Homeschooling With Toddlers!
by Tamara Eaton
Do you view your toddlers as assets or liabilities to your homeschool? Yes, homeschooling with toddlers can be a challenge--especially if you're trying to do "school at home", but they are also a precious blessing and provide your homeschool with excitement, enthusiasm, laughter, joy and freedom from boredom and dull routine!
During the many years we homeschooled with toddlers, we incorporated homeschooling into our lives, instead of allowing it to replace all the time we needed to nurture and care for our family. Our little ones need a normal childhood, too, with mom available to listen and train and give hugs. We weren't running a "little school" at home, but we were able to teach our children academics in a relaxed, positive manner by developing a whole lifestyle of learning--just like we taught them how to tie their shoes, brush their teeth, and have good manners!
Here are some tips that worked for us :
- Meet the needs of the little ones first. Take time to enjoy them, play with them, nurture them, then they will be contented later when you have to do other things.
- Choose a time when everyone feels their freshest to do the "schooling". There were years we homeschooled in the mornings and years we homeschooled in the afternoons. We tried out different routines then chose the one that worked best for that season, always staying flexible.
- Don't set unrealistic goals. Keep lessons short and sweet--I can't stress this point enough! Make the most of the "teachable moments" that occur in the course of the day. Young children are so curious about everything and want to learn new things--capture their interest and find the method of learning that works best for them.
- Don't feel like you have to cover ALL the subjects every day. We found we accomplished more by concentrating on the basics, then adding extra subjects a couple of times a week. We also used many "real books" in our read aloud time to cover history and science in an interesting way for the younger children.
- Homeschool four days a week, then use the fifth day for "catch up" or fun "educational" activities.
- Keep life as SIMPLE as possible--there will be time for more elaborate projects later when your toddler is no longer a toddler. Time passes so fast!
- Consider saving special tutoring sessions for evening when Dad is home to either help with the toddlers or homeschooling. Fifteen to twenty minutes of UNINTERRUPTED time goes a long way!
- After a quick clean up of the house in the mornings, I would often give the little ones juice and crackers in their high chairs while I helped the older children get started on something. We would all be in the kitchen around the table and this usually gave us fifteen to twenty minutes for a writing lesson or math work.
- Create a safe place for toddlers to play when you work with the older children. Take frequent breaks to check on them, hug them, and, if necessary, start them on new activities. We generally kept our little ones in the same room or in an adjoining room so it would be easier to supervise them and help them feel included. We used gates to confine them so they wouldn't get into trouble "exploring" the rest of the house. (And trained them to neither open nor climb over the gates!)
- We also began to teach them to spend small segments of time (like 15-20 minutes) playing in their room. We provided creative toys and made sure the room was safe and "toddler-proof". Toddlers love to be in the middle of things, so don't force them to spend too much time in their rooms, but it's helpful for a short period so you can work with an older child or do a load of laundry.
- Keep a special box of toys just for "school times". I rotated the toys regularly and was always on the lookout for new, inexpensive, creative toys to add to our collection. (Yard sales were great--I stocked up on toys in the summer and saved them for the new school year.)
- Work with one child at a time and let another one watch and play with the toddler for fifteen or twenty minutes.
- Alternate quiet and active activities. Take a quick nature walk around the back yard or neighborhood to help work off some energy and provide a change of scenery for your toddler. [For more activities see Homeschooling Our Little Ones! ]
- Make a very limited use of children's good quality videos--I'm not talking about more than 30 minutes here! Our children were always more creative and contented when we limited their video viewing. (They loved the Donut Man tapes and Kids Sing Praise tapes though and these were very uplifting.)
- Schedule a regular time for reading aloud good books together. We did this after lunch and I would rock the little ones as I read aloud to everyone. They learned from an early age that this was a time to be quiet and still--for at least fifteen to twenty minutes!
- Schedule regular naps and quiet time for all. Some homeschool moms use this time for concentrated work with the school-aged children. Generally, I found I needed a nap as much (or MORE!) than the toddlers did. Resting in the afternoons preserved my sanity and refreshed me so I could really ENJOY my children--and actually manage to do some things later in the afternoon, too, without collapsing from exhaustion.
In summary, the key elements in successful homeschooling with toddlers are:
- A positive attitude
- Consistent Biblical Child-training
- A sense of humor
- Homeschooling in "spurts" of fifteen to twenty minutes
- Making the most of "teachable" moments
- A lot of love
- Abiding in Christ
Be encouraged that the same Lord who has blessed you with these little ones and called you to homeschool will enable you. He will give you wisdom in teaching, training, and nurturing your children so that they will be a blessing and not a burden. He has a perfect homeschooling plan for YOUR family --let Him lead the way!
"He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." --Isaiah 40:11
"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children." --Isaiah 54:13
© Copyright Tamara Eaton 1994-2000, all rights reserved.
Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the publication to :Deeper Life Family Ministries, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.
We have always homeschooled our six children (elementary through high school and beyond!) and enjoy encouraging other families in their homeschooling, parenting and in the Lord! For more help and information, please join us on the Christian Homeschool Fellowship Message Board.
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"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."