Many people have asked me how I keep the younger children entertained while I teach the older kids. First let me tell you that my opinion of schooling may differ from some. I consider schooling more than sitting down at a table or a desk for hours learning what any school could or would teach my children. (although academics are important to function in this world!) I don't formally start my children's "school" until much later than some. My 8 year old can not read yet, not because I am lazy, because I can see he is not ready yet, although getting closer. It would only frustrate him and cause him to look at reading as a joy only a struggle. (My oldest son was the guinea pig for this!) To this day, reading is not something he enjoys! Now my 5 year old can read better than some 2 or 3 years older than him and he spells EVERYTHING out loud. I have really not formally taught him to read. He just has a passion for it and started himself. Not the norm in our family. Usually I have had to guide the previous readers through our wonderful phonics curriculum that has worked so well. The whole goal for my husband and I from the very beginning of our homeschooling journey was to teach or children to teach themselves. If they can learn that skill, they can learn anything and my guidance is all they will need. So, to continue on with the topic question, what do I do with the younger ones while I am busy with the older ones. Because we are a little more structured as far as educating our older kids, I do have to be creative with the little ones while I GUIDE the others. Here are some tips I hope you can use:
1. Monday's are the busy day because that is when I sit with the oldest 3 and give them their assignments for the week. I allow them to work at their own pace and THEY decide when they accomplish their assignments. I have one that has a hard time planning ahead but a couple times of taking away a privilege because work is not accomplished makes a BIG impact! So on Mondays, my 4th child gets the joy of planning an activity for them. (I usually help her Sunday night come up with a little lesson and simple craft.) Usually they do things lots quicker than I need them too, but then they can read books quietly until we are done.
2. The baby naps in the morning still, so the younger 3 after him, have blanket time. I have a certain activity that they do on their blankets, chosen by me, that they must stay on their blanket to do. After one half hour, they can rotate their activity with their brother if they wish. Some things I give them are a box of Legos, potato heads, blocks, wooden trains and track, play cars, Lincoln Logs. This does take a little time to train them to stay on their blankets, but it is worth the effort and it teaches them to focus. That is what their school is at this age! I have even been known to reward them with watching a movie of my choice as long as they stay on their blanket. I do not do this often, because it really would defeat the whole purpose.
3 Play-dough, need I say more?! Not on their blankets by the way!
4. Creating a simple snack with the oldest that is not busy with mom.
5. Books on their blanket is set aside for Fridays. Sometimes they end up playing with them instead of reading them, but as long as they are on their blankets and quiet, let the creativity flow!
6. Wonder Markers and the books that go with them. If you are not familiar with them, they can be costly, but a good investment. They color only on the paper you buy for the special markers and are invisible on anything else. Great for toddlers! The older kids enjoy them also.
7. Old fashioned crayons and coloring books work well too. I do have some that just don't care for coloring much however.
8. I have one rubbermaid of toys that I only get out about once a month for the days when I need a little more time than normal or just a change. It is hands off unless mom says!
I don't feel real creative but these are some of things I use. Blanket time works the best and it usually allows me just enough time to complete what I need to do. Start young and work your way up and there will be less struggle. If you are starting from scratch, be patient and consistent.
I would love to hear your ideas! Post them on my comments page if you have any good ideas!