Ahhh, toddlers. Gotta love ’em. I have been homeschooling successfully with toddlers for many years. Or not!
You know me, I like to keep things real. And in the interest in being perfectly honest, let me just start by saying I’ve tried everything I know how to try and nothing is ever foolproof. Nothing works all the time. Real-life isn’t like Pinterest.
Here’s the big thing I’ve learned though. Are you ready? The best thing I can do for myself and my toddlers is to appreciate them. I have lots of fun toddler stories but one of my favorites is from 1998, the first year we were homeschooling. I was still in “let’s see if I can really do this” mode and I was very serious about it all. One cold winter morning as I was teaching Sierra from our favorite book on reading “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons,” I noticed that I had not heard from the toddler in some time.
Quietly, stealthily, I made my way to the back of the house, down the long hallway that had four identical doors. Skylar, our 20-month-old, was behind door number 3. He had literally covered himself from head-to-toe in Desitin and then, he had proceeded to cover his ride-on giraffe in Desitin. But wait! There’s more! After that, he decided it would be a good idea to dump all the baby powder on top of himself and “Giraffey.” Have you ever tried to get powder and Desitin out of bedding and pillows and wooden toys and carpet? Let’s just say it’s not something I’d like to spend another 8 hours doing.
As you might have guessed, we didn’t get to finish our reading lesson that day. I don’t think I made dinner. Our landlord was coming over to check some faulty water heater or something. There was no way I was letting him see the house covered in baby powder and Desitin!
Toddlers. You’ve gotta love ’em. Fast forward 15 years. That toddler is now a handsome young man. His days of dumping Desitin are over until he has his own child. I’m pretty much living for that. (Just kidding.) I tell you this story to remind you that if you’re in the throes of homeschooling and toddler taming, it doesn’t last forever. Enjoy your toddlers as much as you can. Laugh as much as you can. Don’t wish these toddler years away.
Of course, there are some logistical things that might help with the “taming” part of parenting toddlers, especially if you’re trying to homeschool older children too, so here are a few things I’ve learned.
Hard truth: children need consistency. They just do. I feel sorry for moms who are being pulled and pushed around by little tyrants that are only a couple feet tall—especially when the mom could be doing something about it. Now I’m not saying every child needs the same thing, far from it! But I am saying this: most toddlers are smarter than their moms give them credit for being. Of course there’s the occasional “exception to the rule” but make no mistake, your toddler knows you. And he knows what you mean when you give instructions. This whole counting to ten or three or whatever needs to stop.
I love this book by Ginger Plowman: “Don’t Make Me Count to Three” is one of the best books on toddler taming I’ve ever read. Check it out.
Bottom line? Toddlers know they are loved when you give them boundaries and stick to them. I’m not suggesting that there is no room for grace; but grace is given, like consequences, on a case-by-case basis. Love your toddler by being consistent in every area.
Your homeschooling efforts are only as good as the relationships behind them.
This is a lesson I have learned the hard way over and over. It’s worth taking the time to find out what the problem is. Sometimes, it’s a simple case of the child needing more affirmation or time from his parents. Toddlers are growing in every way. They need lots of love and affirmation along with consistency from you. You can do both, by the way. Keep in mind that whatever you do should be motivated by love.
I have tried everything under the sun to keep our toddlers busy while we do school. Sometimes, I wait for “difficult” subjects until the toddler is napping. Sometimes, I put in a video (here are my favorite videos in the whole wide world.) Sometimes, I set up a little area at the table where the toddler can color and feel like he/she is doing “school” with us. Sometimes, I give them the Sharpies and tell them to just color the walls. (Not really. But I’ve felt like it.) My point: experiment until you find a rhythm. Do what works for you.
This has worked the best for us over the years. It’s a win/win/win if you can figure it out:
- Mom wins because someone is helping to keep the baby/toddler occupied
- Older children win because they get the “privilege” of building rapport and relationships with their siblings. Plus, helps grow them, too! I let the bigger kids bake cookies, draw, watch movies (occasionally), play games, go outside, whatever!
- Toddler benefits in a million ways—not the least of which is the foundational building blocks for great relationships with their older siblings.
Giving your older children the important role of mentor and big brother/sister is an entirely separate homeschool course. It’s worth investing in.
Love your toddler, busy mom! Soak ’em up! It only lasts a couple of years and you don’t get it back. Play, play, play when you can with your toddlers. You’ll be surprised at how their little eyes will light up. 😉
What are some of YOUR great ideas for keeping toddlers busy during the day?
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