Multi-level Homeschooling: Little Ones Part 1

Multi-level Homeschooling: Little Ones Part 2

Our Multi-level Schoolroom

One of the most frequent questions on my post about multi-level homeschooling was, “What do you do with the little ones?”  So here is my attempt to tackle this BIG question.

Since we began homeschooling until recently we have had 3-4 children ages three and younger, (we now only have a 4, 3, and 1 year old) so some things that work well for us, may not work for you.  We’ve never had only one small child and I imagine that would be quite different.  So as always, take what will work for you and forget the rest.

Train your little ones.

In our home the most important aspect of peacefully homeschooling with little ones around is that those little ones must be well trained.   I’m not talking about having young children who sit quietly and still for hours on end or who never squabble or get into trouble or make messes.  I am talking about having young children who are obedient, respectful and kind most of the time.  This post explains that our primary goal is godliness, not academics, so in our home we will and do take a break from  “school” in order to take the time necessary to train children, both little and big.

Spend time with your little ones first.

We have always scheduled “little kid” time before we launch into our regular school day.  This allows those little guys to get some mommy time and focused attention before they are expected to behave while mommy is otherwise occupied.  Here are some examples of little kid activities that we enjoy:

  • window markers
  • cutting and gluing
  • painting
  • sidewalk chalk
  • bubbles
  • London Bridge, Duck, Duck, Goose and other fun active games
  • gymnastics class (I teach them how to do rolls and cartwheels and we play hopping and skipping relay races.)
  • reading
  • play-doh or clay
  • puzzles
  • memorization songs
  • dancing

You get the idea.  When our little girls (now 4 and 5) were younger we did more quiet activities, now that we have two little boys (just turned 3 and 1) we gravitate toward more active choices.

One thing that has helped me to manage this time was to compile a list of possible activities and allow the children to select one activity each day.  This helps keep variety without the necessity of me having to rack my brain for ideas.

Use morning nap time.

Our little ones take a morning nap for a long time.  Our one year old is still regularly napping every morning.  I time this nap so that he goes to bed right after we have our little kid time.  This gives us 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours of time while the smallest baby is sleeping.

Include your little ones in the big kid’s school.

Each day our little children (everyone who is awake) participate in memorization work, Bible and read aloud time with the big kids.

We do our memorization box at the breakfast table and everyone simply stays in their seats and recites right along with us.  We also read and sometimes discuss a book during this time.

Then after we have had our “little kid” time everyone gathers for Bible.  Our little ones (everyone who is awake) are expected to sit still and listen quietly while we read and discuss.  Since the children worship with us each Sunday in church they are accustomed to being still and quiet.

Our read aloud time comes at the end of our school day.  We like for the little ones to be in the room while we read aloud, but depending on the book we are reading and the age of the little one, it may not be required.  The rule during our read aloud is, “no noise with your mouth”.   All of the children are allowed to have an activity while they listen.

Send your little ones out of the school room.

Sometimes mommy and the older children just need a break from all of the busyness, so we send the little ones off to a safe area to play.

  • Let them play in a play room.
  • Let them listen to a story on CD in another room.
  • If it is safe, let them play outside.  We sometimes allow them to play in the yard (depending on how old/responsible our biggest non-schooler is).  We also have a large fenced deck just off of our family/school room that is safe for young ones.
  • Schedule a big kid to play with them.  (Since we teach so many subjects together, this has never worked very well for us.)

Here are some guidelines that we use when our little ones are playing elsewhere:

  • I must be able to hear them if they raise their voices.
  • If I hear fighting, I stop school and deal with the problem immediately.  (Again see our homeschooling goals – Godly kids are more important than finishing math on a given day.)
  • They can lose the privilege if they are not reliable.

Keep your little ones in the school room.

Don’t be afraid to allow your little ones to stay with you during school.  This is what we do for the vast majority of our school day.  Those little ones will learn more than you think.

So I know what your next question is going to be, “How do you allow your little kids to stay in the room while you are teaching your big kids?”  Of course the most important part of that answer is my first point in this post, train your little ones.  However while this helps, I do realize that it doesn’t really answer the question.

I’ve run out of blogging time for today, (we began our new, full school schedule a few weeks ago) but I will talk about that next, starting with ideas for setting up or adapting your school area to easily facilitate multi-level learning.  School room pictures are coming. 🙂

Edited to add this link to how we keep our kids in the room with us while we are  homeschooling.

As always, comments are gratefully accepted.  Questions about our little kid time? small ones playing elsewhere?  I’d love to know what you want to know more about, what is new to you or what you do with your little ones,  so please leave a comment.

Would you like to talk with other Raising Olives readers?  Visit the Raising Olives Community , introduce yourself and start or reply to a discussion.

You can find the rest of my posts on how we homeschool here.

Multi-level Homeschooling: Little Ones Part 2

Share on Facebook0Pin on Pinterest8Email this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

21 Responses to Multi-level Homeschooling: Little Ones Part 1
  1. Twisted Cinderella
    August 11, 2009 | 10:20 am

    Thank you for the great tips. As I move into homeschooling, knowing that I will be starting out with seven year old and a one-year old and ending the year with the addition of a newborn, I can use all the tips I can get.


  2. Tristan from the Crew
    August 11, 2009 | 11:48 am

    We include the little ones in as much as possible too. We use our own version of workboxes and that helps my oldest work independently for a lot of things. The 3 and 4 year olds even have a set of weekly workboxes they can grab any time they want (or any time I tell them to LOL) to do activities too. Their favorites are puzzles, a pocket microscope, and file folder games.
    The 1 yo plays with math manipulatives, toys, puzzles, markers(and crayons and dry erase markers), books, and big siblings when mom is helping a specific child.
    The 5 month old is on the floor nearby, in my lap, or occasionally in the baby swing (next to us) while we do homeschool.

    The 1yo only naps in the afternoon (1pm – 3pm). The bigger kids do quiet time in their beds from 1-2 and then we have an hour for things that are easier with the 1yo asleep.

    I try to mix active assignments (can you do 20 jumping jacks and then run around the living room 5 times?) with quiet assignments for littles. The occasional well placed snack helps too!

    We can’t send the kids outside without an adult (we live in town along an alley. It happens to be the thouroughfare for the local high school students, especially since the $5.00 pizza shop is at one end of it!), but we try to spend time outside every day.

    We also have a mini trampoline indoor.


  3. Veronica at luvmyarrows
    August 11, 2009 | 3:27 pm

    Thanks for all the info! I have homeschooled my 14 and 16 year olds from the beginning, but with such a big age gap with my now 1st grader and preschoolers, it feels like starting all over again, so your ideas/tips are such a blessing.

    Happy homeschooling!


  4. Jennifer in IL
    August 11, 2009 | 10:10 pm

    I’ve gained a lot of mileage out of “school toy boxes”. I suppose they could be called workboxes. Most of the little ones toys go into 4-5 boxes, one for each day of the school week. After Mommy time, comes Crib time, snack, then I pull out the toy boxes. The toys only come out once a week so the little ones always look forward to see them again. Before we begin our fall/early winter season, when the weather gets yucky, I dump all the boxes and various toy boxes out. I spend several days sorting and deciding which toys will get packed away and which will go into a box. Each box is labeled so errant toys get put back in the right box.


  5. Jennifer in IL
    August 11, 2009 | 10:10 pm

    oops I forgot. We have ages 13, 11, 7, 5, 2 and due Sept.


  6. Tim
    August 11, 2009 | 10:12 pm

    Great post! Loved this. Especially the part about teaching Godliness over scholastics. Nice work here mom!

    Hope your having a good week!

    Love and Prayers,



  7. Gretchen
    August 11, 2009 | 10:25 pm

    Thank you so much for all of the tips. I love the activity ideas. I did not even know there was such a thing as window markers. I cannot wait to try them. I really enjoy your blog and all of your tips. One thing I would be interested in learning about is how you cope with morning sickness while pregnant and having other children and how you cope with lack of sleep those first few weeks after you have an infant.


  8. Heather@It's Twinsanity
    August 11, 2009 | 10:58 pm

    My children are 6, 5, 3, 3, 11 months, and 11 months. I am often asked about how I teach them with the little ones running around too. Honestly, I could use some tips myself! We have learned that it’s best for our family if I start lessons in the afternoon, after lunch, when the toddlers are sleeping. I keep the babies with me and they play or nurse while I teach-unless they are sleeping too, which is nothing short of a miracle! I would love to see pictures of your classroom and hear other tips for having little ones around while teaching!


  9. Jonam
    August 12, 2009 | 2:13 am

    Thanks for you good information


  10. Whitney
    August 12, 2009 | 2:20 am

    Just wrote out a big comment that I accidently deleted! Time for bed….Keep up the inspiration and advice. Its truly appreciated! Thanks, Whitney


  11. Laurel
    August 12, 2009 | 8:43 pm

    Great post! I have 13 children, and we have been homeschooling for 19 years. Last year was the first year that we did NOT have preschoolers and/or babies. (We began our homeschooling when we had 6 children under 7 years old.)

    We, too, have always taken advantage of nap time to do more concentrated work with the older children. We have also rotated older kids’ schedules so that they could take turns playing with little ones. And, we’ve had older kids teach younger kids at different times (which gives mommy time with the little ones). We may have an older child teach art or science, or help the younger ones with math or reading, depending on the older child’s interests.

    We, too, always focused our “schooling” on training up our children to love and serve the Lord. That has always been our primary goal of parenting. Character education was much more important than how old each child was when they learned to read, for example.

    Keep up the good work with all your little ones. It is the most amazing thing for me, now, that those 6 older children I started homeschooling with are now all young adults, each one passionate about serving the Lord, and several of them traveling the world as missionaries.




  12. Nikki
    August 13, 2009 | 6:58 pm

    Great post Kimberly. I look forward to more advice and pictures too. I’ve been fretting about how exactly things will work. And of course, when these twins will actually be born. But I always come away from your blog feeling uplifted and inspired. 🙂 Thanks so much for your faith.


  13. Lisa from the Crew
    August 15, 2009 | 10:48 am

    Great ideas! Thank you!

    Sometimes it’s very easy for me to get caught up in the “this schoolwork has to be done” mentality and I forget why I’m really homeschooling.

    Great reminder and I appreciate the tips!


  14. Christin
    September 29, 2009 | 9:34 am

    This is my first visit to your blog and I just love it!! Your family is BEAUTIFUL!!
    I love all your tips. I have 3 little ones, 4 and under. I spend some morning time working with them on “school”. My four year old and I work through phonics, some math concepts, reading, art projects, etc. My 2-year old and I work through letter, number, shape, and color recognition as well as reading time. After they have had their “face” time, My older one (7) begins her lessons. My 14-month old is a bit of a bigger challenge so we use her nap time to really dig into lessons.
    There is certainly room for more training because there is often disruptions. I really try to remember to keep handy some hands-on, independent activities for the little ones while I focus on my older daughter.
    Thank you for all these wonderful tips!


  15. […] run and clean up later Some days are just like that. For more ideas on keeping toddlers busy: Raising Olives Smockity Frocks Too Many Kids in the Bathtub and Miscellaneous Musings of a 5x Mom (whom I am […]

  16. […] a play/sitting/eating area off of the family/school room.  This portion of the deck is ideal for little ones who need an outside break while we are working on school. Back […]

  17. Dyan Croushore
    September 23, 2010 | 2:32 am

    We never trained our little ones to stay on blankets, and I have a 4 y.o., a 2 y.o., and an infant. How can we start with the 4 and 2 year old (can you give me specifics on blanket training)? Is it too late?

    I am homeschooling my daughters, ages 8, 6 and 6. Thanks so much for the godly advice! I have a tendency to push through the day just to check off the boxes on the school to do list, and neglect my little ones.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I don’t think it’s too late, especially if your 2 and 4 year old are accustomed to obeying you.

    Simply put the blanket out and show them their boundaries. Tell them that Mommy wants them to stay on the blanket and play with the toys. (I would set a timer for 5 – 10 minutes to start with.) Devote that 5-10 minutes to being certain that they stay were you’ve asked them to stay. If they get off the blanket simply handle it as you would handle any other disobedience.

    Does that make sense?


  18. camille Duckwqorth
    March 7, 2011 | 11:49 am

    all the comments have been helpful thanks!


  19. Rochelle
    May 16, 2014 | 3:50 pm

    Quick question: What are you middle age children doing during little kid time? I have a 6 year old who will be getting the school focus this year (first born) and I want to make sure my 2 & 4 year old get special time with me first, but I’m not sure what tasks to set the older child to while I focus on the little ones. She tends to want to do whatever we are doing too, but then (as often is the case), the focus is on her, the activity becomes more time consuming and elaborate, etc. Cutting and pasting turns into ART FOR GRANDMA, etc. I really feel the little ones need my focus for short while, especially since much of our group time is more at her level and she also gets nearly an hour of focused reading/writing/math time with me when the little ones play independently. I know this is a training issue, but I’m not sure what to exactly train her to. Thanks!!


  20. Paris Byrum
    June 1, 2014 | 11:54 pm

    Do you have any suggestions of homeschooling just littles? And how to ease into homeschooling, with all a year apart, but at different learning levels? Thank you


Leave a Reply

Trackback URL