Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Homeschooling with Little Ones

Homeschooling while caring for a baby or a toddler--or perhaps several little ones--is a challenge for even the most seasoned homeschooling mother. In fact, teaching school-age children while comforting a teething baby and filling a toddler's sippy cup again can seem downright impossible.

Having survived nearly seven years of homeschooling, along with two new babies in the past four years, I'd  like to encourage you that you can homeschool successfully, even during this busy season of life. The key is finding something that works for you and your children.

1. Be flexible with your schedule.
While your local schools may start their day at 7:30 AM, remember that you can choose the starting time that is best for you. If you are up frequently in the night with a newborn, setting your alarm so you can start school "on time" just isn't practical. Likewise, if your toddler needs lunch at 11:00 AM, there is no need to endure a whiny, hungry child until noon--pause that math lesson and fix lunch.

2. Use naptime to your advantage.
If you are struggling to fit those more-involved projects into your day, take advantage of the baby's afternoon nap for uninterrupted work time. Science experiments, nature study, messy art projects--all can be accomplished with less stress during this less hectic time period.

3. Consider using independent work for some subjects.
It is very helpful if your child has at least one or two subjects that he can do on his own while you are changing the baby or starting a load of laundry. At our house, for example, I like math and language lessons to be taught directly to each child, but I am comfortable allowing them to do history (mostly) independently. I know that I am still available to follow up as I grade papers, making sure that they are understanding the material they have read.

4. Follow a lighter schedule on hectic days.
During especially busy days, such as a week of special church services, allow yourself to simplify your homeschooling schedule. Perhaps you could just do math and language arts, and skip history and science for a few days. Or maybe you could allow your school-age children to read educational books for a week, giving you a break from direct teaching and grading. Find a way to make those hectic days less stressful for everyone!

5. Find quiet entertainment for younger children.
Special coloring books, play-dough, quiet books, busy bags--anything that only comes out during school time will captivate your child and allow you to work with your older children. If you have math manipulatives that aren't a choking hazard (pattern blocks, dominoes, teaching clocks, etc.), you may find that your preschooler will be happy to work with them for quite a while.

6. Be gentle with yourself.
Remember that it is perfectly fine that you aren't accomplishing the same things that your friends are. Each family is different, and each season of life is unique. Remind yourself that tomorrow is another day, a fresh start. Do your best, and enjoy watching your children learn in the way that works best for your family.

What creative ideas do you have for homeschooling with little ones?

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