If you’re a regular reader, you know that I teach my kids at home until half-day kindergarten. But I know that many of you are full-time homeschoolers – and you’re wondering how to manage it when you have a toddler underfoot! I asked my friend Danielle to share her wisdom.
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Danielle is a busy homeschooling mom of four (soon to be five) little ones. While she hasn’t had a lot of time to post on her blog, Blessedly Busy, she’s full of wisdom for homeschoolers and teachers alike. Check out her top tips for homeschooling when you have a toddler!
Homeschooling with toddlers can be very challenging! If you’re having trouble getting anything done, try the following tips. They’ve worked with my own children!
How to homeschool when you have a toddler
1. Fill your toddler’s attention basket. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to play with your toddler before you begin your homeschool day. That’s a good idea. However, I’ve found that when I play with my toddler doesn’t matter. What’s important is that play with her consistently. She’s less likely to be needy and more willing to play independently.
2. Include your toddler whenever possible. My toddler is included in everything but reading, spelling, and math. She sits with the older children and copies what they do. Does she interrupt? Yes. Does she wander? Yes. I let it go and only intervene when she bothers her siblings. Over time she has become willing to sit for longer periods of time.
3. Create learning activities for your toddler. What is your toddler working on right now? Is there a toy or activity that will help? My toddler is currently working at filling small cups with water and coloring. For her, I might set a towel on the table with small cups that she can pour water into. Not sure what your toddler is into? Try tracking her activities with this handy worksheet. It’s well worth the time!
4. Rotate where your toddler is in the room. This works especially well if you have a toddler with a short attention span. Every so often, switch activities. Start on the floor with blocks, then move to a table with crayons, now sit on the rug with cars, etc. I would guess that 15-20 minutes per activity is a good start. Work your way up to thirty minutes for each activity. Thirty minutes is a nice amount of time that works for us most days.
5. Keep the formal schooling short. Most days, my toddler can play by herself for 60-90 minutes while I teach the older three. We have two one-hour sessions (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). If you are just starting out or have a particularly challenging toddler, you may have to start with shorter sessions.
6. Have a play break in the middle of your homeschooling session. Sometimes your child might need a little more attention from you. If your session is 90 minutes long, take a ten minute break halfway through to play with your toddler or help her get interested in an activity.
7. Assign an older child to play with your toddler. I’ve used this one a lot. I have four children. If each of the older three plays with the toddler, I get 45 minutes of teaching time with remaining children. My oldest is only 8 (7 when I started doing this), so there was a lot of training on how to play with a toddler. I feel like the siblings play so much better after starting this. It was well worth the effort!
8. Set a timer. It sometimes helps a child accept what is going on when she knows it will end. A two-year-old has no idea what you mean when you say, “Play with blocks until the timer goes off,” but she will soon. It’s also a nice reminder for me to switch activities.
9. Focus on teaching. You’ve set up an activity and space for your toddler. She has all of her needs met (food, sleep, attention from you, etc.). You’ve set a timer. Now comes the hard part. Your job is to teach your other children. You will have to ignore your toddler if she starts seeking your attention. (Good luck!)
10. Lower expectations. It is normal for toddlers to fidget and jabber. Do not expect homeschooling with a toddler in the room to be silent. Yes, it does happen, but only rarely.
11. Don’t lower your expectations too much. Do not accept screaming, running, hitting, or interrupting other students. No one can learn in that environment.
12. Relax. Homeschooling is hard. Training a toddler is hard. Take breaks when you need it. Keep at it. Don’t worry about perfection. Concentrate on improvement. You can do it!
Danielle is a former math teacher turned stay-at-home-mom. She homeschools her four children (soon to be five!). When trying to avoid housework she blogs at Blessedly Busy. Danielle has also collaborated on two books: How We Teach and Every Parent Can Teach Their Toddler.
*Images via iStock.
© 2016, Anna Geiger. All rights reserved.