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One of the most frequent questions I hear from other moms of littles is “How does anybody homeschool with a baby and/or a toddler?”
Before I describe what this looks like for us, allow me to share this: A mom I know who homeschooled for 20+ years told me that the most difficult years of homeschooling for her were the years when she had both a kindergartener and a 1 year old at the same time. Her kids are all adults now and are doing just fine.
At the time of this writing, my children are 4 years old, 2 years old, and 7 months old. The older two are boys and the youngest is a girl.
The baby gets up first. I am not listing a time because her awakening varies greatly from day to day. I feed her and then eat my own breakfast.
The preschooler and the toddler share a room. They get up between 7:45 and 8:00. Sometimes they are awake sooner, and if that happens, then they play quietly with toys in their room until it’s time to be up for the day.
Those who are potty trained go potty, those who wear diapers are changed, and those who I really wish would potty are asked if they would like to be a big boy and try the potty. The answer is no.
“I am a small boy,” the toddler says. “I don’t go potty.”
The toddler and preschooler take off their pajamas and select new outfits. I verbally coach the preschooler through making his bed. Both boys put their pajamas in the hamper.
I brush their teeth and do any other necessary hygiene tasks. We then go downstairs and launch into breakfast.
My own mother was the queen of hot breakfasts. After years of fighting it, I’ve come to the realization that I am not my mother and that I can’t seem to pull this off, at least not in my current season of life. We either eat things that are easy to prepare, or things that I prepared ahead of time.
Here is the key to my homeschool routine’s success: I do not eat breakfast at the same time as my children. Seriously, this is how I manage to homeschool with a baby and a toddler.
Here’s the thing, friends: when my children are eating, then their mouths are occupied and they are staying still in one spot.
As soon as everyone is eating something, I bring the morning basket to the table and launch into our school work. While we can’t finish the entire thing while they’re still eating, we usually get a few things finished.
I begin with reading a chapter out of the real Bible. I coordinate this with the Bible story from the Gentle + Classical Primer unit (I will abbreviate this as GCP going forward). We use the King James Version and I have found that it helps them understand the language if we are also reading the same story in the story Bible. We often do the Wonder Tale from GCP next, because those stories tend to be longer and more complex.
At this point, we generally transition towards the couch. I would like to tell you that we sit quietly for the entire duration of morning basket time. While we are working toward that, in all reality we take periodic breaks so the boys can run laps around the living room.
“I’m an airplane!” my preschooler says as he zooms by.
We work our way through the story Bible and practice a memory verse out of the Awana Cubbies book. The Awana books have a nice selection of memory verses that fit with cohesive themes. They are available for purchase by individuals from the Awana website.
As we read, I try to stop and ask questions. My toddler is quite enthusiastic and wants to answer everything. We are also working on taking turns answering the questions.
Sometimes the baby is having a good day, and she plays on the floor with a toy. Sometimes the baby is having a fair-to-middling day, and she sits on my lap while we do our morning basket work. Sometimes, the baby is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and we table school work entirely until she begins her nap at 10:00. This is fine too, for there are seasons to these sorts of things.
On days when I sense that our baby happiness time is limited, we take a debt snowball approach to the morning basket materials. Allow me to explain. We read the shortest selections first. Typically, those are poetry, nursery rhymes, and manners/character. Then even if things go off the rails, I have three things to check off in my planner, and we can all feel a small sense of accomplishment.
There is a beautiful companion program to the GCP called the Gentle + Classical Nature. It is just lovely, and I just couldn’t make it happen this year. Instead, we have read different books about nature and animals. Some of our favorites are the Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers. The new editions have lovely watercolor illustrations.
I select two picture books per week and we read them each day of that week. We also read slowly through a chapter book.
GCP alternates studying a composer or an artist. We usually do that component last, because my boys think it’s the most fun.
After we conclude our morning basket, we do chores. I was resistant to doing school before chores, but I found that my particular children stayed on task better if we began school during breakfast and then continued directly afterward. Sometimes you just have to experiment and find what works best for your household.
My preschooler and toddler carry the laundry to the laundry room and dump it into the washer. I am always right there cheering them on and redirecting as necessary. They also know about helping to unload the dishwasher (they’re too short to put everything away themselves), and cleaning the windows.
By this point, the baby is ready to do her pre-nap routine, so the toddler and preschooler play together while I handle that. Once she is down for her nap, we do phonics, math, and writing. Nap school is another key component of homeschool with a toddler and baby.
I don’t think it’s necessary to do reading instruction with 4 year olds in general. Just making sure they can identify each letter and its sound is sufficient. However, my son is very interested in reading and asks to read Bob books, so I’m going with it. We take it at a leisurely pace. I use the Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading.
For math, we use Saxon K. It involves lots of manipulatives and no writing. You could also jump straight to Saxon 1 in Kindergarten if desired. I got a really good deal on Saxon K at my local homeschool store and it’s what I used when I was 4 years old.
|Saxon Math K, Home Study Teacher’s Edition|
I take a gentle approach to writing. My main goal for this year was for my preschooler to learn how to write his name. He is doing pretty well with that now. I bought a workbook on Amazon. Workbooks are available for many names. We also do some worksheets that I had left over from when I taught 4 year olds at a church preschool. We spend little time on this, maybe 5-10 minutes.
That is all! I want to encourage you and let you know that you can homeschool with a toddler and baby. It’s all about establishing routines and then being consistent. Doing a little bit, faithfully, every day leads to a beautiful preschool education.