Homeschooling with children of multiple ages can be a bit stressful, especially when you have a baby or a toddler. Trying to find a balance while meeting everyone's needs may have you questioning your sanity at time, so its important to remember WHY you homeschool. Having juggled newborn twins, a toddler, and a kindergartner, I’ve come up with a tips to keep little ones occupied while I work one on one with the older students in my home.
Give Younger Children a Classroom Too
Whether you work in a designated room or all over the home while teaching, provide your younger children with a classroom too. If you have your own school room, give them a corner that has toys and tool for their age range to use that are educational. Babies and toddlers do well with stacking rings, blocks and large wooden puzzles. Preschool aged children might like to work in coloring books or activity books learning shapes and colors or even with a small board and alphabet magnets for letter recognition. Many of these activities are easy to store and allow them to “work” independently.
Give Them Special Time and Attention
Often as a homeschool parent you may spend hours working on one specific problem area with an older student. Your younger child may start to feel left out because brother or sister got so much dedicated time. Be sure to schedule in Mommy/Baby time to play, watch a special show or even snuggle for a nap together. No matter the activity, make sure they know they have your love and attention also. This helps considerably toward removing unwanted interruptions.
Set a Timer
Grab a traditional kitchen timer or use one on your phone but always set timers so you don’t get caught up and find an hour has gone by and your younger child has not had attention from you. Although typical classrooms work in 45-50 minute blocks, I find that setting my timer for 30-45 minutes works much more efficiently in our home. As children get older a more traditional time period will work but the younger ones need more time more often. If a lesson will take more than 30 minutes, find a good stopping point and take a mini break. If that means snack time, get up and stretch or simply seeking out the younger child to let them know you are there and want a hug from them it helps to break up the day into smaller more manageable fragments.
Make them your helper
Working on the white board with equations? Let your younger one help you erase as you do new problems. Need the classroom dusted? Give them a damp cloth and let them walk around wiping down what is at their level. For younger children give them a simple shoe box filled with colored pebbles or even two types of beans and have them sort by color. Letting them “help” you by doing little chores or educational projects of their own will help them feel big too and free up some time you need to work with your older student.
Invest in Good Educational Movies and TV Shows
We never want to use the television as a babysitter but there are days when we truly need something to give us some uninterrupted time. Schoolhouse Rocks, Liberty Kids, The Magic Schoolhouse and even classics like Gumby, Davey and Goliath and Sesame Street are very popular with all ages in our home. Some days Mom just needs the quiet time and time to work one on one with an older student and the DVD gets popped in for a time to occupy the younger children. Baby Signing Time was one of my favorites, because we had a nonverbal 3-year-old and ASL allowed us to all communicate plus the twins loved watching it while I worked with the older two on math or language.
Every family and every classroom is different but these are some common ways on how to keep little ones occupied during homeschool lessons. All are easy to adapt for toddlers through preschool aged children and can be specifically suited to your family dynamic. Don’t lose heart, many of us have been there and can sympathize with the often “hair pulling” days that lay ahead. Remember the goal and stand strong. Home educating our children is worth it.