Thursday, January 5, 2012

How to Home School with a Toddler in the House

In September 2008 my oldest child started kindergarten. It was a momentous day for us. I think our school day lasted a whole hour back then. Partly because that's all the attention span he had and partly because I had a house, 2 year old, and 3 year old to look after.

One month later we added a newborn to our home and our home school went on unofficial vacation for a couple of months!

Thankfully by the time September 2009 rolled around I had learned a few lessons in managing 4 small children, a home and school!

Create a routine.

A routine is really a habit for the order of your day's events. Our morning routine is:
  • get up, 
  • eat breakfast, 
  • change clothes, 
  • make your bed, 
  • brush your teeth, 
  • straighten up your room, 
  • do your chores,
  • do your school work,
  • play until lunch.

Once a routine is established then everyone knows what to expect. This cuts down on disagreements with older children.

It also means mom doesn't have to think about when to do the different parts of a day. Not having to make decisions when you are sleep deprived is a good thing!

Also, the above example is our current routine. Our routine with an infant looked a lot different. You will want to create a routine around feeding and nap times. 

This is when things get tricky. How you handle the infant/toddler/preschooler during school time really depends on your family dynamics, the age of the child, and your child's level of development. I've used a variety of methods.

School during nap time.

I am a firm believer in getting infants on a sleep, eat, play schedule. Knowing that baby would be asleep from 10-11 AM every day gave me a predictable hour to do school with the big kids.

School with baby close by.

I never did the baby wearing thing. I have nothing against it. It just isn't me. So when we had school while baby was awake, I put him close by in a bouncer or exersaucer. We could see each other but he entertained himself with toys.

School with baby/toddler in another room.

When I learned baby #2 was on the way I toddler-proofed my firstborn's bedroom. I made the room as safe as possible, included a toy tub and some books and put a gate on his door. It's the only way I survived that first trimester!

I used the same baby gate when I needed to do school with my oldest and my toddler was getting into things. I gave him toys, books, and a sibling to play with in his bedroom. Baby/toddler was safe and happy while we accomplished school work. And my children learned to play together without me in the room.

School with a toddler in the room.

As toddlers become more aware of their surroundings they want to do school just like big brother. There are tons of creative ideas for doing this.
  • Coloring books or preschool workbooks just for the little guy. My now 3 year old was over the moon to have his own books and pencil bag this year!
  • Busy bags. Basically these are small plastic bags that contain fun but educational activities. Just google "homeschool busy bags" for more ideas than you could ever use!
  • Give him manipulatives, Lincoln Logs, or building blocks to play with on the floor.
  • A tub filled with rice or oatmeal and some miniature cars makes a great indoor sandbox.
  • If your school room is the kitchen run a little water in the sink with bubbles and let him play with spoons and cups. Just be prepared to clean up the mess.
  • Or let him "organize" your pantry. Keep canned goods and plastic spice bottles low so he can stack them on the floor. It's good practice for eye-hand coordination.
  • Include him in the lesson. My little guys have always joined us to read science and history lessons. They don't always understand what we are reading but they like to sit on my lap and look at the pictures.
Homeschooling with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in the house is possible. It just requires a little planning and flexibility.

What tips do you have for homeschooling and caring for little ones at the same time?

Linked to:
Big Family Friday at Holy Spirit-Led Homeschooling
Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family  
Hip Homeschool Hop Button


Stephanie Kay said...

You could also title this post: How to Get Housework Done with a Toddler in the House. Or How to Work from Home with a Toddler in the House. The principles in the different situations are the same: keep baby/toddler contained in a safe place or keep him busy. :)

Jess said...

This is really really helpful. Routine is something that does not come naturally to me butdefinitely something I want to grow in.

Stephanie Kay said...

Jess, you can do it! A schedule and baby gate is the only way I survived those early years with a toddler and infant!!

Just start off with planning a morning routine and then do it the same way every day (Mon.-Fri. when daddy's home things are different). All my children have nap/rest time immediately after lunch so if I could follow our routine from breakfast to lunch I felt like a success for the day.

Christie said...

At the beginning I think I sometimes underestimated my little guys and their attention spans. I have parts of the day where I read-aloud to my 1st grader, where I read to my third grader and where I read to them both together. I have been amazed that my 2 1/2 year old has listened in to my 3rd grader's read-aloud at times...pages and pages with few pictures! This doesn't always happen, of course, but he has paid attn long enough that he made relevant comments about the book! He was following the story line!!! I don't push it and let him listen in as he wants and have been amazed by all he is listening to and picking up! Of course, there are also days where he makes messes and screams loud and makes his presence known, but USUALLY he is happy to play with his brother, pretend close by but not disturb, play contentedly with play doh, Legos or water color at the table in the next room. When I read aloud, he almost daily asks me to read HIS favorite story (Baby Says)...and lugs over the big, heavy book to put in my read-aloud stack. I love that my 3rd and 1st graders are at home to see the daily antics of their little brothers. I love that they are having this time together!

Stephanie said...

Good tips. I think we've used all of the above. : ) Right now, baby boy naps a good chunk in the morning, but seems to be ditching the afternoon naps. Works great for school, but not so great for a happy baby the rest of the day so I'm debating tweaking it or letting it be for now!

Stephanie Kay said...

Stephanie, my sympathies on the nap thing! That stage between really needing a nap and not needing a nap at all is tough. Right now my 3 yr old is fighting his 2 hour afternoon nap. I find this happens every few months. I refuse to allow him to give up the nap. I know he isn't ready to because if I can keep him still and quiet he falls asleep within 10 minutes.

I'm sure you'll figure out the right combination soon. :)

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Schooling with a baby after an almost 5-year "break" between a 2nd and 3rd (last) children has been a challenge for me. We are planning to really toddler proof the DLM's room and gate it so we can work toward some alone time for him. I almost always do my oldest dd's math lesson while the DLM is eating his breakfast in his high chair. And I'm not ruling out putting him in the bathtub, which he loves, one day and doing school in the bathroom! Great post, Stephanie!

Jennifer said...

It's exactly like running a daycare while homeschooling. Great ideas! Another thing I do is keep small plastic animals in recycled plastic peanutbutter jars for "special playtime". They can sit and sort or use in playdough. Another one to keep little hands busy is stringing fat plastic shape beads onto leather laces. The laces keep the beads from sliding off and are stiff so they are easier to string with.

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