Homeschooling Toddlers and Babies By Default

I was homeschooling toddlers and babies by default. The picture you see here was taken in my first-year homeschooling. I was teaching a kindergarten child plus a pre-schooler but I also quickly learnt that I needed strategies for homeschooling toddlers and babies as well.

I got through it, and I want to share some insight I learnt along the way.

Letter From A Frazzled Mum Homeschooling Toddlers and Babies

A few years back, I received the below email from a mum asking for advice on homeschooling toddlers with a baby on the way.

I’m a mother of 3 (4 in a couple of months!) girls that I am passionately wanting to homeschool. I actually began last year with my eldest daughter (now 6), but found it very difficult to fall into enough of a routine to get work done. Juggling the younger two at the same time, and trying to keep my daughter motivated among the clutter of daily life in a small house of young children I became discouraged and dilapidated… It seems that the minute I provide an activity to occupy the younger children, my daughter becomes unmotivated to do her schoolwork and wants to join in with her sisters. Without age appropriate stimulus, though, it isn’t long before her behaviour breaks down and she’s teasing and provoking her younger sisters…I guess I need some pointers from somebody who has juggled different aged children. I am desperate to know how to get it to work!

Ideas For Homeschooling With Toddlers and Babies

I have heard this similar scenario from mothers homeschooling toddlers. And let me say outright—it is difficult! Everyone talks about all the glories of homeschool and how to actually get it done but in the early years does take a great deal of effort.

Homeschooling Toddlers Curriculum

In my experience you don’t need a formal homeschooling toddlers curriculum but you can gather a few resources and make your own.

  1. Make a Homeschooling Toddler Box: Have a collection of resources stored separately in their own school box and only bring their homeschooling toddler box out for lesson times while the others are working. Don’t force them to do the activities but if they want to do them make it so you can set them up quickly in a booster chair or high chair so that they can be included with the older children. You can add playdough, blocks, puzzles, toy cars, pipe cleaners, board books, etc. Here are a list of 20 ways to keep toddlers busy.
  2. Homeschooling Toddler Read Alouds: Toddlers can be included in many of the family read alouds but also include a few special books for them. Some of their favourites could be added to their homeschooling toddler box as well. Start a reading session with a book just for them. Children’s illustrated Bible stories, nursery rhymes and stories with repetition work well. What your toddler might like will vary greatly and many of our favourites were not on any booklist found online. It was trial and error.
  3. Make Time To Go Outside: Toddlers love to play outside but they usually don’t like to do it alone.
  4. Toddler Character Training: We need to work on developing our children’s character and habits and this can be done as part of your toddler homeschool curriculum. Include little lessons on kindness, gentleness, generosity, and sharing.

Dealing with toddler jealousy can get a special mention here as well: A toddler loves attention – especially from mummy – and they can get very jealous and moody quickly. The little ones work out ways to ensure mummy stays around; they cuddle, they chat, they fight, they whinge, they cling, they cry. When homeschooling with toddlers this jealously usually surfaces as soon as you start giving the older children attention. We often interpret their behaviour as us failing to meet our toddler’s needs (and sometimes it may well be) BUT often we need to teach our sweet little toddler not to be selfish and help them understand that it’s not all about them. This takes some time with immature little souls.

General Tips For Homeschooling with Toddlers and Babies

1. CHILL OUT
When you are homeschooling toddlers interruptions happen. If you only manage sit down to do academic work three or four days a week, that’s OK.  I left one day per week as my day off to socialize and or do some errands. I have seen so many new homeschooling mothers beat themselves over the head for not doing “enough schoolwork”, be realistic with homeschool lessons times. The rest of the day can be family-oriented activities, reading books as a family and conversational learning.

2. GET RID OF EXTRA ACTIVITIES
It is a transition to start homeschooling and I found that I needed to reduce my other commitments. That may mean not attending morning Bible studies or giving up activities that are not working for all the kids. Plan to be home so that you can establish a good homeschool routine.

3. START USING WORKBOXES
Work out what you want to achieve daily in school lessons with your child and put all the resources in that box. Workboxes worked beautifully for our family from preschool to high school. It teaches independent work.

4. COMBINE LESSONS WITH FAMILY FRIENDLY CURRICULUM
If your chosen curriculum requires you to give undivided attention to one child with no interruptions, it’s bound to fail, for with little ones there are always distractions. Reading aloud (and curriculums based around homeschooling with books) are very family friendly as everyone in the family can be included. I did may homeschool lessons with my older children with a boomerang pillow around my waist breastfeeding a baby and a toddler playing blocks at my feet.

When possible, combine your lessons. This makes days smoother, time efficient and easier to manage.

5. SET UP LESSONS IN A COMMUNAL SPACE
We used to use a school room and we have tried working in their room but for us the kitchen table works best. Everyone is about and we all work together. If you choose a curriculum that requires the older child to be isolated and work alone you may find your older child feel lonely and won’t work.

6. TURN THE PHONE OFF
Train your friends and family to give you some time out in the morning.

7. HAVE A SLEEP DURING THE DAY
I slept in the afternoon for the first few years of homeschooling. When the baby went for a nap, I went for a nap also. Don’t use this time as a time to rush around and do things. All the kids were trained to have an afternoon rest time. It was not a TV or video time but rather a time in their rooms with books or Lego. They were not allowed out for at least half an hour. If they came out then they had to play quietly for a time. I usually was fast asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. It was a big sanity saver for me.

8. SORT OUT THE HOUSEWORK
In the early days although we were on a tight budget, we had a cleaner. We had a very small home and it didn’t take her long to clean the bathroom, wash the floors and do the ironing. Not having to worry about that job was one huge burden off my back. I also used the dryer whenever I needed to and washed in big batches so that I had a few wash free days. Get the older kids to do chores.

9. COOK DOUBLE
This works for a while (until the family gets too big). I would also plan for two quiches, double Beef Stroganoff, big lasagne and extra Spaghetti Bolognese.

10. TRAIN GOOD HABITS
Help your kids form good habits. Teach them how to tidy, hang washing on the line, unpack the dishwasher, put their clothes away, clear the table, make breakfast and make lunch. The more they can do for themselves the less you have to do for them. Please, please, please take the view that this is a journey. That they will grow older and if you take the time now training in the little things, of good behaviour and good habits, the days will run smoother as time goes by.

Homeschooling Toddlers Grow Up

There were many times in my homeschooling journey when I wondered should I homeschool? But we kept going.

Here’s a sneak peak into a Monday homeschooling with teens.

All my children are now adults – the below picture is of them all grown up. I survived and they are all well educated. You can read my reflections on finishing the journey. 

Homeschool outcomes
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