A reader posted this comment recently:
If you're still taking suggestions... I recently plunged into homeschooling with my first-grader. I would love to know how you maintain motivation and discipline during schooling time (as in proper school behavior, not how-to's on spanking ;-)) and keep the littles (2 or 3 year olds) who desperately want to join in, amused, but not interfering.
My 6 year old likes to goof off, mostly to avoid listening to a lesson being read - she can't read yet - I'm trying lots of patience, I don't want to become overbearing and make her hate schooling but we really need to work on focusing on the tasks at hand.
This is a question which I have received multiple times recently, so I thought I would answer her for everyone to read.
The first part deals with what to do with those little people who want to join in, but perhaps aren't entirely helpful while a parent is working with an older child. Now, first I have to admit, that there are just some days when I throw up my hands and cry, "Uncle" and stop trying to battle the sometimes immovable force that is a two year old. But for most of the time, here are some suggestions as to what has worked for me to entertain the younger set.
- Use nap time when you need to. This is not my preferred course of action because I like to use nap time to take care of things around the house which need to be done. But there are some seasons where it is really the only option. (Even if your small person no longer sleeps in the afternoon, I would strongly suggest instituting a 'quiet time' where the child stays on his or her bed, perhaps with a box of special quiet time toys, and plays there by themselves. This is good for everyone's sanity.) I will resort to this option if my older child is trying to learn to read and just cannot concentrate on the task at hand with lots of distractions, or they have a project which involves many small pieces, or there is a more involved project you want to do where having the smaller child around would result in chaos.
- Have toys set aside solely for when you are having school time. This can be a set of preschool boxes (though in looking back, I realize I didn't tell a whole lot about them, let me know if you want more detailed information) or just a bin of fun toys which the younger child only sees while you are working with the older sibling. For this to work though, you must be firm about putting the toys and boxes away when you are done... even if the child complains, which they will. I promise. But it won't stay special and be a distraction if the child has free access to it.
- Sometimes play-doh and clay can be your friend. I'm not a big fan of play-doh and clay usually, because I just don't like messy things. (Yes, I'm aware I have 9 children. Go figure.) But, if it is a controlled substance, it will keep a little person busy for a long time.
- Involve the small child as much as possible. I keep cheap workbooks that I've picked-up places (they can be partly used, 2 and 3 year olds don't seem to care) which I hand the to small child when they want to do 'work', too. Because they're actual workbooks, they seem to the small child to be just like what the older brother or sister have, thus adding to their cachet. And because you spent little to no money on them, the child can scribble in them to their heart's content. If there is a more hands-on project being done, I always make a small child version for them to work on/do/use/make so they feel included.
- Pay attention to the smallest child first. This probably should have been the first item, as I consider it the most important. Often small children become pests because they feel it is the only way to receive attention from parents... and sometimes that's a correct assumption. I have found if I take the time to pay attention to my smallest child first... reading stories, maybe playing a gave, having some lap time... the child is more content and willing to share Mommy with other people. It is important to remember that this is just as vital, if not more so, to the well-being and development of the smaller child as teaching academics is to the older child.
- Let them play in water. This keeps some of my littles busy for huge amounts of time. Sometimes I will let them bring plastic toys into the bathroom and play with them in the sink, or sometimes I will let them 'wash' dishes in the kitchen sink. It's just water and when it gets splashed around it is easy to clean up. For some reason, water is over-the-top fun for little people and they really enjoy playing in it.
I will continue to answer the second part of this question tomorrow.