Homeschooling with a Toddler

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How can I work with my older kids when my toddlers need me so much?

I experienced this first hand with the birth of our second son when our oldest was 9.  The first challenge I had was morning sickness, migraine headaches and physical exhaustion during that pregnancy while keeping up with an active, involved elementary age boy.  Then our baby arrived about six-weeks pre-maturely and I was also working part-time from home and had to reschedule speaking engagements and appointments.

Many adjustments and changes had to be made but we all grew through the process together.  Our home was quite small, I wasn't set up for baby yet and we were homeschooling about a mile away at my folk's house where we set up our school room.  So, each day, we packed up and moved down the road for "school as usual".  It wasn't usual in any sense of the word, but the character qualities of flexibility and gratefulness certainly came into play in that situation. 

Our studies slowed down but our older son began to learn to serve his mother and baby brother and those are lessons that only life can teach us, not books.  Although nine years apart in age they are very close and highly supportive of one another to this day due to the fact the younger saw his older brother as a third "parent" to help nurture and train him in the way he was also being taught.  It was a blessing although at the time I was experiencing unnecessary guilt for not feeling I was accomplishing as much with our older son.  That son is now at the Air Force Academy in leadership and doing excellent in every way thanks to God's goodness.  Obedience is always rewarded by the Lord, never forget that.  If you obey His call for training and teaching your children and are faithful to the task, He will not let you down.

During school hours I tried to keep our younger son occupied with quiet toys and activities while his brother worked with me on subjects in which he needed assistance.

I also held the baby when I worked with our older son.  It is a good discipline for the baby as well to learn to stay still when Mother needs him to do so which is good preparation for church and seminar attentiveness.  Setting him on a blanket while in the same room, of course, worked at other times.  I also tried to do the harder subjects requiring more concentration when the baby needed to nap.  He also napped in the same room those first few years, until we were able to add on a room to our house allowing us space to home school in our own home.

As our youngest got older, I assigned teaching tasks for our older son to do with him.  It could be table setting, toy pick-up, folding wash cloths or other easy laundry, putting clothing away, etc.  As he was ready it became teaching him his colors and number recognition.  This is good responsibility for the older child and unites the heart of the younger one in the process.  As our youngest entered the kindergarten age I assigned a subject or two for the older to teach him.  The subject my older loved was music.  Having taken both violin and piano from a young age, he had a small understanding of music, pitch, and rhythm.  We used the Bob Jones Kindergarten curriculum (purchased used) with an accompanying music tape.  The older taught the younger to sing and knew just what to require of him to perform for us to hear, too.  It was precious to see them both work together and the younger took to heart everything his older brother was instilling in him.  I observed and later gave pointers to our older son to use when working with his little brother, but overall watched as he learned along with him.

It is a fact that what one must teach another they become better at themselves.  Teaching others puts one in a position of authority and a desire to rise to the challenge to be better and do better than they thought they could otherwise. 

Delegate as much as possible and then teach the younger to respect the time of the older student when they need to have uninterrupted time to concentrate.  The younger child can be taught to pray and bless the older (and vice-versa) for giving of his time to help him grow and learn.  Stress gratefulness and appreciation whenever possible as it will help turn the focus from themselves to others and that is so important for humility and receiving all God has for their lives.  That in itself is a most helpful learning tool; to be grateful, serve others and invest in eternally significant things.  People are important and investing in their lives will reap a harvest for eternity.  Seeking wisdom is the principal thing.  Knowledge puffs up but wisdom brings light and life to every part of our lives.  Children need to see that.  Diligence in doing their studies as "unto the Lord" and not for their own glory is very important. In the process, assisting one another will help lighten your load and teach them important lessons as well. 

Pray about how to incorporate the learning, studies, and serving together.  Seek God's face for His will and direction for your family.  He will give you wisdom.  What works for one family may not be His plan and purpose for yours.  But, He will lead you if you will ask and listen with an open, teachable heart and your life and that of your family will indeed be blessed. 

If women years ago could manage with no modern conveniences, homes on the prairie, living in (often times) one room, and have many children close in age with no school to send them to, we can certainly find creative ways to make it work for us.  Thinking back to many home-schooled patriots in America generations back, they often attended college at a very young age, invented many life-changing forms of equipment and products, established our Constitution and founding, and established laws that have governed our country since.  They were people of perseverance and excellence and they left us a great and noble heritage.  They have laid the groundwork for us and those dear mothers trained them well.  We are in a privileged position to do the same.

With the Lord's help, how can we fail?

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