Homeschooling with a toddler in the house can be frustrating and overwhelming. Learn how to homeschool when you have a toddler.
You and your 5th grader are engrossed in a lesson on multiplying fractions. Suddenly you realize your 2-year-old is eerily quiet…
Your eyes dart around the room, and your heart starts beating harder. Meanwhile, you and your older children form a search party and disperse throughout the house on the hunt for the little one.
Getting back to the math lesson now will be almost impossible. My unpredictable monkey has disrupted our focus once again.
How do you keep your toddler from completely derailing your school days? How do you keep your older kids focused on school while there’s a toddler loose in the house?
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5 Tips to Help You Homeschool When You Have a Toddler
1. Be flexible!
I think this is the most important tip when homeschooling with a toddler at home. Actually, it may be the most important tip when homeschooling–period! Some days will go better than others. Flexibility when you are homeschooling with a toddler at home allows room for distractions so that you don’t let them take over and ruin your day.
My 2-year-old is the youngest of four and the only child I am not currently homeschooling. He is also a very high-maintenance child. He loves being my shadow, which can be difficult when I’m trying to focus on teaching one of his siblings.
What’s worse is when I turn around and he’s gone. Could he be standing in the fridge trying to get himself a snack? Or perhaps standing, fully clothed, in the shower trying to turn on the faucet? Nope. He’s in his sister’s closet, hanging from the clothing rod with an upended waste basket underneath him that he used as a stool.
Allowing for time in our schedule to hunt down the toddler means that pausing for a few minutes once or twice won’t completely mess up the day. When you are homeschooling with younger siblings, you need to have flexibility in your day.
2. Toddler-proof the house.
When you are homeschooling with a toddler, you can help keep your homeschool day on track by being pro-active. This may mean using baby gates to block off areas of the house. I do this at my house. We mainly spend our homeschooling time in our living room, which we converted into more of a learning space. I can see the stairs from the room, as well as most of the main floor living space. However, the master bedroom and laundry area are out of sight, so I use a baby gate to block off that area and keep my toddler contained.
Additionally, other ways of keeping distractions to a minimum are having your younger one’s cups and snacks within reach. My 2-year-old knows where to find a water cup and how to access his snacks. This allows him to exert his independence and not need my help for everything, while also allowing the rest of us to continue in learning.
3. Include your toddler.
I mentioned earlier that my little guy loves being my shadow. So I try to include him in our learning as much as I can. If I am reading aloud, he can cuddle up on the couch with us. He also loves having his older siblings read their books to him. When teaching the kids to draw, he’ll grab a paper and pencil of his own and work right along with us. You may want to buy a couple of extra notebooks or composition books during back-to-school sales for your toddler to draw in while older siblings are working. Additionally, dollar stores usually have a school section with workbooks. I like to grab some alphabet or number ones, along with some on concepts like same and different for my little ones to do when they want to “do school” too. They are inexpensive but still educational.
Sometimes including him means having him alongside us doing his own thing while we do ours. I may have him sit at the nearby dining room table and play with playdough or sensory bins while we work in the adjoining living room.
Moreover, in our learning area, I set up a bookcase just for the toddler. I have chunky puzzles, lacing activities, cars, board books, and other activities to keep him occupied. If he wants to be in the room with us but not participating in our work, he will sit and play on the floor with these toys. As he gets older, I plan to put his preschool work there instead.
Looking for more ideas on activities to occupy your toddler while you teach? You’ll find a large variety in my post about the best activities to delight your toddler while you homeschool.
Many times the younger siblings just want to be a big kid and do what everyone else is doing. Why not grant them that opportunity to see how fun learning can be? It’s a win for everyone.
4. Enlist the help of your older children.
This is one bit of advice that I heard from everyone when I would ask how to get work done when my little guy came along. Now I know that it’s because it works! You need all the help you can get when you are homeschooling with a toddler underfoot.
In our house, my three older children all take turns playing with their little brother during the morning. Little guy loves the attention and playmates. I love that I can work one-on-one with my other children, knowing my toddler is being cared for. Futhermore, a big advantage that I have seen is the budding relationships with my youngest and his siblings.
How does this work? Make note of who needs to start one-on-one time with you early in the day. Then, think about when your children naturally need a break in their work. Perhaps one child is younger and finishes before the others. Using that information, come up with a sketch of how this can work and try it out for a few days.
For example, my second born needs to start his one-on-one with me right away. My daughter naturally likes a little break mid-morning. And my third born usually finishes before the others. So I’ll have my third watch the toddler before he starts his schoolwork, while my daughter works independently and I spend time with my second. After that, my daughter usually likes a little break, so she’ll take care of little guy while I work with my third, and my second works on his own. By the time I need to work with my oldest, my second or third will be done for the day and take over with the toddler.
Related post: How to Homeschool Multiple Ages with Ease
5. Take advantage of naptime.
For some seasons of toddlerhood, none of the above tips will work and you just have to use the little one’s naptime. This can be especially necessary if you have more than one little. On a similar note, perhaps your older kids aren’t quite old enough to be responsible for keeping an eye on the little one while you are busy. Or you need time for group work and your little one is keeping you from that.
When we’ve had a rough morning with my little guy, I often will wait to do our group work until I put him down for his nap. My older kids can get easily frustrated when he’s disruptive, so this just makes it easier and less stressful for everyone involved.
My daughter is taking high school Algebra this year. I realized pretty early on in the school year that we really needed completely uninterrupted time to get through her lesson. So we started doing her math lessons as soon as I put little guy down to nap. The older boys are all too happy to go play during that time since their work is usually done. And my daughter and I get to have 100% focus on her math.
Homeschooling often feels like herding monkeys while juggling plates. This is never truer than when you are homeschooling with a toddler at home! Using these tried and true tips can help make the homeschool day less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone involved, from mom to the little ones.
Have you found any tricks that work to occupy your toddlers while schooling your older kids?