Older children were never the challenge to home schooling that babies and toddlers were. Sometimes their goal seemed to be to disrupt everything else we were trying to do!
A toddler or young preschooler adds challenges to home schooling. They also remind us to practice flexibility. And they provide more than a few occasions of laughter and fun.
Still, trying to teach a math concept or direct a science project with a little one constantly underfoot is challenging. How do we keep our older kids learning and our younger ones happy at the same time?
In addition to first giving younger children the attention they crave and planning for interruptions, teach the children to help one another. Even a seven-year-old can tutor a five-year-old in reading or play an educational game with him or her.
With our youngest child we made what we called “Danny-Do Cards.” Each card listed an activity which an older child could do with the toddler. They were simple, but interactive and educational. For example, one card read, “Play ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’.” Another said, “Name the colors on the color poster with Daniel.” Or “Kick the ball from one end of the room to another.”
To begin, I put fifteen cards on a ring and switched them around regularly. The idea worked splendidly! The older children enjoyed having something concrete to do with the two-year-old instead of simply being told, “Go watch your brother.” My son benefited from the wisdom and knowledge of his older sisters, and Mom had a much smoother morning while trying to teach intensive phonics to yet another child.
Sometimes the only “solution” to the “problem” of managing toddlers while you are trying to school the older children is patience. The young ones will grow up and be in another phase before you know it. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to change something that can’t be changed. Even if you could, you would be wishing away an entire part of life. Embrace it, and work with the challenge.
Don’t forget that the relationships you are cultivating as you home school are what really count: parent to God, child to God, parent to child, child to child.
Toddlers in the homeschool are a challenge, but they are also a constant reminder that you are first a home – then a homeschool.