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Homeschooling the Olders When You Have Littles

It’s a common question asked by new – and even veteran – homeschoolers. How do you manage homeschooling with littles in the mix? While it isn’t always easy, it IS possible to do so. It just takes some planning and ingenuity. Here are some ideas for homeschooling when you have littles of various ages.

Infant

If you’ve recently had a baby, be sure to give yourself the time to rest and practice self care. This is a time for focusing on the basics and letting go of some of the more time-consuming aspects of homeschooling, such as large projects or crafts. You may also need to put aside field trips and outside activities for awhile.

Learning about baby care can be a lesson in itself. Older children can learn life skills such as feeding, bathing, dressing, and changing the baby. There is also a lot to learn about patience, self-control, and independence when there is a new baby in the house.

Here are a few more suggestions:

  • Be creative with ways to help your older children be more independent. Use checklists, videos, and online courses as necessary.
  • Invest in a comfortable baby sling or backpack.
  • Be flexible. You may have to school at times you normally wouldn’t, such as in the evening or on the weekend.
  • Make good use of nap times.
  • Enlist help. Maybe dad or grandma could teach a subject or two, or an older child might be able to help with a younger one.
  • If you have the finances, hire a mother’s helper.

Toddlers

As your baby becomes a toddler, the frequent feedings and fussiness are replaced by noise and the need for strict supervision as your toddler explores the world.

  • Purchase a baby gate and baby proof a room where your toddler can be free to roam.
  • If you have more than one older child, work with one while the other takes a turn minding the toddler. Then switch.
  • Partner up with another homeschool mom with a toddler. Take turns entertaining the toddlers while the other mom gets undivided schooling time. An added bonus is that sometimes toddlers will entertain each other for short periods.
  • Spend some time snuggling and reading to your toddler first. He or she may be more willing to play alone after some attention.
  • Put together a collection of toys for use only during school time.
  • Give your toddler healthy snacks to keep his or her fingers busy.
  • Invest in toddler-proof books so your toddler can participate in silent reading time.
  • Teach subjects that can handle noise, such as art, music, science experiments, or PE, while your toddler is awake. Save math and language arts for nap time.
  • For older toddlers, take homeschooling outside and allow your toddler to play with water or in the sand.
  • Purchase large magnets and a cookie sheet (or use the refrigerator) for your toddler to create with.
  • Let your toddler splash in the tub while you work with an older child. For summer months, put a small baby pool outside and school on your patio.
  • If your toddler is past the “put everything in my mouth” stage, give him or her some stickers and a piece of paper. Save the free ones that come in the mail for this occasion!

Preschoolers

A preschooler will often want to be included with the “big kids” in school. The challenge at this age will be to contend with the preschooler’s short attention span while you devote needed attention to your older children.

  • Let your preschooler participate as much as possible. Consider including him or her in Bible, art, music, and PE.
  • Be clear and consistent with your expectations.
  • Divide whole family projects into parts, allowing your preschooler to work on an easier part.
  • Create a variety of busy boxes for your preschooler to use during school time. Some examples include stringing large beads, sewing with yarn
    on burlap, or transferring pom poms from one container to another using a spoon. You can find tons of other ideas online.
  • Work with your preschooler for a few minutes before starting school with the other children.
  • Have your preschooler sort items, such as spoons and forks or items of various colors.
  • Spray shaving cream on the table and let your preschooler make letters and drawings in it.
  • Hand your preschooler a pair of child-safe scissors and some scrap paper and let him or her go to town.
  • Pull out the play dough or moon sand. Rotate a variety of cookie cutters and tools to keep this activity interesting.
  • Enlist your preschooler’s help by giving him or her a rag or feather duster to clean the furniture or woodwork. Or teach a preschooler how to fold rags or towels. This not only keeps your child busy, but teaches a sense of responsibility and family belonging as well.
  • Use a timer. Set it for a number of minutes and if your preschooler allows you to work uninterrupted, reward him or her with a few minutes of individual attention. Gradually increase the amount of time.

Homeschooling with little ones in the house can be a challenge. Just remember that it is only for a season, and before you know it those little ones will be studying with their older brothers and sisters. Hang in there; you can do this!

At age eight, Stephenie McBride developed a life-long interest in teaching others. She taught English as a Second Language and Kindergarten in a public school for six years. Stephenie and her husband, Ben, adopted their two children from Kolkata, India, in 2000 and 2004. She has been an at-home parent and home educator since 2001. They use an eclectic mix of materials and approaches, with a strong emphasis on Charlotte Mason. Stephenie is the Assistant Editor of Publications for Home Educating Family Magazine. She also created and writes for Crestview Heights Academy Homeschool Curriculum. You can read more about Stephenie and her eclectic homeschooling adventures at crestviewheights.wordpress.com.

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