This post is another post written in response to an online query. I had a good time writing it though as it caused me to reflect upon the times when the children were younger. I remember thinking that the time would never come when I wouldn’t have toddlers but I have experienced that this time, too, shall pass. My children are all approximately 22 months apart. So here is where I write about my experience with our toddlers and young ones while trying to homeschool.
- It was hard work!
- It was fantastic!!
- It was draining and monotonous!!!
- It was fun!!!!
I’m trying to remember how I managed…not just survived but enjoyed it. And I did enjoy it for the most part. The hardest times were when things would go wrong with the car or house and John was away! But that’s not the children’s fault.
Firstly, I taught my babies to sleep independently and I expected this to carry on. Even as older toddlers I would put them down for a Quiet Time. I wasn’t fussed if they slept but they needed a quiet time. I needed the Quiet Time.
I also gave my children LOADS of free time to play outside…to play inside. Just time to play and be children. They played outside in the mud, in the dirt, with the dog, pulling up the garden, digging, climbing, running, jumping and generally doing what most children do given the opportunity.
The hardest times were when my baby was about 18mt – 2yrs, next was John at 4yrs, ‘Miss R’ at 6yrs and ‘Miss A’ at 8yrs. Yep, this was a juggling act. But we managed by being flexible and spontaneous.
The children would get up and have breakfast and do some chores and then they’d go outside to play. I would send them ALL outside together. Sometimes I’d go out with them, other times I’d watch from the laundry or the kitchen while doing some work. The fresh air and sunshine, with lots of laughter really tuckered the young boys out so the youngest would come inside and go down for a solid 2 hour nap while John was content to be in the play pen with toys or books, listening to me while I taught the girls their very basic lessons.
After the2 hours were up, they’d be back outside again while I prepared lunch. After lunch it was cleanup and then we’d either do an activity, have visitors or go out. We’d back home in time for daddy to come home and we’d have tea and baths and then bed. I was always pretty strict on bedtimes as I was very protective of my time at night. I felt I needed it- that time for me, and with my husband. (Good job I got that time then because I don’t now that they’re older).
We did some arts and crafts but not much- I don’t like it. We were more into physical activity which I think is great for everyone. Plus being outside from such a young age helps to strengthen and build their immune system, I believe. But each family has their own unique fingerprint and God has placed your children with your family to learn particular things…so go with what you do and what you love.
I was asked the question:
How much sit down schoolwork does your 7yodd need? Is there a way you can simplify? What exactly are you doing that would need to take more than 1 1/2 hours per day, even when broken into smaller chunks?
There’s so much you can do with all the children that is ‘education’ yet not have it be sit down school work. Your children, even the 7yo, are so young! There’s so much to learn, to explore, to know, to be sitting inside on a chair with a pencil in hand for more than 2 hours a day.
Do you have a playroom where the children can make a little mess that doesn’t need to be cleaned up immediately? How about playing classical music every afternoon and having them ‘act it out’ or dramatise it? This is a wonderful activity that everyone can do.
How about Nature Studies– nothing formal just nice walks through a park while gently pointing out the various plants and wildlife to be seen? Stimulating their minds with worthwhile and rich ideas are what is important, much more so than pencil work at this young age. (If you’re worried about handwriting look into Copy Work and also let them play with Lego, do colouring in, drawing, play-doh and other fine motor and gross motor skill activities) Talking with them, listening to them (even when it’s really boring) is the best thing you can do for this also lays foundations.
How about choosing some really good picture books and reading aloud as a whole family? Your oldest child could occasionally read aloud and discuss the pictures with all the younger ones. I’m sure you are already doing this but it’s worth mentioning that training children to sit and listen quietly is an important skills and can’t be started gently too early.
Young mother, your job is so important and part of it is homeschooling. But academics are only a small part of it all. However, you are laying the foundational principles for academics now. If your child can’t develop in the habit of attentiveness then lessons will always be difficult. If the habit of self control or self discipline is not instilled early then it will be much harder later on. The habit of neatness and of trying your best the first time are all most worthy habits to focus on. Building a family of faith is not all that easy…and while we don’t want to use resources or teach academics that are contrary to our mission, we need to be more diligent in teaching and displaying love for God, obedience to God and His word and good character traits and habits.
Life Skills cannot be neglected and probably would take up a large chunk of your day. Don’t think that this is not teaching, or training or homeschooling because it is!
Now a few years on, I can look back and say DO NOT STRESS. Enjoy your children. Live life with them. For soon they will be older and you will face very different issues and concerns (not bad but different). This time of hard, tiring and monotonous work will pass.
Live your life to the glory of God, act justly in all things, love mercy and walk in fellowship with your family and with God. Focus on the eternal. Train yourself to see the Big Picture amidst the nappies, the tantrums and the phonics.
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.