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How to homeschool if you have littles?


Immi
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I don't know if this is relevant to your situation because I don't know what ages your kids are.  I have a 6, 4 1/2 and a 2 1/2 yo.  We do a lot of things together.  For example, story of the world, science experiments, and handwriting.  I read to them during their meals and about once a day I can play a 5 min audiobook.  My toddler won't stay quiet for longer than that.  :)  I've made each their own notebook, so they have the same pages.  They may be doing something differently on the page, but they like to do things together.  I'm starting to do more math games.  I'm thinking about buying right start math games.

 

Sometimes I can get 30 mins in for my 6 yo before dh goes to work.  This is when we do math and phonics.  Then sometimes for about 30 mins after dinner I can do something else.  Sometimes math or critical thinking books can be done while my 4 1/2 yo is in ballet.  FLL and memory work can be done while he's playing with legos or wants to run around. 

 

We read for about 30 mins to 1 hour before bedtime.  I don't do as much reading as some folks, but this is the best I can do.  I know some people do audiobooks in the car, but my toddler won't sit for that. 

 

Now if you had a third grader as the oldest, this would be different.  I don't know how others do it.  So far it's working out for me.  No more kiddos for me.  lol 

 

Good luck!  Hopefully, you'll get some other perspectives.

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Yes, it's challenging. Especially when each student still needs a lot of handholding in the basic subjects, as my two oldest do.

 

It's really the toddler who is the biggest challenge because she, unlike her older brother at the same age, is incredibly mischievous and curious. The infant isn't bad. So keeping her occupied, him in preschool tasks, and actively teaching two different subjects to the older two students while nursing the baby? One dirty diaper is all it takes to make those spinning plates crash resoundingly to the floor and halt our day.

 

To minimize the disruption of needing to help the preschooler, occupy the toddler, or change any diapers, I instituted a workbox/workfile system. If I am in the middle of a subject when something comes up, I can either direct my kids to finish the task on their own or divert them to their next independent work folder so they aren't just sitting there at loose ends while I'm helping someone else. I also tried to stagger the folders in such a way that each child has their teacher intensive subject at a different time than the other. It's not perfect, but it has helped IMMENSELY.

 

Having fun activities scheduled for the preschooler keeps him out of trouble and feeling engaged - a maze or two, tangrams, coloring page, puzzle, play doh, train set time, Leap Frog dvd, etc. It is also teaching him to stick with a task and move into the next one, and helping him learn to sit still gradually. He will be turning five this fall, and is just about ready for basic phonics and a little more math.

 

The toddler tornado is the hardest. She does a simple puzzle at the table or joins her brother in play doh, and other I oftentimes set her up with a box of toys inside the baby play pen, like blocks, play food, trains, etc. Once she is done with that she either goes to her crib to play nicely or take a little nap, and then joins brother again either playing outside (I usually don't send them out until an older child is ready to go play with them) or watching a movie. She isn't old enough to not be a little disruptive and with that many people around the table it doesn't take much chaos or noise to make things go nuts, so when she is challenging I often remove her to play loudly elsewhere rather than try to make her stay with us.

 

This is also usually when the baby flips out ;)

 

I'm still tweaking and learning - what worked for us six months ago isn't working now, and won't be working six months from now! Schedule in break time, make sure your students have things productive to do when you're busy with baby or need to briefly leave the room. Expect delays, and don't fret if sometimes half a lesson is all the attention span the children have. There are plenty of years left for academic rigor, but when you have early grade schoolers and infants as I do it's really important to not try to schedule too much in the way of academic work, too soon, lest you burn yourself AND them out trying to keep pace.

 

The biggest piece of the puzzle for me has been the WorkBox system (Google Sue Patrick, I've modified it wuite a bit to work for us but the basic concepts a solid and is hers). A little prep the night before makes a world of difference in how the day proceeds. Even when I do inevitably get derailed changing someone, fetching a toy box, nursing on the couch, or trying to actively teach three people at once in entirely different subjects (fail!), we get a TON more work completed with a lot less stress just for having it laid out, organized, and right at hand for the children. If you see my signature, my oldest only just turned eight last week and I've been homeschooling for four years. She isn't overly independent because she is still fairly young. And yet if things get hairy I can direct her to three or four different school activities, already portioned out and easily available, so her time isn't wasted because the teacher is busy. It also gives the students a real sense of accomplishment to see exactly what they have to do each day and how much they've completed. Less dawdling, silliness, and lost time has occurred simply by changing how I school plan and laying out the day for each kiddo in a hanging file folder (we don't have space for the boxes).

 

Be aware that an hour of actual academic work can and will take two hours or more some days. It's okay. Go with it.

 

Also, schedule in fun things like puzzles, PE, or even just some jumping jacks or charades to break things up. My kids will learn for much longer periods of time when I let them stretch their little bodies or take chocoate and dance breaks when things get frustrating for them OR me. Keeping calm is 20% prep, 10% experience, and 70% the attitude we bring to the table and the atmosphere we maintain while learning. The lattermosr part is also the easiest thing to lose when stressed by toddlers and infants, and one of the most precious parts of schooling together as a family. Guard and cherish that attitude of joy and the love of learning. It will get you through so much.

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Have you read these descriptions of Susan Wise Bauer's homeschool days with little ones?  http://www.welltrainedmind.com/school-at-my-house/

 

I find them VERY reassuring because things here are similarly chaotic, yet some school is getting done every weekday, and we're doing okay.  

 

Last year, I had 1 school-aged child (2nd grade), 4yo twins, a toddler (1.5yo), and a newborn.  I'd go over a math lesson with my big girl in the morning, and she'd do the practice problems on her own.  We'd also go over a lesson in Growing with Grammar (not my favorite, but very independent), and she'd do the practice sentences.  The 3 middle kids would play together, usually pretty well.  The baby would mostly nurse and want to be held, and then nap at some point in the morning.  There would be diaper changes, and I'd make "second breakfast" during the baby's nap.  The big girl and I would usually manage to do some phonics.  In the afternoon, when the toddler (and hopefully the baby) napped, we'd do science or art or history projects.  There was usually some read-aloud time during the day, and more in the evening.  We would often make it to a park for a little while in the afternoon, post-nap.

 

This year actually feels a little harder.  The school load has increased as my oldest is doing a little more, and I have 2 kindergarteners now.  We try to get chores, math, piano, and language arts done in the morning.  The two little guys are not playing together well during school for the most part - there's usually screaming and reminders about not biting, pulling the toddler off the table, getting the toddler out of the spice cabinet, returning the toilet plunger to the bathroom, etc.  It's really hard to keep the youngest happy and out of trouble - he still likes to eat dirt, crayons, and play dough.  He goes down for nap right after lunch, and we have a couple hours to do our projects and read-alouds undisturbed.  Lately, I've been pretty tired and tempted to just zone out instead of getting right back to school once he's down for nap.  After nap, we're done with school for the day, and we go play outside for a while (or go to swim lessons, gymnastics class, etc.), and usually I need to clean up the kitchen and get started on dinner.  My husband reads bedtime stories with the big kids, and I read a picture book to the little guys.

 

I don't know if that's what you're looking for.  It's definitely challenging, but in some ways it's easier than the year I had a first grader at school, 3yo twins in part-time preschool, and a baby.  We are getting through school subjects, I'm pleased with my kids' learning, we spend lots of time together as a family, and there's time for the kids to play. 

 

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It's helpful to read how you make it work in your home. :) Yes, I have a little one, so I'm just trying to figure out how to go about juggling homeschooling with the needs of a baby.

 

In our first year I had a kindergartener, a 3 year old and a 1 year old. I have found that I have to be flexible. The schedule of our school day changed as the baby got older and napped less. At first we only schooled while he napped. My 3 year old would sit in on many lessons. Sometimes she worked puzzles or colored at table.

 

Now my 2 and 5 year old play in the room while I do lessons with my 1st grader. We usually start our day reading books the younger two picked out. They often sit in on Latin and memory work but I don't require it. When we head upstairs I start with the most time consuming subjects and try to finish them first. Some days we do have to stop work before I've accomplished everything I our plan, but now that we are in a routine it's rare. I have a pretty active 2 year old son and it can be challenging to school with him running around, but it isn't impossible. You will find your groove.

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I've always had either a baby or a toddler since my oldest has been school age...youngest is just moving out of the toddler stage and into the preschooler stage. He doesn't nap any more, so we have lost that time, but we used to always do read alouds and science demos while any nappers were napping. When I had a nursing baby, we would do read alouds or other couch-friendly activites while I was nursing. I try and have special toys and activities that we generally only get out during school time. DS3 likes sticker books, do-a-dot markers, stacking pegs, and coloring. I often start the day by printing a few new coloring pages for DS3 and DS6 to do while I read. They like new and novel pages of favorite characters better than just a coloring books.

 

When DS3 was younger, I used gates to keep him out of some parts of the house during school time. He would just climb over them now...LOL. I honestly have a lot of chaos some days when DS3 "sneaks off" and makes mischief. I also end up with a fair number of interruptions because youngest just cannot wait to show me his picture, needs help with the bathroom, etc. There are days where I really, really want to send him to preschool so we can have calmer days...but we manage and I hope he is a bit less mischievous by next school year. ;-)

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Babies are easy. Babies sleep in a wrap most of the day. The trickiest parts are when I don't have two free hands because I'm nursing a baby, and when I am not getting a full night's sleep so I nod off during readalouds.

 

Toddlers, otoh. My fourth toddler is quiet, and he was content to sit on the floor and play with toys, or hang out on my back, or sit on someone's lap and snuggle. My current toddler is a little different. He's twenty months and more like a two-year-old in energy and development. He's busy. Very busy. Our old house makes it tricky to have real baby gates. Thankfully DS2 and DS3 help DS4 by playing with him, and he's totally competent on stairs, so the worst he does is dump things out. I have tons of stuff for him to do, but he's not always interested, and he doesn't like to sit on my back. He does nap, but it's late in the afternoon, so we don't want to do schoolwork then. (He's also highly social and affectionate and fun. He likes the huge chunky crayons, so I sit him on the floor with paper and a crayon or two, and he scribbles happily.)

 

I make my schoolroom my baby safe room, so all the baby and toddler toys go in there. No LEGO, or other small parts. This helps a lot, and I know the busy toddler stage is a relatively short one.

 

If something really needs my full attention, and I can't get it done with a little one, I wait until DH is home in the evening or on the weekend.

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Oh rebbyribs, thank you for posting SWB's accounts of her days! They read suspiciously similarly to some of mine, right down to a couple of the names. My favorite part was the "can't I eat, can't I breathe?" because I'd get exactly the same answers from my crew, down to DS1 asking about breathing and DS2 worrying about his hungry stomach.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest cojoyoyo

This has always been a struggle for me. At one point I decided to put my little ones in a mother's morning out program a few mornings a week so I could have a solid block of time to teach the older ones. That worked for me, but it certainly isn't a choice everyone would make.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Have you read these descriptions of Susan Wise Bauer's homeschool days with little ones? http://www.welltrainedmind.com/school-at-my-house/

 

I find them VERY reassuring because things here are similarly chaotic, yet some school is getting done every weekday

I so needed this so thank you so much! Her day sounded so much like mine, right down to needing to be at college by 4 pm and getting there frantic and unprepared, dressing those last couple minutes before you need to leave! I have been homeschooling while in school part time since we began this journey.

 

I have a k'er, 2nd, and a 14 month old. It's been quite the year.

 

I don't have much advice. I try to school when baby naps and do some reading in the evening when she's already in bed. I also needed to learn to do less---we dropped some extra curriculars and pared down my plans to about half. That was hard but I am solely realizing they are learning some other great things and life goes on. They met their Lang and math goals for the year. My dd is finishing her math book this week, and has maybe 6 weeks left of spelling, maybe 4 of phonics, maybe 6 of her grammar and handwriting book. My son who is finishing his t-K year know all his letter names and sounds, can print the alphabet, do simple addition and subtraction, write 0-9, just started reading bob books and is able to cut, color, and glue. We only did half our planned core (history, science, art, music, lit.) and about half our Spanish goal. That's gotta be enough. They learned to much more self efficient this year. They learned to work on their own more and be flexible. They learned to help with household chores. They spent more time with grandma. They got to watch their sisters first year of life! That's a lot of learning, too ;)

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  • 1 month later...
Guest rbkruby1

Hi, I am new to this forum and to this field also, I am excited to know more how you carry out stuffs with kids at your home. All the very best. 

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  • 4 months later...
Guest Tsrwivey

Great answers! I used special toys/materials that I pulled out only when I needed uninterrupted time.

 

If you happen to be able to make it happen, hiring an older homeschooler (10-14yo) to come entertain the younger ones can be helpful. One of the older kids could entertain a younger sibling while you did some one-on-one with a third child.

 

At one point I had a water table set inside a plastic swimming pool to entertain a toddler. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

 

Sometimes my littles were more independent outside, weather permitting, we'd school outside.

 

Bulk cooking & doing chores at night helped me. Some moms just do school at night & on the weekends when hubby is home to help with the other kids.

 

Sometimes you just have to do whatever it takes to make it through the day. They're not little forever. My kids lived through being entertained by videos & quieted with a sucker. No mom guilt! PS Sweettart makes suckers & they're not sticky.

 

In 14 years of homeschooling, we never got done everything I had planned. Not once. We rarely finished a textbook. The kids all did well in college & life.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It really constantly evolves.  It will look different if your kiddos are 5,2, and newborn or just 6 and newborn.  It really depends on the situation, the age of the baby (newborn vs. 1 year old) and whether or not there are toddlers in the mix.

 

I've BTDT with almost every combination ;) and the easiest of all is adding in a newborn.  A nice snug wrap, breastfeeding, and a glass of water are perfect accompaniments to homeschooling.  On the other hand, with a one year old, I'd be lost without a highchair, baby gates, and naptime.  :D

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