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Monday, August 1, 2011

Homeschooling with Little Ones

Henry, here at age two, enjoys activities at his own little desk.

A friend new to homeschooling recently approached me with an area of concern for her: "What do you do with a one or two year old while you are homeschooling?"

It's a problem that many homeschooling families face. Older kids are learning while toddlers are creating chaos, or toddlers are looked after while older kids are daydreaming or have become MIA.

Each child is different and I have found that solutions to "toddler on the loose" change with each child. For example, Henry would hide wine glasses in the sofa, and library books in the pocket doors. With Margaret we installed some gates, but she would still make a mess of the toilet paper and any exposed trash cans.

So what did I do? I planned ahead with distracting materials or bribed other children to entertain. I knew this stage would pass and eventually it did with my sanity still fairly intact.

Don't get me wrong, this stage is full of exciting and exhausting adventures. We are fortunate enough to have a schoolroom that we fill with temptations allowed only during set school times. Trio blocks, little plastic animals, and Pipe Builders are high on the request list around here. Items like these are only allowed during school hours and never leave the school room. That keeps them appealing and interesting. To help maintain order in the schoolroom I allow only one item out at a time. Sure, it may stifle creativity a bit to limit the use of the materials, but there are five kids living here and I've got to keep it real. A destroyed schoolroom equals unhappy kids and a tired and cranky mama.

Lisa over at Our Country Road follows a Montessori style of learning and has separate shelves for her littlest ones in the school room. She puts different activities on these shelves to keep them busy while the older kids are working. They all come together for some lesson time, and she also makes a special effort to engage her youngest learners while the older kids are doing their seat work.

Stephanie at Swinging on Small Hinges has loads of ideas for occupying her toddler during school time. She sometimes incorporates the use of a booster seat and gives her daughter Play-doh, counting bears, and small puzzles. She writes, "Maggie also enjoys coloring with crayons and paper and tearing up paper towels." She has several blog postings that deal with her adventures homeschooling and "baby-schooling," as she so fondly refers to it.

Another experienced homeschooling mom named Lisa suggests having a list of planned activities and activity bags ready for the younger kids. Lisa watches two young toddlers during the day while homeschooling her own three boys. She incorporates the use of a high chair and playpen to make sure little ones aren't roaming the house causing trouble (or getting hurt), and writes "If they had been my own, I would have trained them to [stay on] a "blanket.""

And don't forget the precious nap time! A lot of moms report that they try to get as much schooling done when the littlest ones are catching some ZZZZZs.

This season of homeschooling doesn't last forever, and I know some day I will pack up all these tempting manipulatives and gift them to a family with younger children. Until that time, though, I would be curious to know your tricks for occupying those curious and fearless toddlers during homeschool hours.

Margaret, here at age one, is up to no good while school is in session.


Lisa @ Our Country Road said...

You did a great job with your answer!! I think the biggest thing for moms to keep in mind is to not over think it. You had lots of great ideas!!

Rochelle said...

That photo made my year! That's my two year old son to a T!
Thank for the helpful ideas--- the play dough and high hair will be my next try. I'll have to buy nontoxic play dough or make it since I'm pretty sure he will take a bite lol