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Homeschooling Little Ones

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By Tamara Eaton

Juggling Homeschooling with Tots

Our first four children were born very closely spaced together, (4 in 4 1/2 years) and we have always homeschooled them all. So I began homeschooling with little ones, and managed to include them from the very start in our activities. Later we added a couple of more little blessings so we had to deal with more little ones!

Believe me, it is possible and fun! It can be challenging at times though. What worked out best for me was to have some activities planned for the little ones to do right beside us as we worked together on "schooling" the older ones. (Toys that they only played with during "school time," crayons, pencils, and paper when they are old enough, etc

I also liked to choose a time when everyone felt their freshest to do the "schooling." The morning worked best for us, and then if we needed some quiet "one-on-one" time with an older child, I'd do it at the beginning of naptime for a few minutes, or at night after Dad was home to help entertain the little ones. Frankly, I usually needed a nap at naptime as much or more than the little kids did! (Still do!)

My youngest two are now 2 1/2 and 4 and they are used to either having to play or work quietly beside us, or listen quietly or go to their room and play in there. It's much easier for us now that my older four work on their own independently for the majority of their studies. We do include the little ones when we do unit studies and they feel so big! They learn so much as's amazing how much the little ones pick up from just hearing us discuss things.

I also feel very strongly that my little ones get all the individual attention they need to have a normal childhood...that they are not looked upon as "obstacles" or "liabilities" to our homeschooling but rather "assets"! Homeschooling is a wonderful educational experience for the whole family!

Tips for Little Homeschoolers!

  • Play dough, coloring, drawing, washable markers, cutting with little safety scissors that don't cut hair or skin, stringing beads, lacing, stringing cheerios, homemade or purchased simple puzzles, and blocks.
  • Matching shapes - cut out shapes then draw around them on another sheet of paper. Let the tots match the shapes.
  • Make homemade flour and water paste, let the toddlers have old magazines and tear out pictures or pieces of colorful pages and paste on construction paper or poster paper. Or let them paste macaroni or dried beans on poster paper. (Make sure they are past the age of putting these things in their mouth.)
  • Copy a pattern and give them stencils to trace.
  • Keep a box of paper dolls for them to play with when you need a quiet activity. Don't bring it out very often so it will be something new!
  • Have a little zip-lock bag full of small plastic toys such as farm animals or little people. Don't bring these out very often either.
  • Teach them finger play games and songs, Funny rhymes and silly songs, Teach them to rhyme words, ABC song, the beginning sounds of letters...point out objects in the room which start with those sounds.
  • Teach them to write their name and spell it! Buy a large chalkboard and let them use that, keep a large set of magnetic letters and numbers to stick on the refrigerator,
  • Buy butcher paper and let them use markers to make a mural to decorate their room. Add all the ABC's at the top!
  • Show them nature books and teach them all the animals.
  • Teach them their colors. Let them sort Legos by colors, by size, etc. and put in containers with different compartments. Build a design with Legos and let them try to copy it. Let them build a design and YOU copy it! :)
  • Make gingerbread cookie dough (the egg-less kind is best for little nibblers!) and let them shape cookies by themselves. Give them cookie cutters, rolling pins, but also show them how to make little round ball-heads and arms and legs and a body, etc.
  • Give them soft foam balls to play with indoors and a basket to throw the ball into...Have a tea party with little doll dishes and crackers, etc. Let the stuffed animals and dolls attend. Let them have water to pour from their teapot.
  • Let them do exercises with an exercise video. Put lively music on and dance together! (This is especially great if everyone seems to be having a grumpy day!) Have a few good quality children's videos that encourage the children to participate as they view, getting up and dance and sing the songs, etc. not just sit there like a little zombie! Our favorites for little ones are the DONUT MAN VIDEOS from Integrity Music. While obviously you don't want to let them watch these too much, they can be a lifesaver if you just have to have 25 minutes of peace!
  • Teach them to count! Spoons, M&M's, cheerios, chairs, blocks, dolls, cars, etc.
  • Read them books! Lots of them! Let them have their own photo album of family and friends.
  • Water play! If all else fails, let them take a bubble bath with lots of containers and toys. Get a chair and pull it up to the tub so you can supervise and flip though a magazine, looking up every two seconds.
  • Play with Dominoes, and other board game pieces and cards- for little ones it doesn't matter if all the pieces are there or not, and you could buy used games at yard sales, salvation army stores, etc. for under a dollar! Put the smaller pieces in zip-loc bags and use them for emergencies. Here again, make certain that you are supervising and that the children no longer put items in their mouths.
  • Give them magnets to play with and magnetic letters and numbers to arrange on cookie sheets.
  • Paint with water books, only use Q-tips instead of paintbrushes and little muffin pans of water to dip the Q-tips in to limit spills.
  • Let them have riding toys in the house to work off energy. Give them a toy shopping cart to use to pick up toys around the house, or take laundry to the laundry room, etc.
  • Cardboard boxes, several of them to make a train, or a large one for a house. Let them decorate it with washable markers. Throw it away when it gets too smushed.
  • Hug them! Kiss them! Rock them! Sing to them! Dance with them! Love them!

Copyright 1995 by Tamara Eaton

Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the publication to: CHF Web, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.

Copyright ©  2004  Eclectic Homeschool Association

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