Toddlers and Homeschooling

They are busy. All day long. Those little toddlers, bundles of energy, move around all day, jumping from thing to thing to thing, only resting when there’s food, or a story, or a nap.

And you? You’re trying to teach math. But that toddler? That toddler really isn’t interested in math and is instead interested in puling all the tissues out of the tissue box or coloring on their belly with purple markers.

This wasn’t what homeschooling looked like. It was presented with neatly blocked schedules, with toddlers doing independent mat-time work, and academics being completed before noon. Here it is lunch, and you’ve barely cracked the math books with the olders, and the toddler, or toddlers? They keep pulling you from what you think you need to get done.

There needs to be a strategy.

Here are some things I have found helpful:

1. Do not compare. Do not compare your family’s structure with another family’s plan. Especially if that family, at the time, does not have a toddler in the house. Comparing eats away at one’s happiness. All it will lead to is worrying that you’re not doing enough or you doubting the structure of your day. Learn from others, but don’t compare.

2. School in the afternoon. I know, I know, I know. If you’re like me, you like to get everything done in the morning and have the afternoon free for, well, free stuff. I’ve learned that sometimes the best strategy is to save the detailed academic work with the olders until the toddler is down for their rest time. In the afternoon. Plan some independent activity for the olders to do in the morning, but save the heavy-duty teaching until later.

3. Start your day with the toddler. Read to them in the morning, find an activity to do with them, include them in your day. When you fill that toddler’s cup with mom-time they can go through their day knowing that they are important. So grab those books, cuddle on the couch, and read to your toddler in the morning.

4. Rotate toys. Don’t leave all the toys out for your toddler to have free access to at all times. Instead develop a rotation for some toys that you only take out during academic times. Many times I’ll pull out a new toy or activity for the week – not just a day. I know we’ve all heard this one, but it truly does help occupy time in the structure of a week.

5. Coloring books. Obvious, but a life-saver in this house. I’ll pull out the coloring books and the busy toddlers have always been content to “do their school” at the table while the olders work. It also helps to develop structure and understanding of daily order.

6. Involve them in your day. Samuel, my two year old, will sit with me while I teach the kids. And, you know he’s learning. Just the other day, I was working with letter sounds with an older, and when I showed the o card, Samuel replied with the four sounds that o can make. I didn’t sit and teach Samuel; he learned by doing, by being with us. Make it an effort to include them in all you do.

Remember — they will only be toddlers for a little while. This is a just a stage, and at one point, not so far in the future, you might just miss those busy days of little ones getting into everything. Well, you might not miss the marker on the walls. Toddlerhood is a sweet moment in life, a time that should be cherished. It is possible to homeschool, to homeschool well, while you have toddlers in the house. Don’t fight these years, simply embrace them for the wonder in which they hold.

Rachel (4 Posts)

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    • says

      Thanks, Carlie. I was just looking back over my homeschooling journey and realized that I’ve always had a toddler around when we’ve homeschooled. :) It’s such a balance with those busy little ones.

  1. says

    Thanks for the encouragement today. Just yesterday we were struggling through a geometry lesson with my oldest as my toddler kept screaming over one thing and another. It was an unusual day for a lot of reasons, but I may need to rearrange our schedule yet again as his schedule changes. They are such a joy that I would not trade for quiet work time, but it is always a new balancing game. :)

    Thank you!

  2. says

    Our 2 year old is always excited when it’s time for Kid #1 to do school.

    We get out the crayons, paper, scissors, and glue for Kid #2. He gets to be involved in his own “school” and spends the time sitting with us. Sometimes I’ll give him stickers or pasta to glue down or something else to mix it up, but hey–he’s 2! Glue and scissors are pretty exciting things. :)

  3. says

    I love the realistic view and tips for homeschooling with toddlers. It’s refreshing to hear that I’m not the only one homeschooling with a toddler.

    What I do, after my 2 year old does “school” with his older brothers for a few minutes, is give him alone time in his room (I set him up with toys and books and have him play all by himself for an hour). I do this while my baby is sleeping so it gives me an hour of time with less distraction to work with my older two boys in the morning.

  4. Heidi says

    THANK YOU! for this post. It is EXACTLY what I needed today. I have a very busy 16 month who has recently decided to give up morning naps. Our whole “schedule” has taken on a new look, with a learning curve. I look forward to implementing some of these ideas so we can all survive the next couple years. Just go with the flow, right?! :)

  5. Ruthie says

    I so needed to read this. I was beginning to wonder what in the world I was going to do when my now crawling little one begins walking and disrupting school.

  6. Mae says

    Thanks for this post. He may only be a toddler for a little while, but at the rate we’re going, there will continue to BE toddlers around for a long time, lol. I’m so blessed, and I keep reminding myself of that. What’s tricky for me is that when I have something fun for the toddler to do, the others get desperately jealous because they have to do schoolwork. Well, the whole POINT of the toddler fun is to keep him busy so they CAN do schoolwork… Not sure how to keep the olders focused when the toddler is “having all the fun.”

    • says

      Mae, I read your comment and thought about something I did for a while till my older kids grew out of it. We used to have “baby-time.” We would all stop school and do the baby activity together for a few minutes (bubbles, playdough, etc.) Of course, then I needed a second baby activity to keep the baby busy, but it was a fun recess from our morning and gave the little one oodles of attention for a little while, too. ~Erin

  7. says

    Oh this post is so good and true. These are things I’m stumbling my way through learning. We JUST moved school time to naptime last month because trying to do it with the 18 mo old conscious was just too much for all of us. I’m realizing that its ok to change up how we do things as often as we need to as long as it helps us to continue to do things.

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