When I start each homeschool year, I have a moment. Or a few. Where I think that homeschooling will look like it does on Pinterest.
But as soon as one of my toddlers asks for another sippy cup of milk or I get called to the bathroom to wipe a tiny butt…I remember that homeschooling when you have toddlers on the loose, no matter how disciplined you are…will never look like Pinterest.
When your oldest daughter is having an absolute meltdown about math and she needs you (sometimes only for emotional support)…a toddler is bound ask you to clasp her princess dress together or put the password in so they can play Minecraft.
Am I right?
Of course, I am. I can almost hear you nodding your head, because homeschooling when you have toddlers running around is tough. Brutal. Almost impossible.
As a seasoned homeschooler with four of my six children actively homeschooled, I’m going to share my secrets to surviving the homeschool day with toddlers.
20 Tips on How to Homeschool When You Have Toddlers
1. Be Honest
I know it’s tempting to envision your toddlers quietly coloring on the floor as you stand explaining the ins-and-outs of Algebra, but it’s not usually reality. Not when you are a seasoned homeschooling or someone that’s just figuring out how to homeschool when you have toddlers.
Toddlers like to be the center of attention.
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Setting your expectation too high for your small children to reach is a recipe for disaster. Only frustration will come of it. And tears. Don’t forget the tears.
2. Focus on Hard Stuff During Naps
If your toddler still naps, praise the Lord!
Take advantage of this time to do the hardest subjects when distractions are at a minimum.
Things are likely to get off course even with a toddler down for the count, but it’s much easier to get back on track when they are safely tucked in their beds.
3. Take Advantage of Technology
Along with being honest, we have to admit we live in a technological world.
During those moments that your toddler isn’t napping or otherwise preoccupied, allowing him/her to play on the Kindle or iPhone is an acceptable form of distraction.
What I personally have done with my Kindle Free-Time is have an account that is only able to access educational games. That way I feel like it’s not a total waste of their brain power!
You can do the same thing with TV. Netflix, Amazon or PureFlix, which is what we use, has an enormous amount of education television for your little one.
4. Pull Out All the Stops
Snacks, special toys, new art suplies, make a fort…by whatever means necessary, pull it all out of your arsenal in order to entertain your toddler.
We have a bean-bead-sequin box that encourages sorting that only gets pulled out during the homeschool day.
Edible playdough is another fun way to keep a toddler distracted when trying to figure out how to homeschool when you have toddlers.
I cannot say enough about my love of our two pairs of noise-cancelling headphones.
So much so, that I might have to purchase another set because sometimes the toddlers are so loud that no one on God’s green Earth could focus.
Even when it’s not school time, you might find anyone in our house wearing them just to escape the chaos!
These noise-cancelling headphones are especially helpful for your auditory learners!
(And your husband can take them to the gun range!)
6. Create a Secret Nook
I have one. Do you have one?
I’m talking about an introvert.
Like super-duper-needs-her-space-or-things-get-ugly introvert.
Because I recognized the need for a “getaway,” I gutted our hall closet and made a nook…just for her. If things get too crazy, she can hide away where no one can find her and do her work!
Your secret homeschool nook doesn’t have to be a closet, it can be under the bed or in the car (as long as it’s not too hot, it’s ventilated, and not running in an enclosed garage).
Sometimes we all need to get away!
7. Talk to Your Toddler
I know that some toddlers are too young to understand what homeschooling is, but most can understand simple concepts like “let’s leave sister alone right now.”
Talking to your toddler about homeschooling and why they need to be quiet can do a lot for keeping the peace.
8. Nip procrastination in the bud
Many times my homeschooled children use the toddlers as an excuse for procrastinating their schoolwork.
When a toddler asks for some help during school, it’s amazing how helpful my other children become!
It’s important to learn to recognize when it’s not your toddler’s fault that things are getting off kilter.
9. Train Your Child
Children thrive on routine.
If you train your child to sit in a playpen or a high-chair for a certain period of your homeschool day on a regular basis, it will be expected by them.
If they are walking and talking, some room time is a great way to encourage independent play and autonomy for an age-appropriate amount of time.
10. Involve Them
Many times involving a toddler in schoolwork doesn’t work out, but sometimes it does.
Some great times to involve them are
- Science Projects
- Art Projects
- Role Play
For role play, get your toddler to be the student and your homeschooler to be the teacher. Allow your homeschooler to re-teach a concept that s/he is learning…even if the toddler doesn’t understand.
11. Tire Them Out
If possible, get some physical activity in before or during school time so they get too tired to become a hindrance to your other children’s progress.
Personally, I love when my children are able to interact. A pretend “PE” class for toddlers hosted by your older students will get the urge out to interrupt real schoolwork later on in the day.
12. Give In…For a Little While
Sometimes we keep pushing our little one out of the way, when all the really want is a little bit of your time.
I’ve noticed when I’m busy and no matter what I try my toddler won’t budge, giving in for a little snuggle time is just the thing they need before running off and going to play again.
13. Encourage Autonomy
Encouraging independent work in your other children as they homeschool will help curb any conflicts between toddlers and homeschool.
Start small, don’t expect your first grader to do all his/her work on their own, but start somewhere.
14.Start School Early
No, I don’t mean early in the morning…I mean start homeschooling your toddler sooner than later!
By allowing your little one to “start school” they will be less likey to want to interfere when they see big sister or big brother doing school.
Give them their own space and encourage them to stay there during the school day.
Make a rule that if they don’t want to “do school” they need to go off and play something else!
Many families are simply too big or the season of life is too difficult to have beneficial school time while dealing with the demands of a toddler.
Whether you hire an older homeschool student to babysit for an hour or two or plan a special time with grandma, outsourcing during those peak school hours may be a life saver.
16. Make a Barrier
Your toddler is adorable. I know mine is! But flipping and dancing in the middle of our big school room isn’t cool.
Making your school area an off-limits zone during school by setting up a barricade might be a great way to show your toddler physical limits.
17. Bedroom School
My kids usually retreat to their bedrooms when the noise or activity level gets out of hand.
Many times we do school sprawled out on their beds so that the toddler can watch TV or help you in the kitchen.
18. Split Up the day
I know that most moms (not me…but many that I know) like to get their homeschooling out of the way…many times before lunch! (God bless you ladies. I salute you!)
Splitting up your homeschool day might help your toddler not to feel neglected for such a long period of time.
You can also split up who gets homeschooled during each part of the day, letting another child pick up some responsibility for entertaining the toddler. (This is a great training ground for babysitting as well!)
Toddlers most active times are during the day, so why not homeschool during the quiet hours of the night?
Although, my personal experience is that as much as my children enjoy the silence of nightschooling, oftentimes their little brains are starting to get just as worn out as a toddler’s little body!
But it might be a great last-resort method for a short season!
20. DON’T STRESS
One benefit of homeschooling is that your children are getting a one-on-one education.
Distractions are not only common to homeschooling children in a large family, but also in public school where one teacher has to manage upwards of 30 students.
If you or your student find that you are getting off schedule, just let them know that distractions are a part of everyday life. We all have to learn how to deal with them.
When All Else Fails
There are many days that no matter how much you try not to stress or how much you have trained your toddler to stay semi-quiet during your other children’s homeschool day, that it just won’t work.
The beauty of homeschooling is that you can take a day off when things get too crazy.
Your toddler won’t always be small. And they are only small once!
Try to enjoy this season even though I know it’s difficult.
What’s your go to when homeschooling when you have toddlers? Comment below!