When people ask me how I homeschool with so many different age levels of kids, I kind of cracks me up, because it sounds so much easier to me to teach an 8th, 4th, and 2nd grader than 20 of any grader like teachers in the school systems have to do.
Throw in a toddler though and things start to get a little dicey.
Here’s a few thoughts on this, and how we make it all (kinda/sorta) work with a teen through a toddler. We definitely don’t have it all figured out, but these are a few thoughts on homeschooling with toddlers.
Homeschooling with Toddlers
Todderhood is a season unlike any other. Well, actually it may be closest to puberty, but don’t quote me on that. One minute they’re laughing and having fun with some of their favorite toys. The next they are throwing said toys across the room and throwing themselves on the floor for unknown reasons. Just my toddler? Ok. I can accept that.
I used to be the judgey mom in the grocery store watching children throw things and have ultimate tantrums in the candy aisle because they didn’t get their way. I often wondered why they didn’t “just get control over their kids!” Back in 2006 when I had two perfect little boys who were happy to listen to basic rules of health and safety without even a thought of challenging me, it was easy to judge those moms with more “spirited” children. I’ve had to throw up prayers of forgiveness into the universe about those times because now, I am that mom. The clueless mom in the candy aisle wondering how to handle their little bundle of emotions over Skittles, tears, and fits of rage.
Homeschooling on top of multiple age ranges and a toddler with a Stonewall Jackson-esque will, things can get tricky.
Sometimes I’m super frustrated.
Sometimes I want to sleep for six days straight.
Sometimes I cry.
And sometimes I look into those blue eyes that just burrowed their brows against me in defiance one moment and twinkled up at me in love the next, and I think how difficult it must be to be trapped in a tiny body when your mind wants you to do so much more than you’re physically able to do.
- Include them as much as possible. We grow and progress with our older children. It’s hard to go “backward” but that’s all these little people know and we owe it to them to allow them to take each step just like our older kids were allowed to do.
- Give them their own desk and preschool school supplies. You can find tiny kid-safe scissors (these are my favorite), markers, crayons, and workbooks just for them to play with during school.
- Save old workbooks and let them draw in them. They’ll feel like they’re doing work just like the big kids.
- Save certain toys just for school time so they have certain things to play with they don’t get any other time. For us we have a Play-Doh factory that comes out during some school days and Montessori alphabet puzzles too.
- Make sure your toddler is getting some one-on-one time with just you. It’s so easy to skip this. With multiple kids it’s hard to make sure everyone gets time with you. It might not happen every single day, but as best as you can, try to sit down and read a story or have a (hilarious) conversation, or take just that one for a walk and look at birds and flowers popping up. That time with Vera makes such a huge difference for us.
- You do need some quiet time to teach your bigger kids. They deserve your undivided attention too. Don’t be afraid to use things like cartoons to entertain your toddlers while you work with the big kids. Actually, this is a great time to fire up the programs that only your toddler is interested in that your big kids might balk over having to watch. We love Little Einsteins in our house. It’s sort of like find arts for toddlers, right??
I think the most important thing about homeschooling with toddlers is to not wish this time away. In our near future we will have a household with no toddlers–they grow and change so fast! Go ahead and reassure yourself of the fact that someday soon you won’t have a potty-trainer/tantrum-thrower/biter (?!) anymore–in a few months, things will all change again and you’ll be dealing with a whole other set of challenges. Life is a series of seasons. We might be in a difficult one with babies and toddlers. We might be in a relatively easy one with elementary kids who can pretty much take care of themselves and you can just do the fun stuff with them. But every single season has it’s beauty too and we’re wise to find that beauty every step of the way instead of pining for the next season to come. It will come soon enough.
Do what works best for your family so that you can homeschool the bigger kids while loving on your toddlers without wishing tomorrow was here. Enjoy their conversations, kiss their dimpled hands, squish your fingers in Oobleck with them, and look through their eyes that are figuring everything out for the first time. Homeschooling with toddlers can be done. It’s all part of being home with our children. Enjoy it. Embrace it. And let it make you a better mama.