Weronika Ozpolat shares her best practices of how to homeschool with small child on hand in issue four “There’s No One Way To Do It” of Fitra Journal. Available for preorder with free shipping in the UK and US right here.
Tips On Homeschooling With A Toddler In Tow
When I tell people that I homeschool my children, I am often asked how I manage it. I have three children, and one on the way, so I have to juggle multiple age groups with different needs. People often think this must be challenging and one of the biggest things they want to know is how I can possibly homeschool with younger children around. Do they cause too many distractions? How can I keep them occupied? How can we get anything done?
Well, it is not as hard as you may think. I see homeschooling as a family affair. We do as much as we can together and I always try to include my youngest in what we are doing. In fact, he often wants to be involved. Here are some of my best tips on how to homeschool with a toddler around. With some simple strategies, you can do it too.
Get your toddler involved
When you are homeschooling multiple age groups, you become an expert at adapting the task to suit each child. After all, it is much easier to work together than arrange completely different activities for each child. For example, while working on our star topic, the children drew the sun on some black paper using chalk pastels. After they had drawn the picture, my eldest wrote facts about the sun around her picture, my middle child cut out the facts and stuck them around his picture and my toddler was quite happy drawing on a piece of paper and then cutting up another sheet of paper. We were all at the same table, working on the same thing, but each child experienced the task differently according to their abilities.
Each time you plan a task, ask yourself how you can step this task up for an older child and how you can step it down for a younger child. It may seem difficult at first but you will soon get used to thinking of ways to adapt each activity to suit different members of your family.
Set up a separate activity for your toddler
If the task cannot be adapted for your toddler, you can set up a separate activity for them. Always set up this activity in the same room you are working with your other children in. This way, you are available to help either your toddler or your school age children, whichever needs help at the time.
Good activities for toddlers at this time could be:
This is always a fun activity for children and can hold their interest for long periods of time as they explore it in different ways. Give your toddler some cookie cutters and a rolling pin or give them cupcake cases and ask them to make some cakes. Give them some small parts such as buttons or pebbles to press into the playdough; of course make sure you have your eye on them if they are at the age where they put everything into their mouth. Give them some animal figures and they can do some imaginative play. Give them sticks to push into the play dough or cut it up with butter knives. There are so many possibilities.
These have to be one of my favourite toys for children. They are great for developing fine motor skills as well as hand eye coordination. They develop imagination and creativity which can lead to improved problem-solving skills. They have also been shown to boost mathematical skills and improve spatial awareness. Children learn so many skills through this kind of play with very little effort from us. These kinds of learning experiences make the life of a homeschooling parent easy! Construction toys such as building blocks, Duplo, and Magna-Tiles can offer toddlers endless fun while they acquire so many skills.
Most toddlers love to play with water and my toddler is no exception. Give him a tub of water and some cups and these will keep him occupied for a long period of time. Like construction toys, water play provides children with many learning opportunities. It allows them to develop problem solving skills as they figure out the properties of water. Which things float and which things sink? What happens when you pour water through a sieve? What happens when you fill up a container and pour it out? Toddlers can discover the answers to these questions, and many others, through water play. Keep in mind that small children can drown in very little water, always be in the same room with your child when they play with water.
This is another type of play particularly loved by toddlers. Sensory play stimulates the senses which, in turn, stimulates neural pathways in the brain boosting brain development. Set up a sensory tub filled with dried beans or oats or sand. Throw in some animal figures, utensils, cardboard tubes or whatever you fancy. By exploring these objects toddlers are able to learn all about the world around them.
Homeschool During Naptime
If your toddler still has a daily nap, as most toddlers do, this can be a great time for you to get the bulk of your homeschooling done. Whether this works for you will probably depend on the time your toddler usually takes a nap each day and whether this coincides with your homeschooling time. We do the bulk of our learning in the morning, however, my toddler takes a nap around midday so he is usually with us during school time. If you can manage to tie in your learning time with your toddler napping, things will probably be a lot easier for you!
The play activities I have already mentioned offer so many learning experiences for your toddler, however, you can also set up separate educational activities for them too but make sure the activity is appropriate for their age group. There should be no pressure for them to formally learn at this age but a lot of toddlers may enjoy fun activities with an educational undertone. Here are some ideas:
Get a segmented dish or a few different dishes. Then give your toddler some small objects to sort, for example, pattern blocks, animals, cereal, coloured dice or coloured stones. Leave them to sort the pile of objects into the different bowls or compartments of the segmented dish.
Match the object to the flashcard
Get some flashcards and objects that match the objects on the flashcards. Let your toddler place the objects on the correct flashcards.
Fill a tray with salt or sand and give your toddler a stick. Let them use the stick to make marks in the salt or sand. They could also use their fingers for this instead of a stick. Show them how to make zig zags, shapes or swirls. This is a great activity that is a precursor for handwriting later on.
If your toddler is anything like mine, they will love to help you around the house. Give them a dustpan and brush, a sponge to wash some dishes, or let them help you prepare food. Toddlers enjoy being involved in what we are doing. Not only do they enjoy spending time with us, they love to imitate what we are doing. Imitation is their way of learning about the world they live in. Everything is fun for them at that age, even chores, so make the most of their enthusiasm while it lasts!
If your older children can be left to complete something on their own, why not take the chance to read some books to your toddler. Reading to your child is an excellent way to instil a love of reading in them and it is important to do this at a young age. Research shows that reading to babies and young children improves literacy outcomes in later life.
I hope this article has given you some ideas of what you can do with your toddler while your older children are doing their school work. With a little thought and practise you will be able to manage multiple age groups in your homeschool with ease.
Weronika Ozpolat is a Speech and Language Therapist specialising in bilingualism. She lives in the South West of England with her Turkish Kurd husband and their three, young, homeschooled children. They are a multilingual family, speaking English and Turkish at home and learning Arabic as a third language. Weronika shares information about her multicultural family life on her blog, Multicultural Motherhood, where she writes articles about homeschooling, bilingualism and speech and language issues. Read more by Weronika on her blog: www.multiculturalmotherhood.com.
Read more great advice in this issue of Fitra Journal.