I apologize in advance…the formatting isn’t what I desired. But I tried typing into Word and then uploading to WordPress and got left with formatting that didn’t like to be messed with. So I’ll make do and let it go…
Ping. Pong. A ping-pong ball. That’s how I felt when I started homeschooling my daughter four years ago with a 3-year-old and a newborn in tow. Ping. Pong. Ping. Pong.
Surely somebody had the answer for how to successfully and sanely homeschool with toddlers and babies underfoot! Ping. Pong.
How were we ever going to get school done? Ping. Pong.
I frantically (and unsuccessfully) pushed to get my oldest reading early so she could do worksheets on her own. Ping. Pong.
How are we going to do this? Why does every other mom look so calm?
Those days, now, are close to behind us! My youngest of three just turned 4 years old. She sits on my lap a lot during school, plays with her toys in the living room, or watches some television. In the afternoon, she loves to go see her friends at her Montessori school.
Our local homeschool group’s moms are meeting on Saturday, and the first topic of our first Homeschooling Mom’s Coffee is “How to Survive Homeschooling with Toddlers Underfoot.” In preparation for that meeting, here is the list I have put together to share.
1. Prepare for …
- LOWERING YOUR EXPECTATIONS
- The MESS that allows you to buy time to teach
- SHORT learning segments
- GUILT for not tending your toddler and guilt for not teaching your older children “better”
- LESS FREE TIME
- LESS CREATIVE SCHOOL
2. Keep the toddler entertained with hands-on activities that help their learning skills, either in a high chair, at a toddler table, or at a the big kids’ table, whichever works best. The Montessori method calls these activities “children’s work”:
Fill a spray bottle with water, hand them a drying rag, and put them in front of a window, mirror, or refrigerator that needs “cleaned”
Fill the kitchen sink with soapy water, non-breakable dishes and silverware, and a dishcloth and see how long that entertains them or fill a small tub with water and put it on the floor if you’re worried about them falling from a chair.
Fill a plastic container with dry beans or other such dry food item. Give them a few containers and show them how to transfer the beans from bowl to bowl to bowl.
Give the toddler a cup of water and a few empty cups/containers and show them how transfer the water back and forth. My daughter’s school uses small pitchers! So cute!
Fill a large Ziploc bag with 1-2 cups of shaving cream. Push out the air, seal the bag and show the child how to “write” on the baggie. Then smoosh it up to clear the design and make a new ones.
Put a piece of wax paper down or a large jelly roll pan. Put yogurt on it and show them how to write in the yogurt.
Give pipe cleaners and something to thread onto them, like buttons or macaroni noodles.
Give them a medicine dropper and some plastic bowls of water and show them how to transfer water from bowl to bowl with the dropper.
3. Prepare toys and play items for them:
Have special toys that can strictly only be brought out during school. Legos, matchbox cars, special magnetic dolls, etc.
Put half or more of the toys that are currently out away. Then rotate the toys every couple of weeks or so to keep the toys “fresh” and novel to the child.
Give them markers, finger paint, lots of paper, glue, stickers and even child scissors to play with during school.
Play dough is great.
Make “craft bags” that you can bring out with a color page, stickers, Oriental Trading Post crafts.
Spoons, pots, and pans
Give a purse filled with child-proof items for them to pull out and play with.
Large child-safe magnets and a metal cookie sheet
Hole punch and paper
Hide puzzle pieces, cotton balls, or raisins in a Tupperware bowl of beans or rice.
4. Give them naps or quiet time
Some people are very firm on having the young ones take quiet time in their crib, playpen, or on a blanket at set times. Sometimes just even in the pack-n-play sitting in the same room as school with a special “school-time” toy or lovey.
5. Involve them in your activities or make it look like they’re involved:
Save unused worksheets from sibling’s workbooks to hand to the toddler at the same time the older student is doing the same worksheet type.
We had lots of extra Saxon Math sheets I’d give to my daughter when the other girls were doing Saxon math. And I made copies of the History of the World color pages for her that matched her sisters’ pages during history.
Let them play in the math manipulative set with the tangrams, plastic clock, plastic bears, dominoes, laminated hundred number chart, etc.
Tape player with headset playing books on tape.
Consider lapbooks and give them file folders, papers, and scissors like the big kids.
6. Rearrange your schedule:
If naptime is in the afternoon, then homeschool in the afternoon.
Do some homeschooling in the evening while Dad is home
Utilize weekends when Dad is home or family available to help. My kids don’t mind doing a subject or two on weekends.
Consider doing some schooling spread through the summer to give you more time to do school.
7. Have the older kids alternate back and forth and play with the younger sibling(s).
I have a friend who took this a step further! She has three children: 12, 9, and 4. She found it worked better if she actually alternated DAYS back and forth. One day the 12-year-old had to entertain the 4-year-old. The next day it was the 9-year-old’s job.
Have the older siblings read books to the young toddler.
8. Capitalize on activities of daily living:
Snack time: Give the toddler a snack and continue teaching the others while the toddler eats.
Bath time: Read history or a read-aloud to the others in the bathroom while the toddler bathes.
One year, we homeschooled in the afternoon while my toddler took a three-hour nap. It was a bit of a bummer because other families were schooling in the morning so we felt left out of playdates sometimes. We survived.
Decide what your limit is.
Put it in a foreign language
- I have a Romanian friend who speaks Romanian, Italian, French, Spanish, and English. When I asked her about her acquisition of language, she said as a child she would watch television in French so speaking French came pretty easy to her.
If my youngest watches TV during school time, it is in Spanish.
10. Teach older children to be able to start their school day with at least one topic/activity
Not as easy as it sounds! But still an endeavor I try for!
11. Take time for the toddler first
Recommended by many sources online—however, if I tried to do this, my kids will then continue to follow me around, haranguing me! “Play with me mommy. Play with me.” Aaah!
12. Rest assured that once you find a schedule you like and works well for you, guaranteed—it will change.
Be flexible. Not my forte.
13. Say “no” to outside stuff and keep life simple for a few years.
One day it will be you teaching a homeschool class for the co-op or Sunday school or hosting a coffee or planning the baby shower for someone.
14. Don’t talk to other homeschooling moms—oops, I mean don’t compare yourself to other homeschooling moms and what they do!
Your strength is their weakness. And your weakness may be their strength.
15. Really safety proof the house so the child may safely wander in the house and you won’t have a mess all over.
Child-proof drawers that repeatedly get pulled out and require you to pick up all of the time.
Baby gates to keep them in the same room or out of rooms.
Safety handles on door knobs, particularly to bathrooms!
16. Have dad teach some subjects.
17. Take it outside.
18. Use videos and books on tape for older kids.
Some curriculums have books on tape you can borrow from the library. History of the World does.
19. Outsource if you can:
Preschool and mom’s morning out can accommodate your youngest ones while you focus on the older ones and get them started well—so they can be independent earlier and set a great example for the up and coming!
Hire a babysitter (maybe another homeschooler you know or an older woman) to sit a morning or two a week while you tackle the nitty-gritty of math and reading
Find house help to do laundry, clean bathrooms, or chop onions for the evening meal so you have more time to devote to the kids’ education
“Kid-share” with a homeschooling family who may be in the same situation you are.
Arrange play dates during school if you know another mom with a toddler
20. IT GETS EASIER. YOU CAN DO IT!