Homeschooling is always a great conversation starter. I am pretty good at anticipating people thinking that I’m mad, so I normally preempt the look of surprise by saying, “Yes I know – I’m crazy aren’t I?!”
The questions very quickly come to, “How can you teach your older two with your little toddler around?”, or often more bluntly phrased as, “What do you do with her when you are teaching?”
I’d love to say I have found the magic answer and be able to reply that she sits quietly looking at books and playing independently for 3 hours!! Of course in reality I don’t really want my 3 year old to do that every morning. (Although I’d be lying if I didn’t want that just occasionally!!) I don’t have a quick fix or the one game that will solve homeschooling life with a toddler.
Yes it’s hard work but…and that’s a BIG BUT….she brings so much joy to our home and our dynamics. She keeps us real. She makes funny faces. She brings us make-believe cups of tea to sip whilst in the midst of teaching fractions. We all laugh when we turn round to find her hand in the biscuit tin…again! Although this morning she had climbed up a shelf in the fridge and grabbed a cold sausage!
One piece of wisdom that I have been given time and time again, is to spend time with the youngest first in the day. This has been so helpful. She rightly needs to be feel loved and appreciated. So most mornings while the older two are having Latin with their father, you’ll find me reading picture books on the sofa or playing snap for the 100th time. She adores this. It can be tempting to fold some laundry or chop an onion instead but it makes such a difference to both of us. By intentionally sitting down with her I’m not distracted trying to get something else done and ending up feeling like she is a nuisance.
As the morning progresses, our preschooler does actually join in with some of our lessons, surprising as it may seem. Her favourite time in the week with us all together is singing French songs. We also include her in what I call our ‘family subjects’: map drills, art appreciation, music appreciation, our literature read-aloud, poetry, nature sketching and science.
Having said all that there are times in the day when the older two do need to knuckle down with me 1-2-1 for maths or spelling. Those times on our timetable have varied and different things have worked but here are some of the things our preschooler does (mostly independently) when I’m working 1-2-1.
- Sit on my lap cuddling her bunny!
- Sit next door or near me with a pile of books
- Sit at the same or another table with a sticker book, workbook, colouring book (Love these KUMON books for little ones)
- Do a puzzle on the floor next to me
- Listen to an audiobook next door
- Play quietly on the floor (rarely!)
- Water painting
- Older sibling reads to her or plays with her
- Play in the garden
- Threading beads on string
- Role play – Kitchen / Dolls
- Play with:
- Fuzzy Felt
- Magna Tiles
- Marble Run
- Wooden train set
- And of course we do allow a bit of DVD watching. She watches about 20 minutes at the moment whilst I’m settling the other two into the morning. She has watched Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar on repeat for 3 weeks now! Her other favourite is First Fun with French.
The list is long as she often flits between these things every 10 minutes or so in true toddler style!! She keeps us on our feet but the bond between the children (despite the obvious bickering!) is wonderful to watch.
What does your preschooler enjoy doing independently, whether you homeschool or not?