Tip Tuesday: Homeschooling with Babies & Toddlers
How to Homeschool With Infants, Toddlers, or Preschoolers
Maybe you have been successfully homeschooling older children. You have developed your academic goals for them and have chosen a curriculum or method and materials that work well for you. But what happens when you add infants, toddlers, or preschoolers into the mix? How do you adequately nurture the little ones without compromising the educational needs of your older children, neglecting your home management responsibilities, or missing out on the joy of day-to-day life as a family? Following these steps can help!
Prioritize.Make sure to put first things first. Priorities will be different for each family, and different tasks have to be juggled on different days, with varying levels of importance--so this is a very fluid process. Our priorities: faith, family relationships, discipleship of our children, academic learning, and home management. Not everything needs to be done perfectly every day. The idea is that in the long-haul all your goals will be met. Remember that when you home school, it's 24/7/365, not from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday, 180 days a year. Some days it seems that we have to emphasize character-building issues and it may be a temporary frustration not to do so much "schooling," but we catch up quite easily on other days. It's a balance--so set your priorities and keep them in some kind of order, day by day.
Develop a good routine."Schedule," maybe--if it works and doesn't become a hard taskmaster for you. Routine, DEFINITELY. Everything goes much smoother if everyone knows what to "generally" expect in the course of each day. Make time for spiritual time such as prayer and meditation if this is a priority for you. Fit in chores, school time, free time for the children, some family time, extracurricular activities (well-considered), and whatever else is on your priority list.
Integrate life and school.As much as possible, consider how multiple objectives can be met concurrently. Some of the things that need "doing": taking care of the baby, keeping the young ones occupied during school time, schooling the older kids, character training, home management and perhaps ministry or service within the community. And of course, it's important to always enjoy just being a family! Some examples of integration: let one of your older children spend some time rocking the baby while they listen to a teaching tape or watch an educational video. Have a daily 30-minute chore time (or two, 30-minute chore times) during which everyone helps in some aspect of home management or food preparation. At the same time, do math drills out loud, Mom can read aloud to the kids while they work, or verbally review what the children have learned in their lessons during the morning or the day before. Let the little ones use the math manipulatives that the older kids are using or scribble on paper while the big kids do their writing. It may be a bit distracting, but it keeps the family unified and lets the little ones feel included--thus, they are often less disruptive.
Integrate multiple subject areas.Think about how you can kill many birds with one stone in academic learning by doing a Unit Study on a topic of interest. Use your science or history textbook as a springboard for theme-related ideas that you can flesh out with different activities. A quick search online will usually result in many great ideas, no matter what topic you want to cover. One example: One science topic on our list of objectives was to study the human body systems. We read a library book on body systems (SCIENCE), then (for LANGUAGE ARTS), we reviewed how to use a dictionary. The younger children used a simple kids' dictionary and the older used a standard dictionary. Each child looked up different words related to the topic. (For example, the first grader looked up things like "brain," "stomach," and "lungs," while the third grader defined things like "system," "organ," and so on.) They wrote words and definitions, then a short summary of what we had read. To integrate MATH, we compared the interrelated body systems to the interrelation of different mathematical operations (i.e., addition as the opposite of subtraction, and multiplication and division as inverse operations). Integrating social studies in this case was a bit challenging so we simply did some book work at a later time. Integration is great, but it doesn't have to be all-or-none. You can purchase many unit study materials, but a little creativity and an Internet connection sometimes suffices just as well. Also consider how the arts and different subject areas can be integrated just through journaling and "living books," as in the Charlotte Mason approach.
Expect and train your younger children (toddlers and preschoolers) to occupy themselves with a single activity for at least 20-30 minutes during school time.Activities in a bag or box are good for this (many ideas online, free or for purchase). Help them enjoy reading by giving them quality picture books and simple stories for an independent "reading time."
Meet the unique needs of your little ones.Balance quiet times with more physical activities. Keep them well-hydrated and offer small, healthy, mid-morning snacks. Fill them up with some "Mommy time" before their more independent play period. Finally, don't expect them to tend to a task or activity for much more than 20-30 minutes.
- Be willing to invest time in training your children--this makes the process of academic learning much smoother, when it happens.
- Don't forget, you are a family first--so no matter what you are "doing," make it a priority to love and enjoy one another.
- Always supervise your little ones visually, even if they are expected to be doing something independently.
- Again, always adequately supervise your little ones. With multiple ages of children, it's easy for little ones to grab little things that are potential choking hazards, or for them to wander off and find trouble while mom is addressing a schooling issue with one of the other children!
Video: My tips for homeschooling with babies and toddlers
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