I've not once schooled my kids without having other small kids around. I started schooling when I had a preschooler and a toddler, and then I eventually added an incredibly busy and talkative baby to that mix. My kids are just now nine, seven, and five--and for the most part, I school only the older two boys while the youngest
drives us insane delights us with her presence.
I have to admit, this is one of the hardest parts about homeschooling. It's also one of those things that most families have to deal with at some point or another. I'm going to list off a few tricks I've used through the years--and then allow others to chime in at the end.
Tips For Homeschooling With Small Children Around
- Use edutainment. Yep. I put that as numero uno. I do my best to play educational DVDs like ones that teach sign language (for babies, too) or immerse my kids in a foreign language. Next after that, I click on the public tv station, and after that, a round of soap operas. Oh, I kid. Anyway, I try to limit this to only when necessary and generally under an hour a day.
- Have an older child play with the younger child. This works if you have more than two kids and are trying to school one without the "baby" underfoot. My daughter is more social than a bazillion butterflies combined, so I pay my son a dollar for every half-hour he entertains his sister AWAY FROM MY SIGHT. Win all around!
- Let the younger child "write" alongside her siblings. In the past, I've used everything from crayons, pencils, white boards, color wonder, a magna doodle, and an aqua doodle.
- Take advantage of nap time(s). I know. This is the worst one yet. And yet, there are some parts of schooling that can't be done unless the wee babe is asleep.
- Make "school time" for the older kids "craft time" for the younger ones. Ideas for the different age groups include playing with PlayDoh, cutting with scissors, pasting with a glue stick, paint with water, coloring, and decorating with stickers. You'll notice I didn't include markers. Nope. Nooooo markers.
- Give the kid something to eat. This is a tried-and-true trick for kids of all ages. I often give my youngest child a snack while I'm reading to her brothers. During the week, I eat my lunch while I'm prepping everyone else's (take that, enjoyment police!) and then I read to all three kids while their faces are stuffed full of food. I pick things to read that are applicable to everyone--poetry, science, geography.
- Pull out the educational toys. The quiet ones, that is. Lacing beads, lacing shapes, blocks, Duplos or Legos, Lincoln logs, wood puzzles, stacking and sorting toys, pattern blocks, and play vegetables. These kinds of things end up on my Christmas wish list every year.
- Make room for messy play. Nothing enthralls a young child more than a mess. Scooping and pouring out water, making bubbles in water, playing with sand, and using edible finger paint. I used to let my preschool boys dump beans on the carpet and they'd drive their matchbox cars through that for hours. At least it felt like hours. Or maybe that was just the cleanup. But still, they loved getting out that bin of beans.
- Hold the youngest child on your lap. What baby / toddler / preschooler doesn't love to be held by her mom? (Okay, mine. So she sits beside me. And wiggles and rubs my leg raw.) However, there are days my girl will sit and listen quietly to the journals of Lewis and Clark, and why shouldn't she be allowed to listen if she wants to?
- Sit on the floor and "play" with the young child while schooling the older. Moms are magnificent at multitasking. There's no reason why you can't stack blocks and dole out spelling words at the same time. The only one who complains is Oma Achin Back. I've also ridden my exercise bike *while* holding a toddler *while* giving out spelling words. See? The options are limitless.
Okay, let's hear from everyone else. How do you keep the little'uns occupied while the big'uns do school?
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