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
- sidewalk chalk
- 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.)
- play-doh or clay
- memorization songs
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. 🙂
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.
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You can find the rest of my posts on how we homeschool here.