Homeschooling can be a nice way to connect with your children, with gentle instruction, creation and discovery.
But adding one, two, or three little people is a true juggling act, homeschooling with little kids, and no game plan is a recipe for hard times.
Is this you?
You invite the little ones to the table with whimsical notions of family bonding, only to have them bite chunks from your erasers, steal pencils, and scribble on EVERYTHING.
You know it has to be different, that you have to find a way to have the time to teach, to be there, with your elder children, and have little ones who don’t tear the house down in the meantime.
Essentially you need not just distractions for them or use up your afternoon nap time to teach (this sounds terrible to me)
You need a system, that creates children who understand ‘school time’.
School time in your home won’t look the same as mine.
But for an hour or a little more a day, you need peace.
I didn’t say quiet, It never will be, there will be some noise but it’s about the young children knowing that mum isn’t available right now.
It doesn’t hurt them to know this, to be raised with it, in fact, it helps them to create quietly, to play alone happily, to listen, to be respectful, to be polite, to be children who can be around you and not be obtrusive.
HOW TO INCORPORATE YOUNG CHILDREN INTO THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
When we sit to begin a school morning, my young children aged 3 and 4 have a choice. To come and sit, or to play away. My almost-two-year-old is in earshot playing and is currently in the training stage.
CHILD TRAINING FOR SCHOOL TIME
My three and four-year-olds have been trained. If they want to sit with us, they can do so, but I do not pay attention to them, they sit and listen as I teach the elder children.
If they want to sit with us, they sit quietly and draw. In my other post, how much time should you spend homeschooling each day? I detail why you should include your young ones (3 and up) and why it pays off not just for homeschooling time, but for educating younger children with ease.
THE TRAINING PROCESS
When you sit to start the school morning, the little ones will see you and the older children congregating at the table and naturally want to join in.
I allow this, knowing it will be disruptive.
RULE 1. I do not allow them to touch things that I don’t give them. A piece of paper, a pencil.
When they stand in the chair or reach to snatch things, I place them to sit back down and direct them to their own paper and pencil. If they cry, they are removed from the table to play with toys in the next room.
When they come back (sometimes immediately) I repeat the process at the table, giving them a chance to behave.
If they will not stay quiet at the table and disrupt and refuse to play with the toys when placed away from the table, I place them in their bedrooms(or cot) with some toys and books, leaving them to play until they either calm down and we can try again, or until the lesson is finished.
I start this at the age of around 18 months. (or as soon as walking)
There is no crying at the table.
If they are old enough to speak there is no asking me questions when I am talking to others.
They are to keep their hands to themselves.
If you are strict with this process, you will see results in a week or two.
A trained child should demonstrate the behaviour of the above, quiet, listening, not a distraction. They can be included and spoken to, but should not demand attention, as they get older they can contribute and take part in the school morning, but always knowing that they are to be respectful of school time.
If they don’t want to come to the table or leave it after a time. They must play where I say (for safety, if they aren’t old enough to be outside alone) They must play quietly and if together, without fighting.
If they don’t play quietly and disrupt the lesson, they are given one warning.
If they do it again they are told to take a book or a toy into one of the bedrooms and to remain there until the lesson is finished.
It doesn’t take long for the younger children to understand that school time is a time to be there with us, but not the centre of attention, they can enjoy the school time at the table, or take the time to have some quiet play.
PROVIDE PLAY-ENCOURAGE IMAGINATION
I don’t have any special toys or toy baskets for school time. I have toys that they enjoy, and they are directed to those. (cars, animals and trains are hit in our house)
I don’t have fancy activities to give them at the table or special things for them to do, the time is not about them.
Instead, they are encouraged to get creative with what they have. Imagination aids in the development of social, emotional, creative, physical, lingual, and problem-solving skills in children. These are important skills to develop in early childhood, and so if I am going to be having my young ones play, I like to encourage them to use their imagination and not just mindlessly attacking new toys to keep them occupied.
CREATING ONE ON ONE TEACHING
Sometimes you need to teach a child one on one, to do this, I have the other child/children take the younger ones to play, either outside or in a room, I set the timer for 15-20 minutes, and teach a one on one lesson.
The child watching the little ones is not to let the children come to me, or leave them until the timer has ended.
If this occurs often (more than twice in a week) I either reward the other child with pocket money for their diligent work or I teach the child who needs the one on one, in the afternoon quiet, so that the other child school time is not disrupted.
CREATE OBEDIENT STUDENTS
Another problem I have faced is the children I teach (students) misbehave during teaching time.
I had this problem before I started training the young ones the way I do now, and so my older boys were rowdy and frustrating to teach even for a few minutes.
They sit slumped over, with their legs folded underneath them.
They play with their books, drop their pencil 10 times, throw erasers, and constantly distract others around them.
As much as homeschooling is at home, and can be relaxing and not ‘class orientated’ school time is a time to learn, it’s an effort for you to show up day after day.
As a mum of five, I do not have time to ask them repeatedly to sit, listen, and watch them crawl on the floor to pick up their pencil for the 8th time.
Set rules and follow through with discipline.
They are to sit straight, with both legs under the desk or table.
They are to always arrive at the table with the same pencil and eraser, they get a reward for this at the end of the year.
They are to listen
They are to write legibly, if it’s done badly they must start again.
They are to keep their hands to themselves.
They are to book their books back in their place
If they do not listen, or are loud and not sitting still. They are given tasks to be completed immediately after school is done, for each offence. (empty the chook scraps, clean the basin, sweep the back steps)
It’s very effective.
School time with a newborn
First of all. take time off.
No one is handing you a gold medal for homeschooling during the first few weeks of a new baby, so sit back and enjoy the new life in your home.
Once you are ready to homeschool again, the process is the same, except you have a little less time and cannot start exactly when you like.
I would set myself up to know, that as soon as the baby went down in the morning we would start school.
There is more mess about, and you probably don’t feel great with a lack of sleep.
Just take it one day at a time, shave it back to a three day school week for a few months.
Feeding a newborn gives you many more opportunities for teaching on the couch, get one of your kids next to you with a maths book, read aloud.
Adapt, don’t try and go on as normal, it’s exhausting.
FILL A CHILD’S CUP
I used to use school as a way to fill my children’s cups. I used to spend time reading to them at the table, I used to be looking up fun ways to do things, and be more creative.
It’s very nice, but homeschooling with little kids is hard.
Not impossible, and it’s good to include those things but not every day.
Use time Blocks
Now I use time blocks, little snippets of routine to help me to be there just for them, away from my hectic to-do list.
I realised I was including schooling on the to-do list, a very long and exhausting list that you never see the end of.
With this mindset, just the thought of homeschooling was utterly draining.
So I changed it up, and now I only school for a small amount of time while including more time pockets throughout the day for my children.
How to be successful at homeschooling with little kids? smaller amounts of time, more often
Reading books to them, I do this after lunch before the afternoon quiet time.
Walks in the morning before lunch- we walk our little property, and it’s time for talks.
drawing and painting with them- I do this whenever
During family chore time, the children and I all play music or an audiobook. Either in the late afternoon or after dinner, and we all clean, it makes chores fun, and includes the little ones.
having them help in the kitchen or I just make them some dough and let them roll it out while I make bread.
Children don’t expect fancy activities, they just want time with mum.
FILL YOUR CUP
Keeping yourself able to take on the task of homeschooling is important.
It’s different for everyone.
It’s not drinking wine in the bath or visiting a salon every week. I see this on social media, and for me, that’s escaping, for a very short amount of time only to come back to the same place that made you tired.
Motherhood on social media projects an idea that mothers need an escape, but that is never the solution to any problem, especially motherhood.
I love a good break, but I know as nice as they are they aren’t what you need in the long term.
Create peace for yourself
I am more for creating peace for yourself, just like setting up schooltime and an environment for teaching, it should be the same for you to rest.
I am a big believer in quiet time.
During quiet time no one talks to me, I am unavailable.
All my kids know this and have been brought up with this routine.
If I didn’t have quiet time, I think I would go mad.
The only time I haven’t had my quiet time is when I have a newborn and their sleep schedule is topsy turvy, and I believe that while the newborn stage is wonderful, this change in my day is not one I enjoy.
I work hard for my quiet time, I get up early, I put my phone away all morning, I read books, I school, I train, I cook, I clean, and mentally it can be so exhausting, to talk and answer and repeat and instruct for hours.
Train children to give YOU time
Here are some of my guidelines to train children to have quiet time for themselves and you.
Unless it’s urgent, they are not to speak to you, anything that they have to say can wait.
They are not to acknowledge your presence, I know this may sound a bit farfetched, but kids have a way of hanging around, especially if they are ‘bored’ this drives me crazy, and they don’t speak to me, but they hover.
No hovering. It won’t kill them to be bored, to find something to do.
I can do what I like, I can cook, clean, go outside, work on my computer, workout, whatever I want and if I am doing something that they can be included in, like gardening and I am alright with them being with me that’s fine but if I ask them to leave me alone for an hour, that’s fine too.
Don’t feel bad asking for alone time.
It can feel strange to do this as a mother, I see parents run ragged by their children, all day long.
It doesn’t have to be like that.
WHEN HOMESCHOOLING WITH LITTLE KIDS DON’T AIM FOR PERFECTION
Perfection is the enemy of good.
Don’t let your idea of a perfect school morning, get in the way of good time spent learning, practising, and teaching.
Simple is best.
If you mother with young children, you need to assess what you can and can’t do and for me, it’s less.
It is turning up consistently with a simpler approach.
It’s being able to handle my school time with patience and calm.
It’s seeing results even when sometimes I feel I should do more.
Trust the process.
It’s not pretty most of the time.
It’s not easy.
You have to learn patience.
But you will get there, and as you go you will find more and more confidence, and as your children grow so does your time to deliver the education you want.
So for now, sit back, dial down the workload, get training and you will reap the benefits of a stress-free school morning, day after day.
You are doing great mamma!
Thanks for reading!
here are some of my other homeschooling posts!