31 Days of Homeschool How-To: With Toddlers

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Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s working for us, answering the most common questions we get from today’s first-generation homeschooling moms.

31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips

How to Homeschool with Toddlers & Infants at Home

I realized long ago that as a stay at home, homeschooling mother married to a small business owner who works nights, I needed to stay flexible. Whatever “schedule” I may have, it has to be able to bend and flex around my husband’s day and my children’s moods. This became even more evident when I found myself homeschooling with a new baby (and now toddler) in the house.

I am a person that does better with structure. I like to know that things get done in a certain order every day or every week. However, I learned from a favorite online organization coach, Flylady.net, about the importance of routines. Instead of trying to live by a schedule that is constantly disrupted and needs to be changed, I try to live by a routine. The difference is that a schedule is nailed down to a clock, whereas a routine is more flexible.

Homeschooling with a toddler in the house made it challenging to stick to my already established routine. Once my young son Leif was mobile, I spent most of my days trying to keep up with him, making it difficult to focus on teaching my elementary-age son Joel. However, I finally decided to stop running in circles and figure this out. I can either continue to follow behind and repair the damage, or I can be proactive.

31DaysWithToddlers

Here is the routine I established at that point to bring order back to our weekdays:

  • I get up before the boys, get myself ready (otherwise it is hard to find time to shower), and have a quiet devotion before my day gets going.
  • Then I get the boys up and ready — no playing around all morning — dressed, teeth brushed, and breakfast eaten.
  • School needs to start directly after breakfast. This is important, because many times things happen later in the day that distract our focus from schoolwork. Leif will play in a contained area while I work with Joel.
  • Then we have a snack and play time together.
  • After that is reading time and then lunch.
  • After lunch, Leif takes a nap and Joel does something quiet, with an educational purpose. During this naptime is also when I need to get to the gym (since my husband is home by then).
  • Snack and play time follow Leif’s nap.

At night, I also needed to establish a better bedtime routine for the boys. Snack, jammies, teeth brushed, reading, prayers, and lights out. This one was especially hard for me, as I tend to get focused on my own thing in the evening and lose track of time.

Lastly, I set up some preschool busy boxes for Leif to use while I’m working with Joel. (See my post about preschool busy boxes to find out what’s included and how they have helped streamline our days.)

What I’ve learned is that when I live by a routine, I actually seem to have more time to do the things I want to do than when I do not stick to it. Finding a routine that works for the new dynamic of having a young one to keep up with is possible, and once you do get back into a rhythm, you’ll be productive once again!

What kind of routines or schedules do you have for your homeschooling day? Have you found any time management tips to be particularly helpful while homeschooling with toddlers in the house? How are your routines or schedules working? Share with us in the comments below.

31 Days of Homeschool How-To: Use Co-Ops

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Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s working for us, answering the most common questions we get from today’s first-generation homeschooling moms.

31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips

How to Use Co-Ops in Your Homeschooling Plan

After attending three different types of homeschool co-ops in the past few years and learning about how several others work, here are my personal opinions regarding incorporating a “co-op” (cooperative schooling) program into your homeschool plan:

1) Decide if you are joining the co-op for social or academic reasons. Ask yourself: Am I joining because I’d like my children to learn how to interact with other kids? Or am I joining because I feel like I could really use some more support in a particular academic area?

If it’s a social reason, be ready to train. There are great Christian moms out there — myself included — who still don’t have their children’s behavior down to a science. Be prepared for many learning experiences alongside your kids in loving, forgiving and saying “no” when necessary.

If it’s an academic reason, just make sure you are aware of the responsibilities and expectations of the group. There be a lot more work than you are ready to take on. Or it might be the push you needed to get some science experiments done!

You might also be looking for homeschool enrichment, a place for your children to expand their education in areas you don’t get to cover at home. Whether it is art, physical education, music, foreign languages or science labs you’re not comfortable teaching yourself, an enrichment co-op can be a great addition to your schedule if it fits your overall academic goals for your children.

Girls Working Together

2) Establish common goals. A homeschool co-op can be anything from meeting for a park day once a week to meeting twice a week to cover history and Spanish in a group setting. The most important thing is that you and the other moms are on the same page as to what you’d like (or not like) to accomplish. When more moms start to join your group, be prepared for more ideas — which could help or hinder your co-op. Keep your co-op goals in focus.

3) Lay the foundation first. Whether you are starting a co-op or joining an existing co-op, it’s important to know things like, “will this be a Christian co-op or open to all homeschoolers?” Again, you might think this is a given, but it’s not. And there’s no right answer, only the one that works best for you. Do you want to be a part of a mixed group or do you feel spiritual agreement is important to the education of your child? If these questions aren’t addressed from the beginning, they will likely play a role later when subjects are brought to the table on which you have different worldview perspectives, and this can cause division in the group.

4) Smaller is better. Large co-ops are great, as long as you are breaking up into smaller groups at some point — not more than three or four children per adult for most teaching situations. There should be clear parameters as to how many kids and what ages you’d like to join. Not to be exclusive, but to ensure the time is productive and organized — accomplishing what was expected to be accomplished. I think there has to be a really strong leadership group with a vision to pull off seven or more family groups without details falling through the cracks.

One-on-one groups are still my favorite. Find one family whose kids’ ages are in common with yours and take turns covering subjects such as art, art history, science projects, etc., and meet once a week or every other week. The ideas are endless — and it gives your kids something to look forward to during the week.

5) Seasons in your life change. What was a great idea one year may not be the next. Don’t feel bad about changing course: Do what’s right for you and for your kids. One reason we’ve participated in several different co-ops is that our needs have changed and my children are developing new areas of interest. Currently, we’re participating in a weekly one-day co-op that provides great options for both my 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, who have different learning styles and interests that are met through the offerings of our group.

I am the first to say “yes” to everything. I like meeting new people and getting in on what’s good to get in on. But there comes a point that it truly does more damage than good. You are tired by the end of the week, your kids are tired of you yelling at them to get in the car because you’re late once again, and you find your whole goal of homeschooling — to establish good character, consistent rhythms and routines in your home, and reading all those great books — has gone out the window.

I can say that being a part of a co-op has never failed to allow me to be in touch with other great moms. But once you meet some families that work well with yours, joining a co-op simply to hang out with them is not your only answer, though it might be a good start. Impromptu visits to share curriculum and drink coffee once a month or fun picnics will do just as well — and sometimes save your sanity.

You may also consider starting a homeschool co-op of your own to meet the needs of your own family, while including others who have similar goals and ages of children. My sister Renée started a girls book club co-op two years ago that is still going strong today: Here’s her post on how to start a co-op of your own.

Are there homeschool co-op opportunities available near you? If so, do you participate? What type of co-ops do you utilize (formal, informal, social, academic) and why? Have you ever started a co-op of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

31 Days of Homeschool How-To: Unit Studies

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School supplies await the first day of class

Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s working […]

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Review: Family Toolbox for Parenting Teens

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FamilyToolboxReview

As the mother of tween (12) and teen (13 1/2) girls, I was very excited to evaluate The Family Toolbox with my daughters as we enter this new phase of parenting with them. Produced by the National Center for Biblical Parenting (NCBP), publishers of the Christian Parenting Handbook, The Family Toolbox is a DVD/video-driven program that brings parents and teens together for constructive […]

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31 Days of Homeschool How-To: Our Charlotte Mason Influence

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31DaysCharlotteMason

Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s working […]

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31 Days of Homeschool How-To: Learning Styles

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31DaysLearningStyles

Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s working […]

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31 Days of Homeschool How-To: Save Money

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31DaysSaveMoney

Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s working […]

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31 Days of Homeschool How-To: Keep Working

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31DaysWorkingWhileHomeschooling

Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s working […]

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31 Days of Homeschool How-To: Manage Chores

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31DaysOfHomeschoolHowToManageChores

Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s […]

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31 Days of Homeschool How-To: Time Blocking

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HowToTimeBlock

Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s […]

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31 Days of Homeschool How-To: Daily Routine

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How to Develop a Daily Homeschool Routine

Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s […]

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Giveaway: Family Toolbox for Parenting Teens

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Family-Toolbox-Giveaway

This week’s giveaway comes to you from the National Center for Biblical Parenting (NCBP), publishers of the Christian Parenting Handbook. NextGen Homeschool is a member of The Family Toolbox Blogger Team and is currently working on a review of The Family Toolbox, a DVD/video-driven program that brings parents and teens together for constructive dialogue around significant issues of […]

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Review: The Reading Lesson Delivers Results

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ReadingLessonProductReviewAll

When we started homeschooling in 2010, my two eldest daughters (now 13 1/2 and 12) had already learned to read in school. My youngest was only three, and although she could memorize almost anything put to music, she wasn’t showing much interest in learning to visually recognize or write letters just yet. So I asked the most […]

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Join Us: Be the Voice for Persecuted Christians

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“Let your mouth be open for those who have no voice, in the cause of those who are ready for death.” — Proverbs 31:8 (BBE) Like you, we’ve seen the headlines and read the alarming news reports about persecuted Christians fleeing for their lives and dying in Iraq and Syria — and have felt a world away, wondering […]

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