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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp
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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp.  All rights reserved.
about the book
The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
Homeschooling Special Situations
Babies and Toddlers

How Can I Homeschool With a Toddler
in the House?

by Julie Shepherd Knapp, copyright 2006, 2007

Homeschooling with toddlers in the family presents many challenges.  
Toddlers, of course, still need quite a lot of Mom's attention.  They also
tend to throw tantrums, refuse to take a nap, grab books, eat
assignments, and walk on projects.  Parents may wonder how a family
can homeschool while all this is going on?

Here are four strategies that parents have used when homeschooling
with a toddler in the house --

1. Wait till they are sleeping.

2. Keep them occupied with other activities.

3. Include them in "school work".

4. Enlist a helper to entertain them for you, or trade off on toddler
play dates with another mom.

A good mix of all of these will probably be necessary at different times.  It
may take some time to find what works for your family.

It might help to remind yourself that you are a family first, and a
homeschooling family second... and young children simply need lots of
your time and attention.  There will be days when it seems that not much
was accomplished... but that is true in schools, as well.  Homeschoolers
have time on their side - homeschooling can be done in bits and pieces,
here and there, as time, and little brother or sister allow.  After all, the
chance for your children to grow up in each other's company really is one
of the good things about homeschooling :-)

Below are a few ways that clever moms have managed to entertain their
toddlers long enough to get a few minutes free to work with an older
child.  Of course, you have to be watchful for choking hazards, and never
leave a toddler unattended or out of your line of sight.  They can get into
trouble in the wink of an eye ;-)

Homeschool while your toddler eats in his highchair:

Give him snacks that take a while for him to eat... like noodles with butter
or mashed potatoes.  Let him "finger paint" with pudding or applesauce
on the highchair tray (and himself). Or, instead of food, try giving him
toys to play with, or let him color or put stickers on himself.  

Provide 2 - 3 year olds with an interesting play medium:

Set them at the table with Play Dough and accessories, or other age
appropriate art supplies (torn paper collages are fun).  In nice weather,
homeschool outdoors where toddlers can play with cups, spoons and a
pan of water...   Or dig in the sandbox... or play with toy cars in a  pan of
uncooked rice.  Or give them dress-up materials to play with.

Bring out special toys or activities that only get played with
during "school" time:

Offer toys like Duplo bricks, wooden blocks, doll houses, play kitchens,
plastic (pretend) food, pull toys, preschool flashlights, construction
equipment toys, farm or zoo or Noah's Ark sets, toys trains... whatever
they would enjoy.  Try to keep several choices on hand, so they have
something different each day.  Thrift stores and yard sales are good
places to find inexpensive toys that will be "new" to your toddler.

You can also make a big pile with the sofa cushions and let your toddler
climb on them.  Make a fort out of blankets or a large box and let them
explore.  Or buy a "bouncy" chair or swing  that is only used during
lesson times.  

If it's not against your family values, let them try out some
educational pre-school software or children's videos.

Here are some software options described on the KidsClick website -

Reader Rabbit Toddler
I Spy Junior
Jumpstart Toddler
Fischer Price Toddler
Little Bear Toddler
Land Before Time Toddler
DK My First Math Adventure
Maisy's Playhouse

Offer to let the toddler "do" school, as well.

Many little ones enjoy copying their older siblings, and will like the idea of
sitting at the table or on the floor with their own "work" to do.  

There are many educational toys that would be appropriate to use as
"school work" for toddlers (do check for choking hazards, of course).  Try
blocks, (washable) crayons and paper, shape-sorters, wooden puzzles,
pattern blocks, lacing cards, magnetic letters and numbers, stacking
toys, nested cups, large beads for stringing, and sticker books.  

There are a few curriculum providers who include "lessons" for 2 year
Before Five in a Row, for example, which consists of reading
stories and discussing them.  If you can manage to do this at the same
time that you are available to help an older child with questions, then this
may work for you.

Other Resources

Huggies Happy Baby -- some free online toddler games

Little Kids Games Online -- a collection of one mom's favorites

Musical Songs and Games -- free from the BBC online for babies and

Boowa & Kwala -- 490+ free online games for kids under 10, teaches
use of the mouse and educational themes, from a British TV program

Signing Time -- teach babies and toddlers to use sign language,
promotes bonding, may ease tantrums, free online video demo

How to Read to Your Child - Without Falling Asleep! by Rachel
Webb -- tips for making reading an interesting experience for your little
one, and you too!

Ready, Set, Read!  How to Read to a Young Child by Dorothy P.  
Dougherty -- tips on reading to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers

The Diner's Favorite ABC Books

Living Math -- You don't need a math curriculum to learn about
numbers -- math can be learned thru everyday activities and fun stories

Online Support

Homeschooling Toddlers -- a Yahoo! group for parents
homeschooling their toddlers and/or homeschooling around their toddlers

Homeschooling a Houseful -- for those with large families trying to
homeschool many different age groups at the same time.

Twenty-ish AP Moms -- a support group for young mothers practicing
attachment parenting., and other forms of instinctive and gentle
parenting, natural living, homeschooling, etc

Related Issues

Learning to Communicate

Penelope Leach on Toddlers -- a nice online collection of articles,
includes advice on handling tantrums

Outsmart Your Toddler: 5 tricks for getting yours to do what you
want by Deborah Carpenter

Roots of altruism show in babies’ helping hands: Toddlers eager
to help out, even with no prospect of reward from Felix Warneken,
Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology

Tots May Heed Emotions Aimed at Others:by 18 Months, Toddlers
Take Behavior Cues From Adults, Experts Say by Miranda Hitti

Five Early Signs of Autism -- do you know the signs?
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