In over ten years of homeschooling, I have yet to hit a season in which I don’t have a baby, a toddler, a baby and two toddlers, along with older children, or some non-matching age-range combination.
Recently I shared about Homeschooling with a Newborn and how we make that work in our growing family. Of course the perfectly legitimate question that follows usually is, “Yes, but what about homeschooling with a toddler?!”
I think, as moms, we get bogged down with the fact that toddler-hood is messy, and it is. My husband and I always laugh at the joke that having a toddler is like having a blender with no lid. Our lives are already messy, so when one of our children hits the toddler stage it can honestly be the thought of, “Oh no, not more of this!”
First let me encourage you, we’ve survived and you will too.
If you’re worried that somehow your older children are being harmed because, as Momma, you are juggling multiple ages and stages, let me calm your fears with this: we’re still here. My older kids are fine. My middle kiddos are fine. My preschooler, toddler, and baby – all okay. And me as Momma? I’m still here and wouldn’t have it any other way.
And in all honesty, none of us would trade these babes, even after they’ve been discovered to have painted their arms with blue-man-group paint (true story!), or wish away these years. There’s a certain level of surrender that we have to go through. A little more dying-to-self that motherhood slowly imposes each day.
You have to lean into it. And the “blender days” of homeschooling with little ones underfoot are no different.
Homeschooling with Little Ones Underfoot and Keeping Your Sanity
Get outside first
As long as there is not a major snow or rain storm, one of the first orders of business in our homeschool life schedule is to get outside. During decent weather, we can end up spending up to 2 hours outside playing in the mornings before the school books hit the table. Even in lousy weather we’ll bundle up and get outside for a good 30 minutes. We are all the better for it.
Let them “do school.”
In our homeschool, the little ones get to “do school” with the family. Much like a one-room school house, I focus my attention on our 2nd-grader, kindergartner, preschooler, and toddler at our big table first. Our older children, who are upper elementary/middle school and high school levels, spread out on the couches with their books and independent work during this time.
No time pressures
I find that after we start our day with fresh air and outside time, the little ones are ready for a natural time of sitting down as a family at the big kitchen table. I don’t make how long they stay seated a big deal.
My 19-month-old very well may sit and “draw” (she repeats the words, “draw! draw!” excitedly when she sees the school boxes come out) for up to 20 minutes. Usually, once she’s done with her drawing, it’s time for her to go down for her nap.
The preschooler (3 1/2) and kindergartner (5) have workbooks from the dollar store and naturally are eager to work on writing their numbers, letters, and names. I let them work as long as they’re interested, and then they’re free to choose from simple activities listed below.
Save a few, simple, activities just for homeschool
During our early years of homeschooling, I have simple activities saved for school time. The kids are always free to pull out the bag of big wooden blocks or Duplo-style blocks. I have a crate for each little child with their own selection of puzzles, books, basic craft supplies, and an inexpensive dry-erase board. If you give a 3-year-old a glue stick, stickers, two crayons, and a file folder, most will be engaged for quite a while.
Here are more than 134 Preschool Activity Ideas for Homeschooling Little Ones.
From Instagram, “The great builder, Liam Joseph!”
Once the little ones have moved onto their simple activities of choice, I’m able to help older children with their work as needed. Then as a family, we roll into read-aloud time. At this point, read-aloud time includes all the children except the 19-month-old who is still napping. The little ones usually continue with their simple activities or do Lego creations with the older children while I read.
Important Homeschool Mom Tip!
*If you have children who are struggling, plus younger children, you can exercise your homeschooling freedom and flexibility by creatively working on areas of difficulty during nap-time or even in the evening. I had a season when I “only” had a 6-year-old, a busy 3-year-old, and a newborn. My 6-year-old and I worked on his math and phonics in the evenings when the house was quieter.
There is no perfect
This is truth right here.
No perfect. This is real life.
You can see Pinterest-perfect pictures of homeschool rooms and read articles on complicated toddler and preschool homeschooling systems that can quickly make a homeschool mom feel bogged down.
If you WANT to do colored rice bins, then go for it. If it adds too much pressure to what you’re already juggling, then free yourself and know that the little ones will be just as happy with something that is simple for you to pull together in your world.
No matter what, your life will not be perfect, flawless, or smooth.
But you’re alive. You are living each messy and joy-filled day with your children. You are fully living.
Books for Homeschooling with Little Ones
*My affiliate links are used below. Thank you!*
Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling Older Kids With Success While Loving the Little Ones at Your Feet (doesn’t that title sound amazing!!)
Additional Encouragement for Homeschooling with a Toddler (or two, or three)
How to Homeschool with a Baby or Toddler (& Enjoy It!)
Ten Tips from Homeschooling Moms of Four or More from Well-Trained Mind
Homeschooling with Toddlers: Finding Your Way Without Losing Your Joy (or Mind!) by the fabulous Heidi St. John
Toddlers, Babies, and Your Homeschool – great ideas from Amy of RaisingArrows.net
5 Tips to Occupy Your Toddler While Homeschooling – yes, please!
How Do I Homeschool with a Toddler + Free Tot School Planning Pack from Only Passionate Curiosity