Saturday, February 13, 2010

Babies and Toddlers and Homeschooling - Oh my!

This week on the Blog Cruise posted at the TOS Homeschool Crew blog we were posed these questions... 

How do you handle multiple ages?/How do you homeschool with a baby or toddler?

I'll tackle them one at a time.

How do you handle multiple ages?

My boys are not spaced closely together which I actually love. B13 is four and a half years older than N8. N8 & J6 are not quite three years apart (N8 will become N9 in just a couple of months). When I first started homeschooling B13 it was easy. I just had to focus on him. Now that all the boys are of school age, it's gotten a bit tricker. It just means I've had to become more creative in how we get our school work done.

I combine as many subjects together as I possibly can. I call this "Together School." While there are almost five years separating N8 & B13, it's still very doable to combine subjects. Here is what a typical "Together School" looks like in our house (and you can also check out my homeschool log to see more ideas):

  • Popcorn Prayer (we all take turns praying out loud)
  • Pledge of Allegiance (we recite it out loud together)
  • Sing the Star Spangled banner (together - when the boys were young & learning we would sing one line at a time)
  • Read Aloud - whatever our current book is - I read to all of them together
  • Poem - we are learning to memorize and recite poems - they work on the same one & each take a turn 
  • 24 Family Ways book - we discuss this together
  • Grapevine Studies - the boys are in the same book so this is done together
  • Story of the World Volume 3 - again - done together
  • Outdoor Challenges (nature study) - all do together 
I expect each boy to complete these assignments at their own level and I think that is the key. I expect B13 to do a better job than either N8 or J6 and I expect N8 to do better than J6. And they do.

The only way to homeschool many children together is to either combine as may subjects as you possibly can or have them be as independent as possible as early as possible.  I do some of each actually.

I don't expect J6 to complete anything without help from me. However, this year we were introduced to Sue Patrick's workbox system and I use a modified version for the two older boys. After our "together school" is completed, they move on to their workboxes and complete the rest of their school work on their own at their own pace. They know they can come to me for any questions.

This helped a great deal in that it eliminated the "what's next" question that was asked constantly. It also allows them to work at their own pace. B13 wasn't being held back waiting for his younger brother to catch up. It also frees me up to be able to work independently with J6 on the basics.

How do you homeschool with a baby or toddler?

I no longer have a baby or toddler of my own, however, I do babysit babies and toddlers. Starting in August 2008 I began watching two toddler girls during the year. One has since gone home to stay with her mom full-time. I now have a 2-1/2 year old girl and her baby brother (he's now 13 months). I do have winters off with these two but they were here from August to December of 2009 & they'll be back in May 2010 until June. Dad is in construction and has winters off & Mom is a high school English teacher with summers off.

So I have had to remind myself how to do this. Obviously I homeschooled my older boys while their brothers were younger, but I've become a bit more creative in my old age. I have written posts before showing what I used with the girls. You can see them by clicking on the links below...

A few things I've learned this time around with having two active toddler girls:

  • Have a plan. It's easier than trying to wing it. I kept a list of what I had & a basket full of those items. This made it easier to grab and go. 
  • Go frugal. I can't seem to toss milk caps/juice caps anymore. They go in the dishwasher and then in to a huge plastic coffee can. This was Miss H's favorite thing to play with. She would dump them. Pick them up. Dump them. Chew on them. I saved a lot of recyclable items to use in tot school.
  • Rotate. Rotate toys. Rotate areas. The girls would switch between being at the table with us in the high chair or in the play pen in the living (in my sight still). They had various toys that went with each area. 
  • Use nap time effectively. If you still have little ones that nap, save the things that require the most attention to teach (science experiments??) and do those during nap time.
  • Let your expectations go. Do not expect to sit for three hours and just read. It's just not realistic. Expect to be interrupted. Teach your little ones how to sit and play quietly. Blanket training is wonderful. 

Enjoy this time. Your other children will learn. If you still feel your older ones aren't getting enough school time, especially if you've just had a baby, please go read this article. Then go hug your baby and enjoy some more.

Check out what other TOS Crew members had to say over at the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.


  1. This is great! A fellow blogger just asked me about this, so I've linked to your post. I only have two children(spaced eight years apart!), so I don't have the expertise.

  2. Ah, I see Alexandra has been here before me- I'm the "fellow blogger" :) My oldest is 4 1/2 and will start kindergarten in the Fall, and her little sister is 17 months. I'm not as nervous about Kindergarten as I am about 1st grade :p I think I need to go check out all your pages! Thanks :)

  3. Great post! And thank you for the link to Diane Hopkins' piece. I've read it before, but definitely needed to read it again now.

  4. I'm having fun cruising your blog. THX
    My kids are g7, b5, g3, g15m, g due in May. I saw that you are an affiliate of Usborne Books & More. I recently became an Independent Consultant with Usborne because I use so many of their books with my curriculum. In the process I discovered & fell in love with the Learning Palettes. My 5 yo son loves working with his palette while I am working with my eldest. It reminded me of the work boxes that my friend uses with her autistic daughter - something that they can do on their own & you can check later. This is the 1st time I've read anything about the work boxes myself. Thank you for sharing! I have a feeling that it will come in handy with all my little ones.

  5. Thank you SO much for this post!!! Not only did I glean from you, but I am so excited that I found the Tot Books through you!!! It was just what I was looking for!

  6. what a great post for me to stumble across. this is the question I have been waiting on some answers for now. I have a 9 year old, 8 year old a very active 2 year old and a 11 week old baby. I love your suggestions. Thanks for sharing. I am off now to read some more of your blog.


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