Seemingly overnight, you realize that what you thought was hard (adding a baby to the homeschool mix) was actually a piece of cake. Babies nap, babies nurse, babies snuggle and coo when you read aloud. “Hey,” you say to yourself, “we accomplished a lot this year. And I was afraid a new baby would throw everything off.”
And just as you hit that great rhythm, your child decides to grow up a little more. She starts crawling. He stands up. They teeter and walk and venture too close to the stairs. “Oh, no!” you say to yourself, “how am I supposed to handle homeschooling now that this child is mobile?”
You know what I’m going to say: have a basic plan, some solid ideas in place, and a fallback position.
The Basic Plan
Remember “lowering your expectations”? It’s back. Or, ummm, it’s still here. Again, I’m not advocating that you throw your hands in the air and give up all hope of ever educating your children. But, stay focused on the big picture. You are a homeschooling family, living a very specific lifestyle. You can tweak endlessly: more independent work? More literature-based learning? A season of unschooling? Your family is together so often, and in such a valuable way, that learning can happen at unconventional times. If you’re usually a “let’s get all our work done before noon” kind of mom, you might need to lower that expectation. If your toddler needs you seven times before noon, “all our work” may not get done. But, that’s okay. Learning happens all the time, not just before noon. It can happen during a toddler’s naptime, or during his bath, or when he’s sitting in the high chair slurping up some pudding. Which brings me to my next point.
Pudding. Why not let your child paint with it? Hunt down a list of fun, toddler-friendly activities, and post it in on your fridge. Make it easy to reference; you’ll thank yourself on those days when you’re feeling particularly uninspired. You need to have both the ideas and the supplies to keep your toddler happy while you work with your other children. The key to homeschooling with toddlers in the house is realizing that when you can keep them happy for ten to fifteen minutes at a time, you’re a success.
A Fallback Position
Nothing is perfect and no list of toddler activities will satisfy everyone 100% of the time. There will be times when your toddler is needier than others.Those are the days to plan a special family activity or playtime, add some extra story time for everyone, do kid-friendly cooking, take a nature walk or a family nap. And, when you begin to fret that you “got nothing done today” and that all your children saw you do was cater to a toddler, remember that you did something vital. You taught your older children that “catering” to a toddler is important. You taught them how to be a loving parent, how to answer the needs of a tiny, dependent person. And isn’t that a lesson you want them to take into the rest of their lives?