When I have little ones, under the age of two, people look at me and ask, “how in the world do you homeschool?!” Honestly, when they are that age, it isn’t too hard to schedule school because I can do it during their naps. I consider myself a naptime homeschool mom. Whenever my youngest has to nap, I focus on the older kids and we get their school done then. It’s when they start to get a bit older and the naptimes begin to dwindle, I need to start finding ways to keep them occupied.
This is not always easy.
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve had to train in this stage, it’s still a challenge every time a new toddler arrives on the scene. There is still the effort that I need to put forward, like training them to eat food they don’t like, or potty training. It doesn’t just happen, I need a plan! For me, not having a plan, means my husband comes home from work and finds himself tearing apart a toilet to get a toothbrush out that our toddler jammed in there. Or, not having a plan, means I have to listen to my daughter cry because her baby brother was found sitting on her bed finishing off her last piece of Easter candy.
The usage of the handy, dandy, kitchen timer.
The timer works wonders for my little ones. I schedule times throughout our homeschooling hours where I will have specific activities for my younger ones. When the timer goes off, they know the activity is over. It usually takes a few days to establish the routine but once they get used to it, it gives them a sense of security and comfort.
I begin this process when they are toddlers. My current toddler’s first activity starts when we begin our homeschooling in the morning. I pull his highchair up to the table when we begin Bible, memory work, group science and other group activities. As I work with the older ones, he will have an activity such as sorting colored blocks or playing with an age appropriate learning toy. I sometimes let them try their hand at coloring a bit at this time as well. Toddlers will often try to push the limit here by throwing toys or crayons on the ground once they realize they aren’t the center of attention. Although, once they know what is expected of them and become accustomed to the schedule, they usually like to be a part of the group and submit without reservation.
Pack and Play Time
After about twenty or thirty minutes in the highchair, I will give him pack and play time. This time he is in the next room over so I can peek on him if I need to. I set the timer for thirty minutes and give him only a few toys. Surprisingly, after a few times he began to understand that he was not allowed out of the pack and play until the timer went off. Now, he loves hearing the “beep, beep, beep” sound because he knows that it is the sound of freedom! I am aware that some parents avoid the playpen concept at all costs because they feel like they are imprisoning their child but, I have seen it work wonders for my kids. Of all of my kids, I have noticed that the ones who are more focused and able to concentrate during school are the same ones who played well, alone, in their pack and play when they were younger.
Once group time is over with the older ones, and they begin working on their own individual work, I might assign one of the kids to spend some time with the toddler. I will work with an older one on their math and reading while another one might play with or read to the toddler.
It might seem stressful thinking about keeping little ones busy as you homeschool without them terrorizing the house or being a huge distraction, but it doesn’t have to be. Yes, you will have to take a break to deal with issues or change a diaper or teach potty training at times but having a plan that you are shooting for never hurts! I have had success with these methods and if you try them out then I trust you will too!