If you’re trying to homeschool with children under the age of 4 in the home, good luck.
OK, so it’s not really as bad as that, but getting academic work accomplished with older children, when babies, toddlers and preschoolers provide such…excitement…can definitely be a challenge! Moms who are successful at managing it all (and actually getting some education done at the same time) usually have to rely on a little bit of ingenuity, some periodic help, and a whole lot of flexibility! Part 1 of this series addressed two of the ways homeschoolers can work with little people so that school can get accomplished:
- Arrange homeschooling schedules creatively.
- Include the little ones.
Here are the other two major strategies:
3. Have someone watch the children.
Sometimes the best way to get school done is to get some help from others. If family members are around, try recruiting them once a week or so, to spend some special time with young siblings during older siblings’ school time. This can be a wonderful chance for grandparents to get one-on-one time with grandchildren, when they normally only get to experience them “en masse”. But family members aren’t the only options:
- Hire a babysitter. Even twice a week for an hour or so, having someone take care of the younger children can make all the difference in being able to get the “can’t be disturbed during this part” academics accomplished.
- Hire a responsible 9-12-year old neighbor to spend an hour or two with the little ones during school time. This gives the babysitter great experience (with Mom still at home in case of any major need), and usually pre-teen kids really enjoy taking care of young children. They are often willing to help for very little money – some might even be willing to do it just for the experience, if they are given some homemade cookies or treats for their efforts!
- Have an older sibling take care of babies and toddlers while Mom works with pre-readers (the most intensive and time-consuming age for homeschooling). Then Mom can do any teaching with the oldest child during the little ones’ naps.
- Swap childcare with another family. Once a week, agree to watch younger siblings for a homeschooling friend, while she teaches all of the older children. Then swap, and have her watch all of the young children on another day while you teach the older ones.
- Consider elderly neighbors. Elderly adults who are still able-bodied often enjoy the opportunity to read to or play with young children. This especially works well when the senior citizen is able to babysit while Mom is still at home, homeschooling, because he or she does not have to worry about physical limitations in being able to care for the kids. Even an hour or two once or twice a week of “reading time” with a senior citizen can give Mom much needed time to do academic work with older children. In exchange, the family can help the senior citizen take care of his or her yard, or do other tasks that might be physically challenging.
4. Keep kids occupied during school time.
One of the best ways to “get school done” is to have some special activities that the little ones are allowed to do only during school time. It also helps to let little kids do things that feel like school, so they get the sense that they are “doing school” too. The key is to make whatever the activities are unique – resources or options that are not used at any other time but school time. Changing up the options is also very helpful, so that they stay fresh and interesting. The more interested little ones are, the longer they will stay occupied! Some suggestions for preschoolers:
- Keep a “school activity box” filled with special items that are only used at school time, such as scented markers, stickers, colored pencils, coloring books, a paper punch and paper, a magic slate, or puzzles.
- Lacing beads
- Scissors and blank paper
- Books on CD
- String pasta on to yarn
- Styrofoam packing peanuts
- Play dough and cookie cutters
- Paint with shaving cream in the bathtub
- Lacing cards
- Make a writing tray by putting rice in a cookie sheet – use finger to write or draw
- Bucket of water and paintbrush for outside painting
- Throw bean bags into a bucket
- Letter magnets on the refrigerator door
- Put pennies or buttons into a plastic bottle
- Special dress-up box (only brought out at school time)
- Play with several large boxes and some blankets
- If all else fails, put on an educational show on t.v.!