Our children are not as little as they used to be, and learning has progressed to a point where we can all sit together and focus on the day’s activities. But this was not always so. I fondly remember sitting at the kitchen table with all three of my girls; mommy bouncing between them, trying to breathe and exhibit patience while attempting to simultaneously help them. Just when I thought I had things under control I would spot my son out of the corner of my eye. Not quite old enough to school along with his sisters, it quickly became apparent that he too needed attention and an opportunity to learn. It was time to get creative!
Balancing four kiddos during homeschooling can be challenging enough, but when one is not quite school age, it can get a little tricky. Along the way we have learned some fun tips and ideas on how to include our little learners and make them feel welcome at the table.
Set up a play area just for them. While my daughters were doing school, my son had a section of our living room set up just for him. There he could play, read, and create without worrying about anyone else invading his space. He also learned how to keep himself occupied without needing anyone to entertain him.
Rotate daily play toys. Each day of the week, I tried to give him something different to keep him occupied. I would also try to make sure there were several options for that day. For example: On Monday we might have Legos, his pirate ship, or his talking Mickey Mouse. On Tuesday we might have his train sets, his board games, or his books. I tried to not make all his toys accessible at once, as this would cause boredom and make it harder to keep him occupied. If he asked for one specifically I will make the trade, but I only left it out for that day.
Include them, as much as possible, in what you are doing. While my son enjoyed play time, at some point he become interested in what was going on at the table and wanted to be included. To help him feel welcome, we provided coloring pages or tracing papers he could use. When possible, we made sure he participated in our unit activities. (i.e. When we learned about magnetism, he played with magnets. When we learned about the Civil War, he got to be dressed up as a soldier and play a drum.)
Start them on their own learning day as soon as possible. Children as young as three and four can begin their own learning day. This will encourage them in their love of learning and start the “schooling” process off nice and easy. All of our kids started their learning day at three years old. Nothing too complex or too time consuming; just enough to get them used to sitting at the table and putting their mind to the task.
Get the big kids to help out. Being able to keep yourself occupied is an important skill. However, it is nice to have someone to play with after a time. When one of my girls was finished with her studies or needed a break, she would hop on over to little brother and help out. She would play with him, read to him, and help keep him entertained. This allowed me to help out the others or to just get things done around the house.
Having younger learners and babies in the house can be a challenge, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Learning to include our littles can be an exercise in joy and set the stage for their future schooling adventures. With a bit of patience, organization, and creativity they too can join us at the table. Then the real fun begins!
“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
~ Matthew 19:14
We’d love to know… How do you – did you – include your littlest of learners into your schooling routine?