December 3, 2012

Ch ch ch ch Changes!

Every once in a while HUGE life changes happen.  When they do, family adjustments can be difficult. I'm in the middle of such a huge life change at the moment.

Three weeks ago my fifth child was born and he is a beauty.  Before he was born our school work was done in the afternoons while the toddler napped.  Shortly before the baby was born the toddler stopped taking naps.

Now we not only have to adjust our schedule to accommodate a new baby, but a toddler who is awake all day long.  That is why I am coming here to beg for help!

The normal toddler activities don't work for more than five minutes on this kid and it is never long before he starts to wreak havoc on the worksheets or projects of his siblings.

How do you keep a very busy boy (who can't talk yet, by the way) occupied while your house has been taken over by school?  Do your toddlers have favorite school toys or projects?  I would LOVE to hear your ideas... preferably ideas that don't require constant parental supervision and will not make a mess :)

Courtney is military wife and homeschooling mom.  She has been married to the greatest (and best looking) man for ten years and has loved nearly every minute of it.  She has two girls, ages nine and seven, and three boys ages five, two and three weeks.  Courtney knows it is selfish of her, but she feels that her children are entirely too much fun for someone else to enjoy their company all day.  Courtney apologizes if this post is long winded and rambling.  She tends to feel very passionately about things and has a hard time ever shutting up.  You can find more of her and her musings over at My Ordinary, Every Day, Happily Ever After.

20 comments - Add a comment below -:

Tristan said...

Courtney, you probably already know my answer, but here it is nonetheless:

1. The baby IS the lesson for a while.

2. Table time seatbelted in a booster seat during part of school. Literally, seatbelt him with something to do. Change what he has every 10-15 minutes. If he tosses it he just sits and watches everyone else's work. He'll learn not to toss it, I promise. Table time lasts an hour (you may want to work up to the full hour!)Use table time to do essential teaching with the others.

Ideas for things he can do at the table:
paint with plain old water on construction paper
math manipulatives
velcro slicing food (Melissa and Doug)
dry erase marker and board or book

Also, try staggering new math lessons with the older kids. Do one person's on Monday, one on Tuesday, one on Wednesday, etc. This makes it so you only need a small one on one time each day for a new lesson instead of needing and hour or more to get everyone's new math lesson taught on Mondays. (We use MUS, so this works, it may not work with Saxon or others that have 150+ 'lessons' a year. MUS has 30).

Use lunchtime - do reading aloud while kids are eating, or listen to music or do picture study then.

((HUGS)) It's always changing! Take things one day at a time and be willing to try new ways.

Heather B said...

We do a similar thing to Tristan's table time, but for us it's blanket time. We trained them to go get their favorite baby blanket and spread it out on the floor during that part of school time when the older kids need my attention and I couldn't give any to the toddler. We spread out the blanket on the floor, and they play with the educational school toys that usually stay safely locked up in the school cupboard. That way they stay fresh and fun, not the everyday toys that they're used to. They learn to stay on the blanket. It takes supervision at first, they need to be taught what is expected of them, but they learn quickly, and it just becomes part of the school routine with the toddler considering blanket time his school :) Once we're done with "school", then the toddler can go off and play all around the house, etc. We've done it for years that way and it makes that part of the day when the older ones need me pleasant and easy.

As for the baby, Tristan is also right. To repeat again the phrase Diane Hopkins coined, sometimes the baby IS the lesson. I spent years doing school crossed-legged, sitting on the floor, nursing the baby, helping the older kids while the toddler played near us on the blanket. When the baby needed something more, the older kids learned to be patient and compassionate. Once you heal from the delivery, you might consider moving everyone to the floor. It's easy to help with math sitting on the floor, nursing. Or if you prefer the table and the seatbelt method, baby can hang out in the sling. Either way would work.

Now that our oldest of 7 is heading off to college, and the "baby" is 4, admittedly it is much, much easier to do it all, but there were many years where constant adjustment was required. You can do it. The most important thing to remember is to smile while you are and enjoy every single minute of it :) It goes by much, much too quickly, believe me.

Andrea said...

Ditto what others have said. My kiddos always liked to "practice" being part of school so I buy a handwriting without tears preschool book and have a wipe-off book I got from amazon and inchimals math. Every ten minutes or so I give the toddler something else to do and then I still enforce a quiet time after that until a child hits about 8. So between quiet time (on beds with books to look at) and "school" my toddlers *usually* do okay.

Courtney said...

My toddler quit taking naps the same time my twins were born (4 months ago), I put him in his room with a few toys, lucky for me he can't open the door yet, then we can get school work done in the afternoon when the babies are taking their longest nap. I tried just letting him stay up and it's been a disaster, so I just lock him in the room and now that he's used to it it's not a problem. My other preschoolers I assign toys like blocks or legos. Hope that helps.

Courtney said...

Thanks for the advice everyone! Keep it coming :) I may have to get out our table seat though he is quite the contortionist and may not stay in it (he can easily get out of the stroller even when we have buckled him tight).

Suzuki Mom said...

Hah, I was going to send you to Tristan's blog where she describes her method.... but she had already commented!

Jennifer said...

I hope I don't get slammed for this, but I put on a DVD for my toddler - he is VERY active as well but he will sit and watch a DVD. There are plenty of educational DVDs so I don't feel guilty about doing that at all.

Anonymous said...

You have gotten fantastic ideas already. I pay my eldest three to take turns being mommies helpers. This works rather well and is a win win situation as the get to earn money ( or sometimes treats, privileges, if we are having a short month) but I will add one more. TV. I have 8 kids, the two youngest are 17 months and 4 months. So when I put the baby down for a nap, I put on something like Martha Speaks for the toddler, which she loves and will watch at least 15 minutes of. I also let her play on the ipad. But mostly I rely on my girls:)

Eve | Inchworm Chronicles said...

Well, first of all, congrats on the new baby!! Hope you are feeling well, too.

Another comment wherein I agree with Tristan!

We have done all those things and they were successful for us, too, but I am lucky and my daughter would willingly sit and color at the table for 40 minutes at age 2! My boys, no such luck....except, with playdough and cookie cutter and butter knives, they would.

One thing I have instituted recently is three days of homeschool for the older two (we call it "table time" for the older two, ages 7 and 10 because it's when we do handwriting and reading practice and a subject that we rotate by the week, like math, art, history, etc.)

My older son is up first so we work together in the morning, and my 7 year old son and I work together later in the day (before nap time for the baby).

And then two days (T and Th) for the two younger kids (ages 5 and 3). I love combining them because they are good friends and are easy to teach together bc they seem to be on a similar learning plane.

We just play games, cook together, talk about letters and sounds and numbers, swing together, etc. It's nice, too, cause then the older kids can do what they enjoy two days a week with no homeschool to think about. We all like breaks!

I like doing it this way. For me, it's less intense trying to juggle everyone at the same time and the kids enjoy my undivided (mostly)) attention.

Although, usually, one little one will gravitate toward where my older sons and I are at table time and I do have some bins on a wall shelf that I pull things out of when I need to help the littles keep busy so we can finish reading practice (magnet puzzles, those math manipulative cubes, etc)

I also have 5 and my baby is 7 months now. I definitely moved into full schedule gradually, trying to keep the routine going, even if the workload was light.

That's it from me. Good luck finding what will work for you and your unique family during this season of homeschool! :-)

Tristan said...

Jennifer - No arguing here! We have some DVDs that I pull out in a pinch too. Favorites for 'educational leaning' at my house are:
Word World
Letter Factory and others by Leap Frog
Signing Time
Speekee (spanish)
The Magic School Bus

I try to limit these because when I turn one on it is so easy to turn on another and just end up letting the little ones veg out for some peace and quiet. I get lazy! My goal is to not turn on a dvd until I'm ready to cook lunch each day, but if I really needed it for school instead then I would use it then.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the DVD list Tristan! Another one all my kids love is Peep and the Big Wide World - really good basic science for littles :)

Amanda said...

My oldest is 5 and I'm due with my fifth. For everyone's sanity, we still ALWAYS have quiet time in the afternoon. It's evolved from palying/sitting quietly in the crib/bed with a book or something quiet (hoping to get someone to take a nap!) to it's the time in the afternoon all TVs, music, loud toys and running is stopped and they can color, read a book, make something, etc. We still have one that takes a nap in the afternoon, but everyone knows it's quiet time, even my LOUD 3 year old boy. If it were me, I'd still put the recent non-napper in his bed/crib and let them know they don't have to sleep, but it's quiet time and you'll come and get him when it's over (a timer might be useful) and lights off. But our quiet time is generally at least 1 1/2 hours after lunch. Usually most, if not all of the lights are out in the house and curtains closed to promote rest. Everyone needs some downtime, even mommy. :) But I generally use it to catch up on things,internet, nap, start any dinner prep or help my oldest with school. It's a nice calm before more storm in the evening.

Heidi said...

Glad to be REMINDED from reading all of these tips! It is so easy to forget the simple things that WORK! We have baby number 6 due in the spring and our "schooling" has taken a backseat to this pregnancy..or so it seems to me. But as mentioned in someone's comment, I am just trying to keep the routine going, even if it is a lighter load. My energy is returning though, so I am hopeful that after the holidays we can dig back into full lessons for awhile. But also, this is why we school year round!

Tamstowne said...

We too have quiet time for everyone. No one has too sleep but they have to play, read or just occupy themselves for 1 hour a day. I've never locked a door but my youngest is super active and quite social so alone time is not his favorite. He uses the play room for his quiet time and the older two use their rooms.

Bless you during this busy time with 5 little ones.

Cari said...

I'm about to be in the same boat! Fortunately my little guy is big enough to play on starfall more on my kindle, educational and entertaining...

Luke and Andrea said...

I haven't started homeschooling with my little two-year-old yet, but I recently got a website from a mothers group that I think is great! It's They have tons of age-specific activities on there, and they can email them to you as often as you like. I really like it because the ages are "early two-year-old" "middle two-year-old" etc. Very specific! Good luck!

Dawn said...

For all but one of my kids, it helped considerably to give the toddler or preschooler my attention before giving it to the older children. If I read a story one-on-one and then played with him/her for awhile, they seemed naturally ready to move on to something self directed like wooden puzzles, stringing beads, or coloring. My go-to activities for non-oral toddlers are the watercolor books with the paint on the pages (they just need water) and those capsules with the sponges inside. If you put warm water instead of hot it takes a fair amount of time for them to pop open and reveal the animal/shape inside. Because we have older siblings to model, dominoes, wooden blocks, and extra copies of whatever the siblings are doing work well (so s/he scribbles on a copy of some Story of the World page... it keeps them happy).

Juli said...

I am in a similar situation with my 6 children ages 12yrs-baby. One thing I learned from a book, "Managers of Their Homes" (by Steven and Teri Maxwell), was to have scheduled times for the children to play one-on-one with eachother. They do this while I am working with another child and it works far better than I could have guessed. I have also had them learn about the stages of development and helped them pick out developmentally appropriate activities to do with the child they are to play with. It has been very educational for the older kids, and all the children really look forward to their time to play with a sibling! It was also fun hearing my 8-year-old explain to someone at church how and why babies love repitition and that was why he taught his brother how to play "How big is baby?".

Also, absolute favorite activities for my toddler are: plugging in a warming tray (cover it with aluminum foil first) putting a piece of paper on it and coloring with crayons. The heat from the tray melts the crayons a little and makes for an entertaining art experience. Finger painting in shaving cream on the sliding glass door or chocolate pudding in a jelly roll tray are also high on the list. She also loves to count raisons or whatever into an egg carton (or her mouth).

Good Luck!!

Lisa said...

I have a just-turned-2-year-old and am trying to figure out how to occupy him as well. Alot of the ideas that have been mentioned wouldn't fit well with my parenting style and approach to early childhood (I don't do early academics, try to avoid screen time for young ones, think little ones need to be down moving and playing rather than sitting, etc.) I don't bring this up to offend anyone, because I think we all have our own style, approach, and ability to receive inspiration for our families...I just mention it because I know I'm looking for solutions that fit with my beliefs and others may be in the same boat as I am. I have all of our toys in our school area. He has a few things that he is obsessed with like wooden trains and cars. Alot of times he will get up first thing in the morning and play trains for an extended period of time. I had the thought that I should put some of those favored toys away and bring them out later, when I am needing to be occupied with the older kids. I tried that the other day, and it worked. It was new and fresh, and he occupied himself with Thomas the Tank Engine almost long enough for my older son's entire lesson to be completed. Even though it is December, the weather has been nice, and one day I just took everyone outside. The little ones could play, and the older one did school work on the front steps. That might not work so well with a newborn. I have also done things like playdough, or putting him on a chair next to the sink with a trickle of water running--he'll play there forever. I've had to stop that because he learned how to use the sprayer, but it worked well for a long time. He likes to paint, and we have a watercolor set where you can take the little dry cake out of the set. I can give him one of those, a small bit of water, and a small brush, and he can paint without making too much of a mess. I also agree with the person who said to give him time and attention first thing. I have also at times asked my older child to watch him for short amounts of time while I am working with someone else.

Sharesa Larsen said...

I homeschool a 5 year old, 3 and 2 year old and I have one on the way. We just do school Tuesdays and Thursday mornings from 9-11. Usually I start with all three at the table with a piece of paper for each of the younger two and colors. We start each morning with Book of Mormon. Anyway, they color while I teach and this usually lasts 20 min. Then we do math which I use a lot of manipulatives and the younger two like to just play with them. Then we do science which is usually hands on and they all get excited about that. For the reading/writing the younger two end up playing in an adjoining room and whether they come back for history is hit and miss. So I would just say to include them in what you are doing if you can and if not just let them run a muck in the house, most things are cleanable. Good luck!