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.
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.
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.