If you’re like most “emerging homeschool moms” with several little ones, you might be looking at your brood of babies and wondering how on earth any “structured” learning time can happen in the midst of all the various needs.
Well, with the help of a group of young homeschool mommies at our last evening of enrichment, I have a list of some great strategies to share that you can use to help make structured learning time happen!
Before you read the ideas, let’s just establish that the two most important traits of a emerging homeschool mom is flexibility with organization. It’s okay not to get everything on your list done in a day. It’s okay to take a few weeks (or even months) “off” to focus on the birth of a new baby, gelling as a family and learning to love and serve each other. Be prayerful and purposeful with your time, and God is so faithful to teach our kids what they need to know!
Juggling an Infant while Homeschooling:
In my experience, homeschooling while caring for an infant is actually a little easier than juggling a 5+ year old and a toddler. Here are some ideas you can use while homeschooling and taking care of your infant.
1.) Baby Wearing
Place the baby in whatever comfy carrier you choose and voila! Your hands are free, you’re mobile and you can move amongst your older learners without too much difficulty.
Here’s a list of top baby carriers in case you’re not set up with one (or one that’s working for you) yet.
2.) Make Nap Time School Time
Use baby’s naps to do those homeschool activities that are more difficult to do with baby awake.
If your baby is older than 3 or 4 months but is still taking super short naps or won’t sleep without you holding her, you might want to consider using a gentle approach to sleep training to help baby have more refreshing naps and you to have more useful chunks of time to get school done.
I highly recommend the book The Sleep Lady’s Goodnight, Sleeptight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy.
3.) Blanket Time
Research has proven that allowing baby some time to play and explore on a blanket independently is healthy for baby’s development. Tummy time or a little play gym can buy you a few precious minutes to work through some homeschool with an older sibling.
Juggling a Toddler While Homeschooling:
This is a trickier season of life to be homeschooling older children. Those busy toddlers who like to explore, make messes and routinely put themselves in danger definitely require a little more thought. But here are some great strategies you can try!
1.) Toddler Busy Bags and Sensory Bins
Educational Busy Bags and Sensory Bins are wonderful tools for learning and entertaining your busy toddler!
There are zillions of ideas for busy bags and sensory bins on Pinterest or just by searching Google. You can find plenty of options that will work for the messy toddler who likes to throw things or the mouthy toddler who eats everything – I promise!
Busy bags or sensory bins are easy to make, and often you can use supplies that you already have on hand. Store the busy bags in ziplocks and pull them out only during special school time when you’re ready to work with an older sibling.
2.) Toddler Tray Time
If you need your toddler contained, consider some of these great high chair activities to keep her busy while you do a project with an older sibling. Or schedule some school time around a toddler’s snack or meal times.
3.) Incorporate Toddler Into Learning
When you can, look for ways to have your toddler be a part of learning times. Field trips and hands on learning activities and games are often great ways to get everyone involved. If you’re reading to your older child, let your toddler listen in and play while listening. If you’re doing a science experiment, allow your toddler to participate.
Or, you can create a slight alternative for your toddler that looks similar to what big bro or sis are doing. For example, if your older child is doing a workbook, set up some coloring time for your toddler.
You never know what those little ones will pick up along the way!
4.) Toddler Alone Play Time
Again, it’s okay for a younger sibling to have some alone play time while you work with an older child on school.
You may need to contain your toddler for this to work initially. A pack-n-play or gated room are some good options. Or it might work just fine to have them doing their alone play time on the couch or bed.
Regardless of where they do this, you can have them choose a quiet, non-messy activity to bring with them for their alone play time.
I’ve found alone playtime is great for developing independence, creativity and personal initiative!
Juggling a Preschooler While Homeschooling:
There comes a point when younger siblings exit the toddler stage but can’t quite do what an older sibling is doing. Here are some options of things to carve out time to teach olders while facilitating learning for a no longer toddler not quite Kindergartner.
1.) Preschool Activity Books
There are coloring books, cutting books, sticker books, and drawing activity books galore! And you can pick them up pretty much anywhere. These work great for quieter little people who like to be at the table with their older sibling.
2.) Preschool Learning Tools
Things like Geoboards, White Boards with Markers or Lacing Cards can work to improve motor skills and hand eye coordination while keeping a little someone quietly busy.
3.) Incorporate Preschooler Into Learning
It’s even easier with a preschooler to incorporate him or her into your teaching time with an older sibling. Let them join you during read-alouds, science experiments, for field trips and more!
4.) Preschooler Alone Play Time
I have a philosophy that if a child is done with naps, they are ready for quiet times 🙂 You need to use this for down time for yourself at some point in the day, but scheduling an alone play time for a younger sibling while you work with an older can be good as well.
You might have to get creative in figuring out what works for your child’s alone playtime. My oldest is so social that he can’t handle the “quiet” in quiet time, so he sometimes does his alone time with music or an audio book.
Juggling All Your Little Learners at Once:
1.) Do Subjects Together but Separate
In this picture, all the kids are working on “math.” The older two kids are doing workbook pages and the youngest a numbers puzzle. It worked.
I’ve gotten to the point where I can set the kids up with their activities and rotate between them as they work. Sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t mind intensity and am okay to handle several moving pieces at once. If you’re like that, this approach might work just fine for you too!
2.) Do the Same Thing at the Same Time
Circle time, crafts, reading, Bible activities, field trips, science experiments are all great ways to bring the kids together and have everyone participating. Our days go so much better if we start with some “together” activities before splitting up for independent play or learning!
So whatever approach you take to homeschooling and juggling your different learners, I’d encourage you to find things that can bring you together as a family, since that’s a big reason to homeschool in the first place.