A Little is a child below school age. They are messy, unpredictable, destructive, brilliant and so stinking cute! They melt your heart and ruin your furniture. Friend, if you are struggling to homeschool with Littles, I know your pain. I started out homeschooling with Littles underfoot and I have signed up for at least 3 more years of it. I have learned to love having my Littles always underfoot. I have also learned that they are better off underfoot than coloring the walls of their bedroom, hallway, bathroom, stairwell, foyer.....ahem...yeah. Here are some helpful tricks that helped me find that love.
Dinosaur is right. We are exhausted, but it's not really his fault.
Let's address newborns and infants first. Mamas of newborns and infants need to learn two words, "Baby wearing." I know a lovely local woman who makes beautiful slings that I use and love. Etsy and Ebay are chock full of people willing to sell you all sorts of baby wearing devices from soft structured carriers to wraps. It's best to have hands on assistance when first using a baby wearing device, but there are lots of tutorials on YouTube if you want to go that route. Once you find the device that works best for you, your baby can sleep, nurse, and observe the world from a safe distance, while you go on about the busyness of your life with older children. Baby wearing frees your hands and it counts as weight bearing exercise!
Dinosaur, at age 1, in his Giri Sling.
Of course, as babies get more mobile, we have to expand their safe area a little. A baby who can sit steadily and just wants to be part of the action can be slid up to the kitchen table in a high chair. A bowl with a teeny bit of water and a spoon can keep him quite entertained while you conduct experiments or teach phonics. If your child is working on her pincher grip and can handle solids, you could drop a few Cheerios in a plastic cup and let her go to town.
A pack and play can give a crawling baby a safe space to explore. Modern day pack and plays are small enough they can be moved to wherever you decide to do school. We find Ducky is happier playing in hers if she can see us.
Eventually, crawlers become walkers and need a little more space to roam. We like to blockade the new walker into the living room and do school there as they toddle about and play with quiet toys. My Bigs know to keep their papers and books away from Ducky, but they also know that if she fusses, they just have to give her a minute's attention and then she usually moves on to something else. Of course, if she is distracting someone terribly or getting cranky, I am right there to intervene.
Dinosaur playing in the kids' cabinet. It is nice to have a 'no no free zone.'
We feed our Littles a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Snacks are important for growing bodies with small tummies and big nutritional needs. They also help to keep the crankies at bay as a hungry Little is a beastly Little. My Littles can have a cereal bar, cheese stick, sliced fruit or veggies for their snack, it just depends on what is in the house. The snacks I offer are healthy, so I don't worry if they are too full for lunch.
I have always had certain toys and activities that are only available during school time. When we do school at the kitchen table, it is easy to set the Littles up at the other end of the table and let them do watercolor, playdoh, sticker play and the like. Yes, the older kids do get a little jealous, but they know if they successfully complete their school work they can play with the special things too.
School work completed, Strawberry gets to join the Littles in their play time.
I have recently started using Busy Bags at doctor's appointments with great success. I plan to extend that idea and start using Boxes like the ones found here. We have 6 plastic shoe boxes in a closed cabinet set aside just for school time. I just need to fill them, hopefully before the Littles are Bigs.
Each of my children, Bigs and Littles, has a magazine holder with their school work in it. I do give Dinosaur some instruction time each school day, if he shows interest in doing school, so he has a couple actual workbooks in his magazine box. When Dinosaur does school work, his shadow Apple Blossom has to be part of it too. She has a couple Target Dollar Bin workbooks and some coloring books in her magazine box.
I think the most important thing when homeschooling with Littles is to embrace this stage, however long it may last. It feels like some things we want to do are on hold forever, but this stage of our lives will pass. Wre teaching valuable lessons now. The girls and boys we teach while we lovingly manage our Littles will become grown men and women with compassion for those who are smaller, younger or weaker than they are. I think that will be of great benefit to our children and to the world. So, take a few deep breaths. Learn to accept the mess and slower pace that comes along with babies, toddlers and preschoolers. I am told by older, wiser moms that we will miss this stage of childhood someday. They swear we will even miss the mess and the dirty diapers and that there is plenty of time to have a nice clean house when these Littles are grown and gone. I can see the pain my older, wiser mom friends are in and I want them all to know I am more than willing to share some of my children's dirty diapers with them. No, really, its okay, I don't mind. They can just wash them and bring them back when they are done reminiscing. I'm a giver. Oh, don't forget, no softener or scents on those cloth diapers. My washer is on the blink again anyway.
Yes, I did take a picture of all of my cloth diapers. If you had such cute diapers, you would too. Besides, if I am going to miss these someday, may as well have a photo to remember them by.