It’s a question I’m asked with regularity. In fact it’s been asked of me 4 times in the past week alone. It seems a concept which baffles many people.
“How do you homeschool with little ones around?”
My response is far from practiced, which is surprising considering how often I’m required to give it. I usually shrug my shoulders a little, squint my face a little, and wonder the same thing myself. How do I do it? I don’t really know. The days just flow and come and go – some better than others – but the home routine remains a stable backdrop to the days, whatever they entail.
So with my half-hearted responses still fresh in my mind, I thought it was a good time to actually work through the practical considerations which make our homeschooling family lifestyle work. As I was sitting outside mulling over this issue, while staring into space as the children rode their bikes and skateboards all around me, I decided I’d share a few points here with you. Who knows, it just might be the inspiration you are looking for, or maybe it will add another little idea for you to keep in your Mummy toolkit, or maybe you really aren’t all that interested – and that is just fine with me as well. But I guess that it’s a topic of interest to many people based on the amount I get asked about this.
How do I homeschool with Toddlers around?:
- I take each day as it comes. Some will be ‘model’ days (remember these and reflect on them often!), others will feel like you are trudging uphill. Go with it and be flexible. Give yourself grace and be flexible. The ‘cranky baby days’ probably won’t work for teaching a hard to grasp math concept, try that tomorrow and do some review or drills today instead or simply leave the math altogether for the day. Be flexible (I think I’ve said that already). Remember that children still learn in a variety of environments and some seasons of life lend themselves to a more relaxed way of learning/teaching.
- Be organised. This is my way of coping with any situation in life. I like to have everything in order and organised. I’ve never done the last minute cram thing, even when I was studying all my assignments were completed well before they were due. I get severely stressed when I’m feeling like things are getting to the ‘last minute’ stage or a deadline is approaching which I’m unprepared for. Now, each evening I will usually put out any books, activities, car trip necessities or water bottles etc. ready for the next day. I have checklists made for just about everything (some of which get used and some don’t). I have lists of activity ideas for all the children. It seems a lot of work sometimes, but being organised means we can always find our school resources, or our craft items, or this or that particular book or….. and this is important to me.
- I make sure the older children always know what they need to do. Again it comes down to those lists and being organised. I’ve worked with a few different systems here. At the moment I have a basic weekly checklist which I give to the two older children listing the subjects they need to complete on each day. Most are easy to understand for them individually ie. they know to do one exercise in math, one chapter in each book etc. But it’s also easy for them to ask me if they need direction on exactly what to do once they have the books out and are beginning work themselves. It limits my involvement in directing their every move while doing ‘school’.
- Make a loose plan but keep it flexible (there’s that word again).
- Give the younger children focused time early in the day. I keep coming back to this one whenever I’m having an ‘issue’ with my little ones. And it really makes a big difference. How often do these little children just go with the flow in the busyness of family life? I’ve found that dedicating time to the youngest and second youngest first in the morning makes the day flow much better. Their little ‘love-tanks’ are full and it’s like they know they don’t need to fight for attention any more so they are more happy in their own space for a while. I think practically in this time though – a lot of things need to happen in those busy morning hours and the little ones generally love being a big helper. My little ones love helping hang the washing, handing me the pegs as we talk together the whole time (yes it does take longer), or maybe we will sort or tidy up together etc. It think it’s important for me as a Mum to take this time in the freshness of a new day to delight in these little ones and the stages they are at. Enjoying their childhood moments with an overflowing heart of gratitude.
- Have a morning routine in place. All those morning tasks happen without much effort here (most days). The whole family knows the expectations of beds made, tidy rooms etc. before breakfast. They automatically gravitate to the piano first thing in the morning when it’s their turn to practice (well sometimes, read:often, they need a subtle reminder, but we are working on it). I put on a load of washing each morning on my way to the kitchen without even thinking about what I’m doing. This frees up precious head space for other more important things and giving the little ones the attention they require.
- Include the younger children wherever possible. This can take so many forms. Sitting on the bench helping me put the cheese and tomato on the sandwiches. Sitting on my lap drawing while I’m helping the others. Giving the big kids things they need like pencils etc. Playing with pattern blocks while the big kids use them for math etc. What the activity actually entails isn’t all that important. I find the key here is my attitude. I need to be consciously looking for and creating ways to include the little ones (even when it means things take longer, or get messier).
- Have organised activities for the little ones. I’ll cover this in more detail in future posts. But I have a large assortment of weird and wonderful activities in calico bags or plastic tubs ready to grab at a moments notice (a lot of these are not typical ‘toys’ but things like post-it notes and star stickers, magnets etc.). I also have a little shelf at the moment which I rotate several activities weekly for my youngest. Depending on the ages and personalities of the children, I have previously had a tub which I would fill with books, activities etc. for each child and change it regularly, or have a surprise basket to whip-out when it was needed, or a box of random things I’ve collected around the house – old lids, trinkets, pom-poms etc. which the little ones seem to find fascinating. (This is a big topic for me and the way I manage my home and family so it will probably be ongoing topic found here.)
- Do school in a child friendly location. Some ages work best with the action happening at the kitchen table. Some days work best when the reading is done on the trampoline or on a rug on the grass in the sunshine, or sitting in a tree. . . At one stage I had a little rebounder trampoline in the school area which was fantastic for my little active boy. Other times I’ve set all the children on separate rugs on the floor to work on whatever they are doing, it’s a good change around and makes the little ones feel like building with blocks is important as well.
- Restructure the timetable to work best with rest times. Pretty self-explanatory, I suppose. While I’m quite protective of my quite hour in the afternoon, I will often use it to help an older child or listen to someone read or whatever I didn’t get a chance to do earlier in the day.
- And above all, be flexible and prepared to just go-with-the-flow each and every day.
I hope my musings here are helpful in some way, shape or form. Putting this all down on paper has certainly helped me remember the little things which are important in the smooth running of our family living this homeschooling lifestyle. I’ve also realised a few areas which I need to be more consistent in and give these little ones of mine some more focused Mummy time early in each day.
If you have any questions please contact me or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you and I’ll try my best to help you here, in my little patch of the blogosphere.
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