He's on the move. For over a month now, the Newbie has spent his days launching carpet expeditions hoping to open every cupboard, dump every basket, and upturn every well-layed plan. His curiosity and moxie are natural, but NATURALLY add a new element of adventure to our homeschool day.
But, with all the emails I have received in the last six months from other moms of tiny tots desperately trying to juggle the MOMMY and the TEACHER hats, I know I am not alone.
How do you homeschool with a baby or toddler?...The question continues to flood my inbox. And, although I won't begin to masquerade as an EXPERT on the subject, I have never homeschooled WITHOUT a baby or toddler. It's all I know.
So, as I watch my precious boy "unpack" the history book basket yet AGAIN, I will attempt to give you the short answer of how I homeschool with a baby or a toddler.
I plan my school day around the baby's schedule.
Not the other way around. In the past, I may have preferred to do the lengthy science project right after breakfast when everyone was eager and at his/her best. But with a baby in the house, science...or art...or that history diorama...needs to be rescheduled during naptime. No matter how young my older children are, they are obviously OLDER than my tot and therefore more capable of handling a flexible/ever-changing schedule.
I dedicate the first 15 minutes of school to my little one.
Most of the time, the mischief of a toddler stems from a desperate plea for attention. By giving the first and best part of each school day to my little one, I am filling his/her attention "tank". Afterwards, he is always ready to toddle off for independent play having been awarded my undivided attention right off the top.
I assign "baby time".
Just as I "assign" my baby to Blanket Time every now and then, I assign my older kids to Baby Time. I have even added that to our daily Task Cards each day. I am only one person with only two hands. As much as I would like to build block towers, read board books, and sing Twinkle-Twinkle all day long, that just isn't possible. But with the help of four pairs of sibling hands, my little one can be thoroughly engaged for much of the day. Each of the kids are assigned a 10-15 minute increment during the school day with which to play with their baby brother. The play has to be something that HE wants or would like to do and the older one has to be completely engaged in the activity the entire time. It is a chance for my older siblings to minister and serve...right in their own home.
I rotate toys.
Like most American kids, my children have MORE THAN their share of toys. So many, in fact, that I could give away half of all their loot and they would still have a roomful to enjoy. But, the reality is, no matter how many toys sit on dusty shelves, only a small handful actually get played with during any given day. So, I've taken the liberty of boxing up many playthings and storing them all in our basement. Every few weeks, I bring out a stored box, unpack it, and watch as all the OLD suddenly becomes NEW again. Toys that once just collected dust, provide hours of entertainment during the school day. My little ones show renewed interest in playtime when presented with "new" toys to entertain them.
I organize toys for simplicity.
We only have one lone basket that acts as a toy box for miscellaneous toys. All other playthings are organized into individual bins and buckets. In addition to helping to control the bedroom chaos, organized bins also help to provide structured activity during the school day. I don't typically let my little ones roam free throughout the day. While I sit at the dining room table helping an older one learn nouns and verbs, I have a direct view of the living room floor, the main play area. Since most of the toys are stored in the kids' rooms, the living room play can be controlled by limiting the amount of toys that are allowed to be brought out at any given time.
I usually start the day by choosing one or two toy bins to bring to the living room. The little ones know that these are the toys they will play with until lunch. After lunch, the morning toys are put away and a fresh new set of bins are selected for the afternoon. Limiting the amount of toys helps to eliminate the overstimulation that comes from having too many toys to choose from.
I provide "school" for my tot.
September, with its new books, review games, and supplies, can often feel like Christmas. Imagine if you had to watch everyone around you enjoy "Christmas" while you only got to watch from a distance? Oftentimes, this is how "school time" is viewed by the three-and-under crowd. Although he does not require a pencil box or a little pencil sharpener, my little Greased Lightening (3 years old) has one...just like his older siblings. Purchasing him a few fun new school items this past fall was well worth the expense. Even after months have passed, he still proudly drags his school box out to show family and friends. In addition, some intentional effort to include him in our school day during his Tot School, helps to provide the much-needed one-on-one time that every little one craves.
When all else fails, I choose MOTHERHOOD.
As I mentioned last spring when sharing a few thoughts about homeschooling with a newborn, I was called to the job of motherhood long before I began homeschooling. My older kids have the rest of their lives to learn all their division facts, but my baby/toddler will only be little for such a short season. In the busyness of the school day, I never want to just "occupy" my smallest gifts. I want to enjoy them ...invest in them...delight in them. Remember...the root of Homeschool is HOME and EVERYONE in it, and sometimes that has to trump SCHOOL.