concentrated work is far better than long periods of time spent at a table in front of books. Which brings up another point. Young children are learning at many opportunities throughout their day. Preparing meals, doing laundry, household chores and other times are all perfect opportunities for instruction.
Try to find a time when your younger children are resting or occupied to begin her formal studies. Using a lesson plan can make this easier for you. You will not have the burden of preparation to detract from the amount of time you are able to spend teaching. A lesson plan makes it possible for you to have a schedule and method for your teaching. Many parents find that a lesson plan keeps them organized and organization (as it is understood by the individual) is the key to effective homeschooling. Again a lesson plan is a personal set of goals set forth by the teacher and determines the path that instruction will follow.
I would suggest that you try to find a homeschooling support group that you can tap into. If it is possible seek out a Catholic homeschooling group. This will serve the twofold goal of support and spirituality. Sharing your faith with a group of moms whose goals are fairly the same as yours will be very uplifting. This group will also have the added benefit of friendships and playtime for your children. You will gain insights and improve your teaching skills as you take part in discussions afforded through the group. Many groups have conferences and opportunities for fellowship that further uplift and encourage moms.
Homeschooling can be an isolating experience. Feeling 'stuck in the house' is a common challenge moms face when very young children are not as able to play outside. I do not know where you live but if it is a place that is cold then you are probably a bit wary of getting young children outside. I used to live in the Aluetian Islands of Alaska. During the horrible cold of the winter months we often spoke about having 'cabin fever'. Yuk. There were days on end that I woke up and went to bed in the same 4 rooms of our tiny base house. For me to cure cabin fever it was necessary for me to find one activity to look forward to each day. This is in large part why I became interested in learning to bake bread. This was a skill that could occupy my time. In addition, I would take the children out of doors each day. Even if it was to look at the snow. J I had to get out of the house. Going to the library, the grocery store, a friend's house, church, or any number of places is healthy. Packing up the children and getting 'out' takes a great deal of effort but doing so empowers us moms to do more than we thought possible thus making us stronger more capable moms.
You are doing a wonderful job. I admire your foresight and desire to plan and prepare for the homeschooling lifestyle. I am going to assume that you are a mom that does not work outside of the home on a regular basis. You are definitely in the minority these days and times. It requires a great deal of sacrifice to deal with young children and the challenges they present coupled with the loss of income that would be possible if you had chosen to work outside the home. This is not to say that moms who are forced by circumstances to seek employment outside the home are any less worthy. Each vocation is a situation that is within the Lord's will therefore the glory is to the person who follows the Lord's will as they pray to understand it. I admire this in any person that I meet. It is a holy and pure witness and one that gives me great strength to witness. Praise God. Thank you for your letter. I can tell you for certain that your letter has helped countless others who have not written but will read your question and connect with you. J
Let us pray the Memorare together at this time. Let us offer up our daily toil with small children for all the moms who would desire to stay home with their children but are forced by circumstances to work outside the home. Our prayers and offerings will not only uplift us but it will uplift these moms as well. When we arrive in Heaven perhaps we will be greeted by moms who will thank us for the mutual prayers. St. Ann, pray for us. Amen.
Sending out a prayer,