We can be sure that the greatest hope for maintaining equilibrium in the face of any situation rests within ourselves. ~Francis J. Braceland, O Magazine, April 2003
I have 3 young learners and a 4 month baby. I have developed a learning program for my older girls 7 and 5 1/2, yet my 4 year old always seems to be left out. How can I incorporate her into the program so that she benefits from the day and feels apart of the family?
We are families! We homeschool or have homeschooled older children with little ones in tow. Thus, many of us have experienced this situation. Our solutions might be strikingly similar or different based on how we choose to homeschool and/or the personalities and needs of our children.
Thus, we appealed to our homeschooling peers for answers to the question: What to do with the littles?
These stories, commentary & vignettes offer a view into how and why we live life without school.
I have 8 yo twins and a 3 yr old. Whatever topic I am working on with the older girls, I make sure to have some sort of coloring sheet or age appropriate worksheet for the younger one. As an example, if we are learning about ocean animals, my 3 yo will have a choice of coloring sheets of sharks, dolphins, and starfish, or a worksheet where she can match pictures or complete patterns with the images of ocean and/or seashore animals. She also has her own notebook when we are writing in our journals, so that she can "write" too. When we are playing bingo with some of my homemade bingo games, her cards will have pictures rather than words. I am working on a set of math bingo cards and will use colored dots or other figures rather than numbers on her cards. She also likes to take a turn playing in our geography games where I ask questions and each child has to find a state that answers the question. The 3 yo will get things like, "What state do we live in?" The older girls will have to find: a state that shares a border with an ocean and another country, or a state that has four right angles, or 3 states that start with "w". And, of course, everyone loves storytime, whether it is mom reading or one of the bigger girls. My 3 yo will occasionally turn the tables and "read" her favorite books to us. I never tell her that she can't write or can't read. I accept her assertion that she can, until she asks for help. Generally she is willing to "hang," as long as she has her "schoolwork" to do too.
I teach three grades and have a 2yr old in tow.
Using a set of plastic storage drawers, each child has their own drawer for supplies and storage. I gave one to the 2yr old, with a small variety of things he can 'do'. It has watercolors, a couple of crayons, paper, etc.
When the 'big kids' call "time to do school", they get out the drawer for my 2yo, so that he feels like it's school time for him, too. When we're finished with a lesson, or when 2yo gets bored, we put the drawer away 'for next time'. By not leaving that drawer out all the time, it became a special drawer.
I also have rotating bins with books, toys, lap-size dry erase & marker, etc. I rotate them, so they seem new and fresh when they see it again. Since there's so much 'school' talk, we call them school bins. All the contents must go back into the bin, and by calling them 'school' my 2yo feels like he does school too.
This all has helped to show my 2yo that 'school' means at home for us. Even though neighbors may 'go to school', our school is right here.
I started homeschooling with a 5th grader, a 2nd grader and a toddler. My 5th grader struggled, my 2nd grader was gifted and my toddler was . . . . (To put it nicely) ACTIVE! I could pretty much present learning projects at the same level for my older two, and I’d come up with something for my toddler . . . .if my older boys were coloring, say, in their USA map coloring book, I had one for my toddler. He sat up in his high chair next to the table where they worked, and he had his chubby crayons and so what if all he did was scribble? He felt included and part of the fun. If we were playing the history game (a board game with dice and cards) he had a marker, his own set of dice and we read his cards to him and helped him move his marker. If he got bored and wandered away, I had a playpen (large) with puzzles and blocks and other toys that he could play with. If we were singing songs he sang, too. Too bad he couldn’t read the words but he did learn them eventually, along with the tunes. When I read aloud to my boys, our toddler had another set of toys I got down just for those occasions. He would play in the center of the living room while we cuddled on the couch. When he got sleepy (I usually did this after lunch) he would crawl up and cuddle, too, and eventually fall asleep. Your 4 year old should be able to be included very simply by adapting whatever you are doing with your 5 ½ year old. I know that my toddler wanted his own workbook (an old already used math workbook was fine) and whatever his older brothers had, he wanted one, too. Make up her own little projects for her to work in, that “matches” or “goes along” with what the older kids are doing. You will be amazed at what she will pick up along the way. But please, don’t really worry about “teaching” her; 4 year olds are sponges and she’ll learn plenty just by listening and participating. Enjoy!
When I took my son out of school in 5th grade, we had a 3 week old baby in the house. She is a very low-key kid and easy to entertain but here are some of my solutions:
Spend 15-30 minutes with the little one before you need time with the older kids. Read, do a craft, have tickle-time and then set the wee one up with some blocks or some sort of 'station' activity that is reserved for School Time.
Rotate your wee one's toys so that there is something new each week to pull out for when you need some time with your older kids.Give your toddler a drawing pad and crayons and let her color.For those who are pro-media, turning on a Leap video like The Letter Factory or Sesame Street is a good way to get 30 minutes to yourself.
Be reasonable about how much time you need to spend 'teaching' and your toddler should be able to self-entertain.
Stories and Commentary
So What About the Littles?, by Cindy
Help make this page. See What to do with the Littles.