I have homeschooled for the last 10 years and always have had a little one running around while I was trying to work with older kids. When we started home educating I would read anything I could about how you home educate with little ones. I actively sought magazines (remember this was awhile ago); and later looked at articles and blog posts on the subject. I am not sure if I am all that good at it, but I have learned a few things that have been helpful along the way. Today I thought I would share what has been helpful organizationally, time-wise, and how I manage my days. My thought is that maybe one of these ideas will help you through the January days ahead.
Some things we have done:I try to have a separate schedule for the little one in my master schedule. I try to plan where they need to be in the house and what they should be doing while others are working.
I have invested in at least one computer curriculum for most of the school age kids. If the school age child is working on the computer I can read, play a game, or just love on a little one.
I try to have intentional video/streaming time for the little ones. For me that means setting up a math lesson with an older child and telling them we will have 30 minutes to do a lesson and stay focused before the little one needs us again. I also make a personal commitment to not be online or on the phone during this time. I am amazed at what I can do in 30 minutes.
I try to train the little children to have some playpen time which later leads to playing by themselves in the family room. I put the little one in the playpen/family room first thing in the morning. That will usually give me 30-60 minutes until they start moving the playpen around the family room. It also keeps them away from 3-5 year olds who tend to get in their face.
When setting up a schedule I will assign other children to entertain,read, or play with a little one. Up until 8th grade or so most students have time in their schedule for 20-30 minutes of play time with a little one. I love how it teaches the older one to be patient, play directly with someone less competent then they are, gives them a meaningful break from work. It usually helps both ways.
I set up a "school time" at the table with the little one with coloring books, small toys, or paper and crayons. They want to be like the big kids and do school. I had to laugh when one of my children told me it was time for "math Jesus." Apparently his bible coloring book qualified for this subject.
When my parents or others have asked what they can do to help, I invite them over to sit with a little one for a time and read books, play a game, or just hold and love on them. It is good to ask for help.
I try to take breaks to just hold my little one, rock them, or read to them. When I first started I was so worried about doing "the right thing" for the older kids doing school work I tended to not love on the little ones enough during the day. If I can hold and rock someone for 5-15 minutes they are often fine after that and go back to playing.
What I have learned:I have learned that no matter how great your schedule, how focused you are, or how great your plans may be, sometimes how well things go depends on the temperament of the child. Some kids are better at entertaining themselves, others need more training, and for some it is really hard and drastic measures must be taken. My 6th child had to have each person in the family assigned to her for a 30 minute time slot to be with her. We just to refer to that as "doing your time."
When I go into my day with a plan we are all better off. If I can think of my little one as part of the learning schedule it helps all of us. If I set aside a video, plan a story, know their snack, or set aside time for them we all have a better day.
It is never too late to start again. I also try to give myself grace. Home Educating is a hard job and adding a little one or two to the mix is not easy. But I try to see it as a challenge that can be overcome, and not to take the bad days too personally. Tomorrow is a fresh day with no mistakes as Anne Shirley says.
Lastly, the little one will grow up, and things will get better. My 6th child is now learning to read. I honestly was not sure if she would make it through her 2s, 3s, 4s, or 5s. (currently I am not sure if I will make it through her 6s.) But each time she has and she continues to get better. I figure she will use her negotiations skills one day to become a CEO. I try to nurture her skills, hold her more, and remember that before I know it she will be in high school. (Please note that this is on a good day. The other days I whine to my husband.)
I hope these help. Please add any ideas you have in the comments. I am still reading those online articles on how to home educate with little ones. I would love to hear your tips!