We’ve been a homeschooling family since the beginning – my oldest is 13, and our homeschool days have morphed and changed a lot over the years. But with five kids at home, one constant is that we’ve had a toddler or preschooler in our house for more than a decade (and often a newborn too!). It’s absolutely possible to homeschool with little kids around. While juggling multiple ages at one time can be challenging, there are many ways to make it easier. Or at least have you pulling your hair out a little less often. ;)
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Here are my best tips and advice for homeschooling with littles around:
- Fill up their attention bucket throughout the day.
Spend quality time with your little one doing something with them. This doesn’t have to be a long time – read a few books and snuggle on the couch, ask them to help you make lunch, or push them on the swings for a few minutes. Giving them this attention in little bursts throughout the day will help them to feel connected to you and can often prevent them from being distracting during school times.
2. Provide lots of hands on activities.
Little ones learn through play, so give them lots of opportunities to do so throughout the day. In our home, we choose not to do any kind of formal curriculum for my preschoolers. Instead, I provide lots of hands on play! We fill our days with activities that appeal to their senses, let them work with their hands, and expose them to numbers and letters along the way. Some hands on activities we love:
- sensory bins
- pouring water
- stacking and building
- coloring and painting
- playing with natural materials like rocks and shells
3. Give them their own “schoolwork.”
One thing that has been very helpful for our littles is to give them their own work to do alongside their big brothers. If we are doing an printable activity, I will print out an extra page for my littles. Even if all they do is scribble, they feel like they’re doing “real work” like their older siblings. I also give my littles a coloring book (they usually pull this out when the bigs are doing math workbooks) and their own nature journal to draw in when my other boys are doing nature journaling.
4. Create accessible spaces for your their own learning and play.
You don’t need to devote an entire corner or room to your toddler or preschooler, but it’s important for your littles to have their own activities they can use during school time. They don’t have to be learning activities, but remember: play IS learning. We don’t keep most of our toys in the school room, but we do have a shelf just for my youngest that contains activities that encourage learning about numbers, letters, patterns, and open-ended, creative play. Some of the items we’ve kept for toddlers/preschoolers over the years:
- Wooden letters and numbers
- Wooden blocks
- Lacing cards
- Bead sequencing
- Letter matching games
- Musical instruments
- CD player with audio books and music
You can find more things we love in our homeschool over in my Amazon storefront.
5. Let them choose to be involved or not, but make sure they are welcome.
As homeschoolers, we don’t do school separate from the rest of our life – homeschooling is a big part of our daily life! So when our littles grow up being included and welcomed into any formal schooling, not just shooed away, it helps them to see how learning isn’t just something for big kids who are school aged. Instead, they grow up immersed in learning as a lifestyle. While we sometimes do activities during naptime, especially anything that a toddler might get into and destroy, homeschooling is just a part of our everyday rhythms. So my littles come and go during our school time as they please, but are always welcome.
Don’t worry about flexing your schedule or changing your plans to allow your toddler or preschooler to feel involved and be a part of your homeschool!