One of the things I love about homeschooling is the way that my toddler can participate with her older siblings. She’s soaking up so much knowledge without even knowing it. At the same time, there are challenges that come with homeschooling with a toddler. Here are some tips from my own experiences, as well as my homeschooling friends Anna and Emma, for homeschooling with a toddler.
1. Let an older sibling play teacher
One perk of homeschooling is the multi-ages in your classroom. Use that to your advantage! Let an older sibling play teacher with some of the younger ones by doing a simple art project or reading them a book. This works both in the house and outside. One winter, my 5-year-old had lots of fun skiing with her older sister and pretending that her sister was her ski teacher. On another morning, she happily did her spelling with my 13-year-old while I was busy with some housework.
2. Do circle time together.
If you get them started with a few short stories and songs, they will amuse themselves after for quite a while. Fill up their little attention tanks with love, then try to get some work done while they happily play, rather than chasing them off with promises to pay attention to them later. Keep a stack of books where they can easily reach them. We make regular library runs to bring new books home for everyone to read, including the younger kids.
3. Put on a story CD.
We have a CD player and tape player in each bedroom. I often put on a CD story when I need to focus on the older kids. My younger kids will listen to the story and colour or play Lego together. Holy Heroes Glory Stories are great, as are CDs by Usborne and Barefoot Books.
4. Feed them.
Have lots of easy snacks on hand to keep them occupied and cheerful. Eating not only keeps little fingers occupied, it also keeps little mouths full so you can have a few quiet moments. Plus, regular snacks help prevent any hangry meltdowns during your homeschooling day.
5. Use educational shows or apps.
Yes, technology can be useful. There are plenty of educational shows or apps to help occupy toddlers and preschoolers while you’re teaching another child. Your toddler could have a special half-hour to watch the Magic Schoolbus, Wild Kratts, or their favourite TV show while you get math or reading done with an older child. I have a tablet for the younger kids (with an Otterbox to protect it) so they can play apps such as Starfall and Homer. Kids’ mode lets me set a timer on the tablet so that when their time is up, the tablet goes to sleep and they need to move on to a new activity.
6. Use manipulatives and educational toys.
Manipulatives like pattern blocks, stacking toys, dominoes, etc. are not only fun, they are also great for fine motor skills and other early learning. I have a box of “math toys” that often get pulled out to entertain other siblings too. For example, if I’m using the pattern blocks to teach my grade 2 student a lesson, my 3-year-old often wants a few pattern blocks to play with as well. If you’re homeschooling with a baby around too, be ware of choking hazards.
7. Encourage creativity.
Provide your toddler with washable felts and crayons, lots of paper, glue sticks instead of white glue, reusable stickers, stamps, etc. and let them be creative while you work with older children. I also have some colouring and preschool activity books that Jade uses, as well as a school “notebook” just like her sisters. A whiteboard or chalkboard can be fun too.
8. Use printables and worksheets.
Use a scanner/printer or photo copier to copy fun pages the school-age kids are doing and let your toddler do the same work and feel included.
9. Use clip boards.
Buy clip boards for all of your kids (even the 1-year-old). You can use them at the park, beach, in the car… endless possibilities for a bit of school and PLAY TIME!
10. Know how you roll…
Do you like kids crowding in on you or do you need your space? Can you hold the toddler while teaching the older kids or do you prefer if the toddler has his or her own space? Know when you work best together and plan school for optimal times. A happy family is always better the stressed school time!
Are you homeschooling with a toddler? What works for your family?