(my wee guy with our Brain Hat - you can find it here to make for yourself)
Welcome to the second part of the preschool edition of How I Homeschool. Last time, I covered how I taught preschool with my little kids. Today, I will share with you some fun "keep them busy" ideas for when you are teaching your older children (and they have given up naptime), and how I handled those sweet babes in arms.
Let's first talk babes. 4 years of my schooling included a nursing baby. Those are challenging days, no doubt about that. I have been asked many times what I did and how I juggled it all. My first piece of advice is to school while they are napping as much as possible. Yes, that will break up your day a bit, but for sanity's sake, I found it the most helpful. When they are super tiny, they nap a lot so that does help in getting a bigger chunk done. I always tried to get my babies into a rhythm of sleep as soon as possible, so our school days went something like this. Morning naptime - do math, reading, and any table work. Lunch then read aloud (which can be done while nursing). Afternoon nap - science, history, and any other mother intensive subjects. Once they get a bit older and the morning nap flies the coop, I relied heavily on keeping them busy in their highchair, pack and play, or on a blanket. All of these also can be distracting for the other children who want to talk to and coo at the baby, but I did not allow it. I trained my older children from the start that when the baby is in or on one of the above items, they were not to touch or talk to them without permission. Sounds strict, yes, but it worked for me and kept the peace well. If the baby was in a particularly fussy mood, I wore them on my back in my Ergo. Most of the time, that would lull them to sleep and I could keep moving.
Let's move on to those toddler and preschool years when they no longer cooperate and take all naps or have given them up all together. How did I school bigger ones while those active little people all around? As I mentioned in my last post, I was sure to have plenty of things around at their level and would direct them to a particular toy, get something going with them (or assign an older child to do it) and then left them near me to finish playing. But I did have other things on hand that were very helpful to me as well. Here is a list with some ideas:
Homemade or storebought playdough with mats, cookie cutters, and rolling pins
Colored rice, corn, or pasta in a large metal baking dish with little spoons, cups, and bowls
Homemade moon sand (best used outside, but a wonderfully fun item)
Sensory bins and bottles
Stories and music on CD's
And, yes, I did rely on videos and apps, too
(colored lavendar rice - love those lips!)
If you are on pinterest or even google, you can search for lots of fun recipes for the homemade items. There are so many ideas out there. Pick a couple and go with it. In my list as the end of this post, I will list some of my favorite websites for finding homemade preschool fun. If you want to add some extra fun items to your homemade goodies for play, look no further than your local dollar tree. Cookie cutters, rolling pins, little plastic items are all there and can be gotten for cheap.
I am a sincere lover of sensory bottles and bins. Again, a quick search will yeild more ideas than you have a lifetime to do. Sensory bottles are so colorful and just an absolute blast to watch. My 9 year old loves them so much, she makes them herself still. Sensory bins are also blast. My kids were able to play for a very long time in them. I would make them based on what season we were in or on something we were reading or learning about. There are so many fun ideas I wish I still had littles to play with them! :) Also, making a themed bath for your little people are fun, too (though, of course, you will need to be there to supervise). Again, I will post a couple favorite places for ideas.
(a winter sensory bin)
Busy bags? Busy boxes? What are they? A busy bag is basically putting all things you need in a ziploc bag to work on a certain skill. For example, if you are working on shapes, cut out shapes, punch holes in them, and provide string for lacing the shapes. Another would be to punch holes in the top of an empty pringles can, color white reinforcement hole stickers and put a different color around each hole, and provide pipe cleaners to feed into the right colored hole. There are many things you can do. I have also done busy boxes. Get 5 boxes - label them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Fill with whatever toy or treasure for that day. These are great for bigger type of toys like Mr. Potato Head or Lincoln logs or whatever. My only rule for busy bags and boxes were they were school time play only. They were not pulled out any other time. I loved these as well.
If you are looking for great things to listen to for them, there is Patch the Pirate, Jim Weiss, tons of books on CD or Audible. We also loved Steve Green's Hide them in your Heart, Joni Erickson Tada's Hyms for a Kids Heart, and Songs for Saplings (the catechism put to music), and Classical Kids Music. I am sure there are many other great things out there. These are our personal favorites.
I am grateful that we live in the technology age. There are so many great educational shows out there now, more than I could ever list. The same with apps. And, yes, when all else fails, these are a great resource to turn to.
I hope these get your juices flowing and plant a few ideas to try in your mind to work with your littles while teaching your olders.
Goodies from across the 'net:
(use these as springboards for ideas - none of them need to be exactly what you see)
For homemade goodies - Growing a Jewelled Rose (she also has some fun themed bath times)
- Nuture Store (some of the best recipes on the 'net)
Sensory bins and bottles - 1plus1plus1
- Little Bins for Little Hands (all about them with ideas)
- Preschool Inspirations - Making a sensory bottle - she also has great ideas
Busy bags and boxes - This Teaching Mama (what they are and how to)
I hope all the ideas in this post and my last will springboard some ideas for you, too. If you have any other ideas, please post them in the comments below.