Homeschooling when you also have younger children at home can be challenging. Learn ideas and tips on how to homeschool with younger siblings so that you can focus on effectively teaching your older kids.
Homeschooling is such a rewarding experience, but it’s also one that can be quite challenging. Add in younger kids underfoot, and some days it can feel downright impossible!
Never fear! It can be done. It likely won’t be quiet, and many days you’ll wonder how you didn’t drop from exhaustion. But it will be so worth it! Let me share some tips I found through my own experiences of homeschooling with a baby, toddler, and preschooler. Luckily they weren’t all at the same time for me. But even if you have more than one younger child, you can do this!
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When homeschooling moms tell me their struggles, I often hear that they don’t know what to do with their younger kids while they teach the older ones. I get it. It’s been one of my biggest homeschool challenges too. Let me share the tips I’ve learned about how to homeschool with younger siblings so that you can enjoy this season of your homeschool too.
How to Homeschool with Younger Siblings at Home
I have found 5 main things you should do when you homeschool with younger siblings at home as well. These tips are effective whether your little ones are babies, toddlers, preschoolers, or a combination of all three.
5 Easy-to-Follow Tips to Homeschool with Younger Children
- Be prepared!
- Be flexible.
- Utilize naps and quiet time.
- Include them when you can.
- Have age-appropriate activities ready to go.
1. Be prepared.
The more prepared you are, the less stressed you’ll feel. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get more than 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time with your older kids before your younger ones need something, get bored, or become suspiciously quiet. Being prepared with lots of different ready-to-go activities, snacks, and toys on hand can help extend the time you can focus on teaching your older children. It’s also important to try to stick to a consistent homeschool routine. This way your older children can continue to work until you return if you need to attend to younger siblings.
2. Be flexible.
Almost just as important as being prepared when you have little ones is being flexible. If you have littles at home, you already know that your days do not always go as planned! Don’t be so glued to your schedule and plan book that you end up frustrated and stressed out when they fall apart. Remember that it’s ok to have a bad homeschool day.
3. Utilize naps and quiet time.
Sometimes when you are homeschooling multiple ages and have younger children, you just need to take advantage of nap time, especially if you have more than one little one. Nap time is a good time to work one-on-one with your children, when you need to teach them a lesson with no disruptions. Or when they are having difficulty with something and you need to help them. It’s also a good time to do any group work with your kids. When my youngest was little and having a bad day, sometimes we just had to switch up our routine. My kids would do their independent work in the morning while I tended to the cranky little guy, and we’d meet up for group work when he fell asleep.
Quiet time is also important during your homeschool day. This is a good time to have little ones who are no longer napping rest for a bit, playing quiet in their rooms. You can then use that time just as you would nap time like I described above. Alternatively, you could send all your kids to their rooms for some quiet time to give you a break in your day. As an introvert, quiet time is an almost essential time of day for me to recharge and relax for a bit. I can also work without interruptions.
4. Include younger siblings when you can.
Many times, younger siblings are disruptive because they want to be a part of whatever you and your older kids are doing. They look up to their siblings and want to be like them. So include them when you can, whether they understand what you are doing or not. My little one loves to sit at the table with his brothers while we go through our morning basket activities. He enjoys doing our nature study and art projects, as well as listening to read alouds. I buy extra school supplies for him during back-to-school sales so that he can have his own notebooks and writing utensils. An added benefit to this is that your little ones will easily adjust to doing schoolwork at the table with you when they are older.
5. Have age-appropriate activities ready to go.
Whether your younger kids are babies, toddlers, or preschoolers, it’s always good to be prepared with age-appropriate activities to hand to them as needed. Don’t forget your little ones when you set up your homeschool room. You could dedicate a bookshelf for their toys, store them in a basket, or stack them in a nearby closet to pull out as needed. Some families pull these activities out only during school time. But I always leave my little guy’s activities on shelves or in baskets within his reach, and he still enjoys playing with them quite often.
Would you like specific ideas on how to homeschool with younger siblings? Continue below, where I go into more detail about activities for each age group.
How to Homeschool with a Baby
Much of the advice I’ve seen about homeschooling with a baby suggests that you should homeschool while baby naps. That’s great if you have a baby who sleeps for a good amount of time and you don’t need to use that time for chores or work. Unfortunately, not every baby is a good sleeper, or you may not have enough time during naps to get everything done. So it’s always good to have other ideas as well.
Homeschooling when your baby is a newborn
One of my favorite ways to keep my youngest occupied as a newborn while homeschooling my older kids was by wearing him in a carrier. I preferred a wrap carrier when he was very little. I was free to move around the room and help my older children with their work.
Another good time to try to get work done with your older kids is while you feed baby. Whether you are nursing or bottle-feeding, you can easily sit on the couch and feed baby while your children read to you. This is also a good time for read alouds.
However, babies grow very quickly. Soon they are awake for longer and longer stretches, and they become mobile! What are you supposed to do now?!
Homeschooling with older babies who are mobile
You have a few options to homeschool when you have a mobile baby at home. As with a newborn, naptime is a good time to get schoolwork done. If naps aren’t long enough, just use that time to teach the more difficult subjects. For example, when my oldest needed one-on-one Algebra help, I used naptime to teach her math. It was much easier for both of us to focus while my youngest was asleep and the other kids were doing quiet time in their rooms.
Baby-wearing is how I got through most of our homeschooling when my youngest was mobile. I got a structured carrier when he outgrew the newborn wrap. I liked being able to wear him in a front or back carry depending on what we were doing.
But how do you get any work done when it’s not naptime and you can’t or don’t want to wear baby? Make sure you have some activities on hand to help you out.
Activities to keep baby busy while homeschooling
As babies stay awake longer and become mobile, it’s important to keep them entertained with safe toys and activities while you homeschool your older kids.
Good toys to keep baby occupied while you homeschool older kids are those which are hands-on and quiet. Jumbo puzzles fit this criteria. The pieces are large enough for babies who put things in their mouth. They are simple enough to challenge but not overwhelm little ones. Board books are also good to have on hand to keep baby entertained while homeschooling. My little one also spent much time rolling balls and cars around.
Some days none of these ideas helped and we just did what we could to make it through the day. It’s ok if some of your homeschool days end up being all about baby. Those are important lessons to learn as well.
How to Homeschool with a Toddler
Toddlers keep things interesting, don’t they? Some days they’ll sit quietly and play while you homeschool, while other days they’ll climb into the fridge for a snack. It can be difficult to focus on teaching your older kids when you are constantly chasing after a 2-year-old.
I’ve learned many tips for homeschooling with toddlers through the years. The best way I’ve found to homeschool with a toddler is to try to keep them close by. When my youngest was a toddler, I blocked off the stairs and any areas that I couldn’t see from our homeschool room. I kept lots of hands-on toys that my toddler liked on bookcases in our homeschool room. He’d play with those toys on the floor while I taught my older kids in the same room.
Sometimes he wanted to “do school” too. So I got extra notebooks during back-to-school sales so that he could draw or color in them while my older kids worked. Including your toddlers at the same table, or at least in the same room, to “work” while older siblings are working is another way to keep them occupied so you can teach. So often the little ones just want to be a big kid like their siblings.
Activities for toddlers while you teach older siblings
Toddlers don’t always have the longest attention spans, so it’s good to be prepared with lots of activities to keep toddlers busy while you teach older kids.
Some of my favorites include activities that I can leave out on shelves in our homeschool room. Toddlers love chunky puzzles and they fit nicely on a shelf. Activities that help toddlers learn colors are great at this age, as are books about colors. This age is also when many children start pretend play, so fun toys like a play kitchen or barnyard with animals keep them occupied too.
How to Homeschool with a Preschooler
As hectic as it can be homeschooling with babies and toddlers, homeschooling when you have a preschooler brings its own challenges to the table. By the time children reach ages 3 or 4, many are no longer napping. So if you took advantage of nap time to teach your older kids, you now may be wondering when to fit it in.
Additionally, you may have decided to begin homeschooling your preschooler. So you’ll have to find room in your day to fit in more one-on-one time to accomplish this. It can be quite hard to fit time in to work with your preschooler when you have older children who also need your focus. Plus you also need activities to keep your preschooler occupied as you’re teaching your older kids.
Activities for preschoolers while you teach older kids
One of my favorite activities for preschoolers is hands-on learning. Hands-on activities, like playdough, sensory bins, STEM activities, and math manipulatives, help children learn while having fun. Many of these activities also help children develop fine motor skills needed for handwriting.
Many handwriting activities can be done independently. These can include handwriting pages where children trace and write letters on lined paper. My four-year-old constantly begs me to print handwriting pages for him to do. They can also include activities like sand trays or tactile letters.
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How to Homeschool with Several Younger Siblings at Home
If you happen to have several children who are younger, like a baby and a preschooler, then it may be more difficult to find that balance of teaching older kids while keeping younger kids entertained. Don’t worry, though, it can be done. You may just need to be more flexible.
Some ideas that might be helpful:
- Enlist the help of your older kids when you can. Perhaps an emerging reader can practice reading to a baby and preschooler while you teach a grammar lesson to an older child.
- Food is a good way to occupy children at any age. I love using food as a read aloud activity even with my older kids. While little ones are snacking at the table, you can teach a lesson or read to your older kids sitting around the table.
- Include all of your little ones as much as possible, even if they are just playing in a playpen in the same room. Try to include them in art activities, even if that means baby is painting with water.
- Take frequent breaks throughout your school time. Focusing on your little ones by getting them a snack, reading to them, or even just giving hugs may be all they need to keep them going until the next break.
The most important thing to remember when you homeschool older kids with younger siblings around is that this is just a season. You won’t always have little ones around, even though some days it certainly feels like it! Don’t be so focused on teaching your older kids that you forget they are already learning wonderful life skills. Your older kids see how important teamwork is in a family. They are building wonderful sibling bonds during this time. Yes, you do still need to homeschool them. That’s when you use the ideas above to help you find that balance of keeping the little ones occupied and happy while teaching your older kids. But remember to enjoy this season as well.