A young mom sent me an email stating, "I've worked out a schedule that should go well for schooling the children, and have my husband to help me on the off days. My biggest concern is HOW DO I SCHOOL WITH A TODDLER??????" Capital letters and multiple question marks are original and speak of her desperation.
Some thoughts on the subject:
Make sure your toddler is on his/her own schedule. Make use of nap times to do your most intense one on one subjects. For our family, that always seemed to be the reading lesson with those budding readers, but maybe in your home it is math or hand writing. Keeping that toddler's belly full and his body well rested will be to everyone's benefit.
Rotate an older sibling to play with the toddler to allow you time with the other children. Assign this in brief time slots so that everyone is constantly enjoying new company and activity.
Rotate toys on an hourly basis and daily/weekly basis. Having something new to play with is always more fun.
Include your child in learning. So often these little ones are just begging to learn. I found a very inexpensive series of first workbooks through Christian Light. Sitting on mommy's lap and "doing school with the big kids" can really foster the love of learning.
Include solo contained play time as part of your toddler's routine. In our home, babies spent a brief time in a playpen each day. As they became toddlers, this was opened up to room time. I would place a gate across the door of the room designated for room time and expect the child to play for a period of time. Having made the room completely baby safe prior to leaving the child, I would not respond to crying or tantrums from discontentedness. This was a training time for one of the first life lessons in self governing and contentedness. Simply crying for it to be over didn't cause me to rescue them. In fact, I would prefer to end the play time when the baby/toddler was playing content, thus not to reinforce that crying produced mom. Obviously, I made sure my children were safe - they are all still alive today! Keep safety as your number one priority. Keep a watchful eye on the child. But preferably do this in such a way that the child thinks they must be self sufficient. Watch this fun video of a nine month old playing alone in his family's dining room. It is time laspes over a four hour period with adult interactions edited out. It shows how content a small child can learn to be on their own. If you haven't started this as a baby, start with short time periods for your toddler. I did create cassette tapes (dating myself) of my husband and I reading stories, singing, saying the ABC's, counting, and other things we wanted our toddlers to hear. A tape was made for each child individually where we would call them by name on the tape. I would then play these tapes during their room time as background noise for their play.
Take time to just enjoy your toddler. Stop teaching to hold, play, rock, sing, read, and love on your little one. Don't see them as an interruption to your time with your older ones you are schooling, but see them as a part of the rich learning environment your family is blessed to be experiencing. Your older children are learning patience and self control by having to wait while you meet a little one's needs. So often homeschool homes are focused on the oldest child. It makes sense, he/she is the first born and the one the has always gotten your first attention, the one that is challenging you to learn and teach new things. Keep in mind that life does not always have to hang on the oldest child's newest activity and adventure. Family life begs for diversity of each day and each hour. Enjoy your young toddler as if he/she was your first born. Be in awe of new discoveries being made by little hands. Embrace the walking and stumbling by taking time to cheer and clap. Enjoy the stage for it will pass quickly and soon that little active body will be sneaking away with a book in hand wanting some quiet time to himself to reading.
Have ideas of your own on how to keep a toddler busy? Share your comments below!