Thursday, January 30, 2020

Homeschooling with a Toddler 

I've been homeschooling for about 12 years. I began when my oldest, Mikaela, was in preschool. She is now a junior in high school at our public school! Although my two oldest are in public school, I have homeschooled every year since the year I first began. I have had babies or toddlers (or both!) for most of those years. Now I have a 6th, 4th, and 2nd grader and a 14-month old.

It's not easy!

Zeke has started climbing...which means he climbs on our table anytime we are sitting at it and sometimes when we aren't. I'm constantly grabbing him and pulling him off of the table or calling for one of the other kids to get him off! He wants to grab pencils and markers from our caddy and throw them off the table all over the floor. He wants to throw everything into the garbage can and then take things out of the garbage can. He decides to throw fits when I read aloud and cry when I'm trying to explain a math problem. He loves to color and draw all over the kid's worksheets instead of on the paper I give to him.

He is a handful. A cute handful, but a handful indeed.

I'm going to list a few of my tips for homeschooling with babies and toddlers, but I'm going to promise you they won't work all the time. Some days there is nothing you can do but make it through the day!

I usually put Zeke in his booster seat with a handful of Cheerios or some breakfast. While he is corralled and quiet, I try to read our Bible lesson for the day. Some days, he will sit quietly for a while, but other days it's short-lived. Throughout the morning, I will give him a cracker or his snack cup when I need a few moments of quiet.

I don't really mean forbidden. I'm talking about toys your toddler doesn't get to play with very often. For Zeke, that is usually his big brother's trucks, tractors, and farm animals. If he's getting squirrelly, I'll pull out some of those toys and just set them down casually. He'll take the bait and play quietly for a good bit of time. Sometimes I'll give him the Magformers or bucket of crayons - things he doesn't have in his reach normally.

I can usually tell when Zeke needs some one-on-one time with me. I'll get his puzzle or his shape sorter and give him a good five to ten minutes of my attention, usually while the big kids are finishing up a worksheet or project. That focused time gives him a much-needed boost. Sometimes we will sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider or read one of his favorite books, sometimes we will do some of his "school" work (ABC Jesus Loves Me), and sometimes we will just snuggle and give hugs and kisses. It doesn't matter what we do, it's just the attention and time spent that helps. When I take my attention off of him again, he is normally happy to entertain himself for a few minutes. I usually give him several of these chunks each hour!

Zeke absolutely loves to read. He already has quite the collection of board books! He even has his favorites already - Moo, Baa, La La La and The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton and all of his "lift-the-flap" books (although I will admit some of his lift-the-flap books are flapless now!). I will put him in my lap or beside me on the couch with a few board books while I am reading or teaching or helping one of the kids with their independent work. Most of the time, he will flip through his books quietly for several minutes until he wants me to read to him.

I'll be honest - I don't do a lot of school during Zeke's nap. I usually hit the housework during that time - laundry, cleaning the kitchen, tidying up from our school work, sweeping, mopping, dusting, and cooking lunch. He usually takes a nap around 10:30 or 11:00. I aim to have our together school done by then (Bible, geography, and science) so I can get him to sleep while the kids begin on their independent work or maybe finish up an art project. When he is asleep, I will help Titus with his language arts and math (which takes maybe 20 minutes) and then start cleaning up and cooking. However, some people like to save all school work for naptime! Zeke doesn't take enough naps for that to work here. He takes one good mid-morning nap and sometimes an afternoon catnap.

We do most of our schoolwork before lunchtime, so I'm only having to juggle teaching with a toddler for a few hours each day. The rest of the day I can give him lots of attention and his siblings give him plenty of attention, too! If you have any more tips for homeschooling with a toddler, leave me a comment! I'm always looking for more tricks to put in my bag!

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