How Do You Balance Homeschooling With Toddlers?

I received so many good questions about our homeschooling journey on Instagram recently that I decided to turn it into a little series!  I'm going to answer one question once or twice a week until we are done.  If you have any to add, please comment below!

How do you balance teaching one kid and managing other kids that are too young for school?

I get asked this question quite a bit.  I was honestly a little nervous myself about how to balance older kids and babies before we started homeschooling, but I've found it to be not as big of a deal as I thought it would be.  I touched on this question when I wrote about our routine in my mid-year homeschool update, but these are some things that have been helping us quite a bit.

1) I include the younger kids where possible.  For things like our daily Morning Time, Bible, and History, we do those subjects all together. The little kids love to sing and memorize just as much as the big kids.  Our history curriculum is made of picture books, and the little ones enjoy hearing the stories as well (I only make the big kids narrate back to me).  And Bible time is something I always want to do all together.

2) We do all-together subjects during mealtimes.  The little kids are alot quieter when they have food to keep them occupied.  I've also considered implementing play-dough mats, coloring books, bead-stringing, and other hand-busying activities for the little ones while I read, but I actually haven't had to resort to that yet because mealtimes have worked so well.

3)  We do one-on-one instruction during the little kids' nap/quiet time.  I've tried doing reading lessons and math while the little ones play in a different room - while possible, I've found it's a little more distracting to my big kids when I do that.  They wonder what fun they are missing out on.  I've mostly done individual instruction while the little ones are napping in the afternoon.  It extends our school day longer than if we did all our work in the morning, but having a quiet house and a more focused child is a worthy trade-off to me.  I imagine this will shift as the kids all get bigger.

4)  I know we don't need a four-hour chunk of time to do school.  I think I might have a little bit of an advantage here as a homeschool graduate myself, because I knew ahead of time that one of the perks of homeschooling is that you can get the work done whenever it works best for you.  This isn't public/private school.  You aren't running a school at your home - school is just incorporated into your life.  We do history lessons during mealtimes, math lessons on the couch, reading lessons in the car.  We break subjects up into bite-size chunks, take lots of breaks in between for playing and cleaning up messes, and put subjects off to the next day if everything gets too crazy and falls apart.  You are allowed to do that!  I wrote a while back about why I do not make daily plans - I make weekly plans, and that takes a ton of pressure off.  Instead of only having this one day to finish this one thing, I know I have the whole week.  That helps alot when you are trying to homeschool with little ones underfoot.

(All five of my babies, listening to Wyatt read in the playroom.  My heart just melts.)

Homeschool moms with babies - what do YOU do about the little ones while homeschooling?

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Rachel said...

I sometimes feel a little bit sad about brushing Cyrus off while I'm trying to focus on teaching the big kids. He's my baby! I want to play with him and do activities with him! So we usually do our activities in the morning or evening when it's just the two of us. Schooling during naptime would be great except the room is so small and Cyrus has yet to develop the skill of sleeping for more than twenty minutes in a room with a handful of noisy children. :P Oh well, short naps it is! So my strategy is generally something like explaining basic algebraic principles to Sarah while Cyrus wanders around the room, playing with his toys, eating snacks, and getting in trouble periodically for trying to pull books, pencils, and calculators off the table. It is definitely not perfect. I do storytime with him and with the big kids as well, but he can't sit nicely through elementary or middle-school level story books at this age, haha! It is a bit of a problem sometimes--I want to be "all there" for the big kids and "all there" for Cyrus but I can't do that at the same time. Cyrus is good at playing by himself, what he's not good at is staying out of stuff he's not supposed to get into. ha!

Maria Rineer said...

I love your homeschooling posts. I experience homeschooling vicariously through you!! While I wish I'd homeschooled, I really couldn't. I was able to quit my job and stay home with my kids when they were little. However, my husband and I had huge law school loans to repay and decided that when the kids were all in school, I'd find part time work. So, homeschooling wasn't an option for us. But I admire people like you who do and love to read about your experiences.

Elizabeth said... 2 year old stopped napping. :( She wants to be involved as much as possible, which becomes problematic if we have only one set of something like manipulatives. While I try to get a second set when possible, like giving them each their own paper and utensils, we do have to take turns sometimes, or do the lesson when she's distracted with something else. But as you said, we don't need 4 hours or even 3. Not for the younger grades, anyway. So for individual lessons I just try to wait for a time when she's distracted (going to be honest, sometimes that's watching a movie), and then we can jump into school for a few minutes. It's kind of unpredictable because you never know in advance when a toddler will play happily and when he/she will be clingy. Sometimes you can predict it somewhat by the time of day.

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