Is it even possible to homeschool while you have little ones in the house? Yes it absolutely is! When I began homeschooling, I had a just about to turn two year old and was 36 weeks pregnant with my third baby. I have homeschooled the whole way through, from those days until now, with my girls being 11, 9 and 7 years old. And no I didn't send my younger ones off to Kindy or day care, and no I didn't hire a babysitter or send my little ones off for a visit elsewhere so I could school. Not that these suggestions are wrong, I just found a way to make it work. Or should I say, lots of little ways to make it work. I often hear from other women that they are not patient enough to homeschool. I have found though, that homeschooling with little ones, is what develops your patience. So here are seven tips to help your days go smoother:
- Have a flexible plan!
You need a plan! In order to get the work done, you need to have a plan in place. Even a simple one such as reading a Bible story and memorising a scripture passage; then a Maths lesson; followed by a reading lesson; then a break and play outside. After that break you can begin with reading a lovely picture book or two, then work on science, art, history, or geography. While the children are eating their lunch, read poetry to them, then a chapter out of a current read aloud book. A plan is vital to be able to get things done. You may have heard the saying that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. So make sure you have a plan. However, be flexible! That is the key. So many interruptions can come up, a sick child, an appointment outside the home, hubby may have a day off work this week. Instead of dreading interruptions, use them as learning experiences. Allow the other children to play nurse, and read lots of books while cuddling up on the lounge together. Take everyone to the library or park after your appointment. Go for a bush walk with hubby. Make a plan to get the work done, but keep it flexible. One planning strategy I find very useful, is to grab one of our chosen curriculum's and break up the lessons in it by the amount of weeks we do school. Say there are 160 lessons in our maths book for this year. If we plan to do school for 40 weeks, then that gives us 4 lessons a week. So 1 lesson a day for four days will allow us to finish our book. Or, one lesson five days a week, means that we will finish the book 8 weeks early. So when an interruption comes up, we know we have a buffer. See how working out our plan this way gives us some flexibility while at the same time, completing the work?
- Make the most of nap times!
When do your little one’s nap? Do they nap for 2-3 hours every day? Make the most of these times. For me, I needed to be done with school before lunch, so during afternoon nap time, I needed to nap too. For several years, I napped every afternoon (actually I did for 15 minutes yesterday too). You may not need that extra rest time in your day, but if you do, don’t be afraid to take it. My youngest napped from 11am to 1pm every day for a couple of years. Sometimes we were finished school before then, so we would have lunch and relax, other times I left certain subjects for her nap times. During a little ones nap you can: do a reading lesson; teach a maths concept; cuddle up on the lounge with your older ones and read stories to them without the pages getting ripped apart. You can play games with them, ones that you can’t do while the littlies are around. Make the most of your nap times. Even in you don’t have any idea when they are going to nap, you can save one or two things to do as soon as nap time begins.
- School at the park.
Something I have never tried! But I have heard this works well for some families. We didn’t live near any parks (living about half an hour’s drive away), so for us to try this, it would take most of my morning getting us ready just to get to the park. But the idea is that the little ones can play and explore while you are teaching your older ones. Please ensure you choose a park with a fenced area and that you do still keep an eye each of your children. For some families with certain toddlers, it is just easier and safer to do this at home. All those who have one of those toddlers, say Aye!!
- Ask your mother or mother in law to come.
She can entertain the littlies every now and then. Say once a week for an hour or so, then you can focus all of your attention on the older ones, on subjects that are hard to get to such as history or science experiments. Or better, yet, ask mum or mum-in-law to visit once a week and do the science experiments with your school aged children, then you get that uninterrupted time with the little ones. Many mothers would not mind at all, coming over to spend time with their grandchildren and perhaps even helping out with the washing and lunch prep for that day.
- Can your older children babysit?
Depending on our how old your older ones are, they can take turns playing with the littlies. You can put them on a roster for 10-30 minutes at a time (depending on their age) when they can play in the backyard, play blocks or playdough, read stories to them. Anything! This works really well if you have a larger age gap between the oldest and youngest or if you have a large family. If all of your children are still young, it would not be wise to leave your oldest in charge of a younger one, instead, have the older one entertain the little one while in the same room as you. This allows you to keep one eye on them while you have the other eye on the child you are teaching.
- Fill up their love tanks!
Most important thing I found to help our days was to fill up the love tanks first. So I would be sure to spend quality time with my youngest one first in the day. Play, cuddle, read, fill her up with mummy time. Doing this helps them to not be so demanding. And usually, they are content to play on their own for a while. For us, this has eventuated into my having 45 minutes each school day with each girl, beginning with my youngest. This is when we cover reading, spelling, dictation, Latin, any subject that is aimed at a specific child and her level.
- Include them whenever you can!
Little ones love to feel a part of the family. Story time is a great opportunity to include the little ones – they can sit on your lap and enjoy the story with big sister or brother. Prepping food in the kitchen – often there can be something they can do with you while you are preparing a meal or snack, perhaps get out the four bowls needed, or place the fruit in the bowls for everyone. Washing up – what toddler doesn’t love getting their hands in a sink of water? I would sometimes leave my toddler at the sink while I headed back to the kitchen table to teach. One tip here, place a towel over the floor so when your toddler has had enough and wanders away, they don't slip on the water they spill. Looking after pets – perhaps they can play with the pets, cuddling them, and fill their water bowls. Allow your little one to sit on your lap for cuddles while you are working with the others. Don’t let them think that they are not a part of your homeschool, or that they are in your way. Include them in what you are doing. However, they do need to learn to not interrupt when mummy is talking with someone else, especially while teaching a lesson to a sibling. But just by including them, even by letting them sit on your lap while you are working with another child, will help your morning to go that much more smoothly. Be creative in ways you can include them.
Do you have any other suggestions you have found that works? Leave it in the comments below and help other mothers with little ones.
If you know someone who may benefit from these tips, please share it! Thank you!