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Monday, January 13, 2014

Tips for Homeschooling With Littles

So often I hear the question, "How do you do it?" Some people elaborate further and say something like, "How do you homeschool with so many children?" or "How do you focus on school when you have little ones around?"

Our days are not always perfect (not by a long shot!), and we don't always get everything done, but there are some things that I do to with the younger kids that help me get our homeschooling done with the older kids. I thought I would post a list now, so you could be thinking about implementing some of these ideas later.

  • School in a room where littles can play. We used to do school on the dining room table, but inevitably I would end up bringing toys into the kitchen and dining room so the baby could be near us. We got tired of tripping over toys, (and now I have more kids!) so a few years ago we moved our school into the living room/play room. We had a table, some desks, and the piano in half the room, and toys in the other half of the room. When we were all working in the same room, it is easier to keep an eye on everyone (and keep the mess somewhat contained!).
  • School at the dining room table.  Life changes, and now we are back to doing the big girls' core work at the table.  When the littles want to join us, I will take out paint with water sheets or watercolors, Color Wonder markers or fingerpaint, playdoh, WikkiStix, or good ol' crayons to keep them busy while I read aloud.
  • Give them some focused time. Get the older kids started on a subject, then sit on the floor and do a few puzzles, stack blocks, read books, or play a game with the littles. If you give them 10 minutes of your attention, often they will be okay for the next 10 minutes while you help someone else.
  • Give preschoolers and toddlers "school work". I don't do regimented "school" with preschoolers, but often the younger siblings don't want to be left out of the homeschool fun! When they are excited about learning, you want to encourage that. Some printables, a coloring book, or a workbook from the dollar store go a long way in making preschoolers feel like the big kids. My preschoolers also love, which they call their "homework".
  • Make activity bags or bins to rotate. Put some time upfront into filling bags or bins with blocks, felt boards, foam shapes, things to stack or fill, or other activities. Rotate these items to keep your toddler's interest. Consider having them play with the items only on a blanket on the floor, to make it a more focused activity.
  • Do more intense or hands-on subjects during nap time. Do things that need your focused time and attention, like science experiments, when the littles are down for nap.
  • Do your read-alouds while nursing the baby. You are already sitting on the couch, why not invite the kids to join you and use that time?
  • Give older kids a break. My older girls sometimes get a break in between subjects when they can play with the little girls. This teaches them responsibility and helps build their relationships while freeing me up to focus on one child if needed.
One key ingredient to homeschooling with littles around is flexibility. We've tried staying on a schedule, but things happen and then we just get flustered with being off schedule. It's easier for everyone involved if we just try to stay on task with short breaks in between, while allowing time for life to happen! :-)

What other tips do you have?
I am always open to more ideas, so please leave a comment!


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