Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homeschooling with little ones...

One of the most common questions I get as a homeschooling mother is:
What do you do with your little one(s) while you do school?

The best answer I can give is, a lot of training (for both mommy and little one)! 

Our first year of homeschooling, Precious Girl was in 2nd grade and Little Man was 3 and, toward the end of the year, Little One joined our family... It was a baptism by fire to be sure, but we not only survived our first year, we loved it!

Little man was very easy to occupy while I did school. He was happy to sit at the table with us and color, draw, play with playdoh or play quietly with his blocks, trains and legos. I also made sure that he had lots of his own worksheets to do. 

He felt included in homeschooling and that was my goal. When I read out loud to Precious Girl, he learned to sit in my lap and listen, or play quietly in the same room. Most of the time, even though he may not have understood the story, he seemed to enjoy being with us. At that point, little one was still a newborn and was easy. I learned to save our read alouds for times when I'd need to nurse or when she'd be awake. Listening to my voice as I held her close seemed to soothe her.

The following year, Little Man began more formal preschool. There are many wonderful FREE websites to print preschool worksheets! (I'll post more about that tomorrow.)

Several mornings a week, he would do his worksheets with me while Precious Girl (now in 3rd grade) did her reading, or finished her math problems. We still tried to fit school around Little One's nap schedule - the subjects where I needed to be very hands-on were done during this time. 
listening to a story

When Little Man was not doing school, he was still with us. I had lots of art supplies in a box that he could get out any time he wanted. I also encouraged him to look at books (the library is still our best resource!!!) and play quietly with action figures, cars and legos. He also loved to dress up!
improvised "Knight" costume : )

When Precious Girl started 4th grade, Little One suddenly turned into a tornado of activity! (I can smile about all of this now, but it really did stretch me at the time!!) We still did the mommy-intensive stuff while she napped, except this time, I had to learn to divide my time between Precious Girl and Little Man - who was in Kindergarten. This was difficult at times, but we never doubted this is what we were called to do. God's grace is sufficient for the days when no one napped and chaos seemed to abound. (*smile*) 

Little One is very different from her naturally more content older brother. Training her to sit quietly or to amuse herself during school time is something we still work on. (Just being honest!) 

Having toys, games and activities she could only use in our school room worked well during that busy toddler stage. I also really made an effort to spend special time with her during our schooling, even if it was just holding her while she colored or drew. I made her an activity box that contained beads, cereal or noodles she could string on yarn (I just rotated supplies - toddler boredom is the enemy!). I also got out playdoh to keep little fingers busy. 

Last year was the most challenging by far! 

Precious Girl was in 5th Grade and her work load intensified. Little Man was in 1st Grade and really struggling to read. Little One seemed to get into trouble every time I turned my back on her! The worst day was the day she got into the Sharpies and colored all over her arms and legs during "nap time." 

I did a lot of praying for energy and inspiration. I learned that Little One got into trouble most when she didn't feel she was getting enough of me. Before we started school, I would read to her and snuggle with her. While we did our school, I would make sure to hold her on my lap while I read and keep her busy!

Here are my top 5 suggestions for things to do for Little Ones:

1. PRAY! Before you even start your school day, drop to your knees and ask God for what you'll need for your day! Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. (Prov. 16:3) Praying over your lesson plans is also a good idea.

2. BE PREPARED! Boredom is the enemy. Have a variety of activities and toys that are only for the school room. A few minutes of preparation for Little Ones the night before will save hours of heartache!

3. BE FLEXIBLE! Ok, this is not my strong suit, but this rough edge has received a lot of gentle sanding by my Heavenly Father. If your little one is melting down, they may just need some attention. Loving correction of a little one's inappropriate behavior is time consuming, but vitally important! If nothing is working, a little laughter goes a long way. Keep it cheerful and...

4. REMEMBER WHY YOU'RE HOMESCHOOLING! There will be days that test your resolve (and perhaps your sanity!) But keeping your eyes on your goals and remembering your calling will get you through! Also remember that little ones grow quickly...these days are fleeting! Strive to enjoy them.

5. KEEP IT SIMPLE! You don't have to spend a fortune on the latest preschool curriculum or fancy toys. Containers with something as simple as rice or even water can provide entertainment for little fingers. Really your little ones just want to feel a part of what you're doing with older children.

It is so worth it! If you are in the trenches, so to speak, hang in there! Your reward will be great!

Tomorrow I'll share some of my favorite websites for pre-school and toddler friendly activities!

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