Keeping Toddlers/Preschoolers Busy While Homeschooling Older Children
So, what do you do when it's time to teach the older children and your "littles" are gripping your ankles wanting the same attention. Well, being honest, there's no magical solution that makes everyday run perfectly smooth, BUT I will say that having patience and planning ahead makes for A LOT easier of a time for both child and mommy.
We all know the drill where morning and table chores are done and it's time to start school. Your littlest ones are wanting to do the same things that their older brothers and sisters are doing and while sometimes this is applicable, it's not always the case and you have to get creative with fun things for them to do. For instance, when we're doing History or Bible as a group at the table, we're usually illustrating what Mommy has just read and taught and little ones want in on the fun. Don't get them busy doing something else unless you've already tried having them participate with you on their own, lower level. Norah (3) and Isaac (1) enjoy coloring alongside their older siblings, illustrating just as they do and if they get done early, they are usually quick to scurry off and find something to do. I have also found that giving them some face-time before we actually start lessons helps TREMENDOUSLY. Sometimes, I try to get Norah's phonics, counting, alphabet book, etc. done before I start with the older ones so she has had some time with me. With Isaac, I can get him started on the back porch with some bubbles, water play or just read some books.
We keep a "Toddler Busy Box" full of fun things for little ones to stay busy with as the older ones work. Sometimes, I'll find Avonlea already setting Isaac up with something to work on before I get to him and praise her for being so kind and helpful. Some things do require clean up afterwards, but with four helpers and working as a team, clean up after school time can go quite quickly.
I remember being so thankful for THIS LIST awhile back. I thought about creating my own, but this one covered pretty much everything and why invent the wheel when someone else already has, right? I printed this page out, stuck it in a folder that stays in the Toddler Busy Box and when the items in the box start missing pieces or little ones get tired of the same things inside, I can switch them out or make new games for them. Keeps things interesting. Also, when I've gone to homeschool conferences in the past, I've taken some courses on keeping the little occupied ("My Father's World" does such a great job at this...great curriculum) and have thrown my notes into the folder that stays in the Busy Box. That way, when I need a refresher, I have those encouraging notes and ideas to stay on track and finish the race.
Some tips/notes I took awhile back at a conference:
- Involve them. Include them.
- Don't make your smartest, firstborn child smarter. Work with the little ones.
- Misconceptions..."They're too young to learn what the older ones are."
- Take advantage of when your older ones are doing independent work. Work with the little ones then.
- Use naptime if you must to teach the older ones. (*I hesitate with this one and have never done it due to the fact that quiet time is my time with the Lord and takes seniority.)
- Take advantage of littles WANTING to learn!
- Let them explore!
- Set up a learning environment and train them to stay on a blanket or sheet with manipulatives and a timer. Start with small increments of time, praise them for staying put and increase time little by little.
Happy learning with littles!