In the Homeschool ABCs, T is for Toddler Trouble

I am blogging, very slowly, from my husband’s iPad today. It is nestled somewhat covertly in my lap and every few seconds I am looking up to make contact with Squirt as she plays in the living room. She is pretty comfortable with this arrangement – for now – but the moment she realizes my attention is on something other than her, all will be lost.

I don’t have kids who play well independently.

Squirt at 10 Months

Squirt at 10 Months

Squirt is really only 11 months old, but since she started walking at nine months, I think of her as a toddler. At the same time, she is a very young toddler, and has higher attention needs than many six-month-olds I know. This means I have to be creative about making the time to homeschool Noodle when Squirt is around.

It’s been a trial and error endeavor. Noodle is herself easily distracted, so if I give Squirt something to keep her busy while Noodle is working on school, generally Noodle becomes so interested in the busy work that she gets nothing done. Squirt devours good literature – and by that I mean she literally eats books, even board books – so those are out of the question right now. I’d love to do most of Noodle’s schooling while Squirt naps, but sadly she isn’t very reliable on that front either. This morning she slept nearly three hours; some days I am lucky if I get 20 minutes.

Here are some of the ways we do manage to get schoolwork done during her waking hours:

  • Snacktime: Squirt likes to be near her sister, so if I need to work with Noodle at the table, Squirt can sit in her high hair with some Cheerios. Until she starts to throw them. In addition, I have the power of nursing on my side. Squirt still nurses like a newborn (remember how I said she was a high-needs kid?) so sometimes I just have to feed her to satisfy her need for mama love.
  • Art: Squirt is just learning how to make marks on paper with crayons and markers. She still needs to be closely supervised in this though as she hasn’t completely overcome the temptation to eat her writing instruments. Sometimes she is content to just carry around the tub of markers and shake it. 🙂
  • Free reign: if you’re getting a feel for Squirt’s character, it shouldn’t surprise you that she’s not content to hang out in a pack ‘n play or enclosed play area by herself. The word “screaming” doesn’t quite capture the essence of what we experience when we try to go that route, and believe me, we have tried. So since we have a one-story and an open concept floorplan, most days we just close all the bedroom/bathroom doors and let her wander. She is never out of sight for long and we have baby-proofed so that I feel sufficiently safe in this so long as the doors are closed.
  • Squirt and Me at the Pumpkin Patch

  • Babywearing: Some days, nothing will do but that I hold my littlest baby. In days like that I am beyond grateful for my Moby Wrap and Maya Wrap. I’ll outline the details on why I love them each in another post, but if you have a needy baby, buy one now! You will not be sorry.
  • Creative Location: I mentioned in my post about our reading lessons that I like to experiment with doing school in different places in the house. Such a surprisingly simple strategy actually solves lots of problems for us, whether it be helping Noodle to focus, giving me some time to work on different areas of the house, or keeping Squirt occupied with a change of scenery. Specifically, Noodle and I do reading lessons cuddled in my bed while Squirt is sleeping; we do a lot of read-aloud time in Noodle’s bed while Squirt plays with her dollhouse; and some independent projects, like painting or crafting, Noodle can do on her own in her room. When it’s warmer and Squirt is a little bigger, I plan to take school outside as well.

How do you homeschool with a baby in the house? Share your tips and strategies for keeping baby busy. I know I could use them!

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