Ever since my family began our homeschooling journey, I’ve had at least one little one to care for while attempting to home educate an older child (or two or three). This coming school year I’ll be juggling an infant and a 4 year old while trying to homeschool a kindergartner, 2nd grader, 4th grader and a junior in high school. It will be challenging at times (okay, almost all the time) but I know that a successful day isn’t determined by how quiet the little ones are or how much school work we completed. Rather, a successful day will be determined by whether or not we accomplished what God had in store for us that day.
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1. Spend Time with Younger Ones First
Put yourself in your little one’s shoes. She sees you spending time with your older child while she is told to be quiet and play alone. She wonders why Mommy doesn’t want to spend time with her and why she can’t join in on the fun happening around the school table.
Take a few minutes to read a book, play a game or do a little “school work” with your child first. They will probably do better playing on their own once they’ve had a little time with you.
2. Choose Curriculum Wisely
Try to find curriculum that requires little to no preparation on your part. Let’s be realistic. If you have a little one at home you probably aren’t going to have the time or energy to stay up and prepare for tomorrow’s lessons. Keep it simple and find a curriculum that has all or most of the work done for you.
3. Independent Learners
Let older children learn independently as much as possible. Choose curriculum that is written to the student instead of one that requires you to teach all the information. Look for thick student textbooks and little to no teachers manuals. The less instruction you have to do means more time to care for your little ones.
4. Multi-Age Learning
If you have more than one school age child, look for curriculum that allows you to teach several ages/grade levels at one time. This way you can minimize instruction time by teaching one lesson to all your school age children.
5. Stick to the Basics
Focus your time and energy on reading, writing and math and then add in additional subjects as your time, energy and sanity allow. If you have upper grade students, make it a goal to get them working independently on most of the subjects so that your instruction time can be dedicated to areas that are difficult for them.
Help your older kids become self-learners. Instead of answering every question they have, guide them in finding the answer themselves. For example, if a child wants to know how to spell December, direct them to the calendar on the wall. If they finish an assignment and want to know what subject to move on to, ask them questions that help guide them in finding the answer themselves like, “Can you tell me what other subjects you still have to do and which ones you can do on your own?” If your child is having difficulty with a math problem teach them how to review the lesson again before asking you for help.
7. School Time Toys
Have special toys for your little one that only come out during school time. Put together a special drawer or shelf or basket of toys that can only be played with when you are teaching your older child. Educational toys, activity bags, puzzles or any other fun toy or activity that your child enjoys playing with can be included in your school time basket or drawer.
8. Special School Supplies
Create a special school folder for your little one to use while you are teaching their older sibling. This can be a folder with blank paper or a more elaborate one with worksheets in page protectors to use with dry-erase markers. Have special school supplies that are only used during school time. This might include crayons, colored pencils, markers, stickers and a glue stick.
9. Keep Older Kids on Task
Little ones have a lot of needs that have to be met at the most random times. This can disrupt your older child’s studies if you don’t have a system in place to keep them on task. You can use workboxes, a Student Logbook or other resource to help school age children stay on task even when you have to step away to care for your younger child.
10. Get Creative with Time and Location
It might help to get creative about when and where you homeschool. Teach difficult subjects during nap time or on Saturday mornings when your spouse is home and able to watch the little ones. Read the history lesson to your son while you nurse the baby, listen to literature in the car while you are driving to the store, teach the math lesson on the floor next to the toddler who is playing with toys. The great thing about homeschooling is that you can teach anywhere and at any time!
11. Utilize the Television
Find an educational television show or just one your little one enjoys and let them watch it. Gasp! Did I just say to put your little ones in front of the television? Yip, I did! I’m a no television kind of mama myself but sometimes the reality of homeschooling with little ones around calls for some grace. Don’t feel guilty if you need to utilize the television so you can get some instruction time in with your older child.
Do you have any more tips for homeschooling with little ones under foot? I’d love to hear them!
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