Are you in the trenches of homeschooling multiple ages, keeping the toddler from skydiving off a desk, and trying to breastfeed a newborn? You’re not alone! I’ve got some easy practical tips and advice to share about homeschooling with younger siblings!
It wasn’t until 2020 that we had even considered the whole homeschooling thing due to Covid. So I’m no veteran and don’t have all the answers, but now that I’ve had a few years under my belt I have learned a thing or two. One thing I had to learn real quick was how to homeschool multiple ages, breastfeed a newborn, and even wrangle a toddler.
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Here are 11 tips to help you in this season:
Younger Kids’ Needs Met First
Taking time to spend with the younger ones first can make all the difference. Your little toddler isn’t keeping time on how long you play with them, but taking just a few minutes to play a game or to read a book for some one-on-one time can help your homeschool time go smoother. My younger kids love building blocks, playing games, and reading their favorite books. Try this a few times and you’ll see a difference in their independent play later while you’re working with your other children.
Allow Younger Children to Participate
If your kids are anything like mine, they’re always wanting to do what the big kids are doing! So when you’re able, include them! Have them join for crafts, activities, and read-aloud time. I even keep a workbook or coloring book around for them to use as their “school work”.
It’s refreshing for everyone to get outside and play, but it helps the younger siblings to play on their own while you get in some formal lessons with the bigger kids. Or if everyone just needs a break, enjoy a quick outdoor game or some sort of physical activity, and then everyone can return to their work again. Even as adults sometimes we need to step away from what we’re working on to clear our heads and then come back to it with a fresh mind.
Be sure to acknowledge the younger siblings when they need some attention throughout your homeschool day. Take a few minutes to look them in the eye, hug them, maybe play a game or read a book with them. The older kids can use this time for some independent work, some reading, or have the whole family join in on a game!
Take Advantage of Nap Times
If you have a child struggling with a certain subject or you just really need some focused time on something, like math lessons, taking advantage of nap time is the perfect opportunity for some quiet time.
Use Special Activities and Toys
Keeping a few toys and activities that are only allowed out during school times has been a huge help! Every time it’s like a new toy they’re getting to play with. It doesn’t take much time to just grab a few objects from around your house and create busy bags or boxes!
This is another favorite way to homeschool with younger siblings! Set up a small area with a blanket, snacks, and a drink, and turn on an audiobook! Our favorite is the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel! You can choose from a great selection of free audiobooks by using your library card and the Hoopla app.
Taking a few minutes at the beginning of the week to gather any materials that are needed for the week and having everything prepped is a game changer. Even if you just lay out books, papers, and assignments the day before helps tremendously. I love using spiral notebooks too, which I first heard about from Sarah MacKenzie. Check out her video with the details! It’s a great way to have older children be a little more independent.
Expectations & Flexibility
It’s important to have some set expectations for our homeschool days, but we can’t let that overtake us. We’re all going to have great days and we’re all going to have challenging days. What we need to remember is to be flexible, we’re already doing this all the time in our motherhood, it’s not much different from being flexible with our homeschool days. The toddler might need some extra attention and love one day, the baby might need to be held through lessons, or you might just have to take a nature walk instead of reading from a science textbook. Just staying calm and being flexible will make for a less stressful day.
Since being a mom for the last 12 years, I’ve realized how much my attitude affects my children’s attitudes. The more patience I demonstrate the better my children demonstrate patience as well. I’m not saying it’s easy and I have to remind myself in the moment to be calm.
Watching our big kids with the younger ones is one of my absolute favorite things as a mother. And as a homeschool mom, I get to see these strong relationships develop! Now they don’t always get along, but often one of the older kids can play, read, or entertain the younger ones while I do one-on-one work with another child and then they can switch out.
Great Ideas for Setting Up Your Homeschool Space
You can check out my blog post about How To Organize Your Homeschool Room, but I wanted to share a few ideas of how I make our homeschool space work for us with homeschooling with younger siblings.
Invitation to Play
Free, creative play is the core of learning in the younger years and truly the best way for young children to learn. I love this quote from Fred Rogers, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
So as much as the younger siblings want to play, let them, encourage them to do so. I’ve implemented this in our home by having a safe space close to where we are doing our formal homeschool lessons. Using an “invitation to play” is a great way to allow play to happen naturally for the little ones. So what is an invitation to play? Well, it’s simply laying items out for your child to discover on their own. These things could be books, puzzles, loose parts, etc. Remember not to overwhelm the younger ones with too much stuff. Simply select a few items to lay out for them to find and explore.
For example, in our homeschool room, I’ve included a sensory table from IKEA. It’s multifunctional as in it can be a table or you can also remove the tops to reveal two separate bins that can be used in multiple ways. I also have a cube storage shelf. In each cubby, I’ve placed 1-2 items. Here are some ideas of items to use:
Another helpful and good idea for this space is to rotate these play items. Get a few storage totes and place different toy items in each tote. Label totes “Week 1”, “Week 2”, etc. Rotate the toys each week. This keeps them interested and engaged in what they’re playing with.
Having an area for pretend play is another great option. This would include things like a play kitchen, a store, baby dolls, and dress-up. Pretend play is important as it helps children learn about the world and it’s essential to their development. You don’t have to include all of those listed, but if you already have dress-up things or a play kitchen just make an area that is close to where school takes place in your home with what you already have.
Additionally, you could set up a theme for the younger siblings each week. Study a new animal, the human body, cooking, the 50 states. The possibilities are endless! There’s so much to explore and be creative with! Include books, loose parts, themed toys, and sensory items like playdough, kinetic sand, rice, and beans (choose what is age appropriate for your child). If you haven’t tried my easy no-cook playdough recipe, you must! We love it here and it’s so easy to make!
Online Resources for Homeschooling with Younger Siblings
Another idea, if your younger ones are interested in having their very own school supplies I encourage you to make a special box or space for their own “school books” that they can do alongside their older siblings. Be sure to include pencils, crayons, and a notebook. Here are some of our favorite resources for the preschool age:
busy bee binder
morning menu bundle
days of the week bundle
morning time tracing
Last Advice for Homeschooling with Younger Siblings
The best advice for homeschooling with younger siblings and having a successful homeschool day, I can give you, is to remember the most important thing is that it works for you and your family. You will encounter all different methods and advice for homeschooling with younger siblings, some will work and some won’t and it will even vary from day to day in your home. And some days you may only get the bare minimum accomplished, don’t forget to let them play because that counts, have fun, and be sure to include them in any group work! This is a way of life we’ve chosen, it is hard work, but like Abbie Halberstadt says, “hard isn’t the same thing as bad!”
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Meet the Author
Hey, I’m Nicolette! Wife and mother to 5, homeschool rookie, printable creator, self-proclaimed cool mom, coffee lover, and plant obsessed. Come join me on this motherhood journey and let’s reclaim the family again!