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Homeschooling can be hard enough, but how do you keep your child on task when you have a newborn or toddler demanding your attention?

Depending upon the age of your child who is homeschooling, you can use different approaches to make sure every child in the family is getting the attention they need from you. If your oldest child is 5 or 6, you'll need to be more actively involved in his learning experience on a daily basis. If your oldest child is 13 or 14, you can help her develop greater ownership of her learning with certain independent learning choices.

Regardless of your curricular choice, any number of the following suggestions will help you find balance between the needs of your homeschooling children and the babies in the family.

  • Take advantage of nap time.
    Homeschooling a younger age child does not need to take more than 2 or 3 hours a day. If your baby or toddler still naps, you can save your school time for then.
  • Rotate toy boxes
    If your house is like ours, then you have overflowing piles of toys in different rooms throughout the house. Take the time to sort those toys and put away a couple of boxes of toys. Then, rotate them out every 1 or 2 weeks. The excitement of seemingly new toys will keep your little one happily preoccupied for hours.
  • Utilize online and electronic learning resources
    No one's suggesting you give up your primary role as instructor to your kids to a computer, but you can always supplement your role with a selection of educational software or free online educational sites. Not only does this give you time to focus on your toddler's needs, but your older child will benefit from a different delivery of instructional materal.
  • Pre-record educational TV shows
    If you're not opposed to using the television as a quasi-babysitter, you can buy some time with your toddler or your older child by giving them some time to be in charge of their own television viewing. Imagine that! Getting exclusive control of the remote. Check out your local public television station to see what kind of children's programming they have available. Some PBS affiliates even run late-night educational shows that are specifically designed with schools in mind.
  • Differentiate the work
    In education-speak, that means teach the same material to different ability levels at the same time. This will work if you only have a 2 - 4 year age difference. Teaching math? One child can be working on addition and subtraction with manipulatives while a younger sib works on number sense - counting out five objects to show you what "5" looks like.
  • Create a preschool homeschool basket
    While you may not be officially homeschooling your 4-year old, there are still important skills you can teach. It may take you an hour every Sunday evening, but you can create work packets for your preschooler. Keep in mind, that most preschoolers will be thrilled to have their own work basket, but their attention span will probably only keep them preoccupied with it for about 30-45 minutes a day. All the same, you can include:
    • Dot-to-dot sheets and mazes to complete
    • Make a threaded beading project to practice fine motor skills. Using large wooden beads and a shoelace work best in the beginning
    • Practice patterns. Pre-print color coded index charts that show a pattern, like red-blue-red-blue. Have a box of large legos in assorted colors so your little guy can match and extend patterns.
    • Look at the dollar store for some inexpensive craft projects for little hands
    • Trace out shapes on medium cardstock or construction paper for scissor cutting (and motor skill) practice
    • Create bubble letters for your daughter to trace inside of to practice proper letter formation as she learns the alphabet
  • Audiobooks
    Your local library most likely has a large inventory of books on tape and CD for all ages. This might only buy you 15 minutes of time, in some cases, but that might be enough to free you up in a baby emergency. For older kids, you can look into audio-courses. Teaching Company, for example, has hundreds of pre-recorded lecture classes that you can listen to on a car ride or while you're making supper together.
  • Set-up a childcare swap
    Do you know another homeschooling mom with little ones? Suggest carpooling and childcare swaps once a week. You'll each get a break from your multi-kid parenting role, while your kids get time to play with friends.


March 29, 2020


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