Preview: Homeschooling with younger siblings around can be distracting. Learn eight strategies for a successful homeschool day with toddlers in tow.
Homeschooling with younger children around can be challenging. I remember reading a history picture book to my kindergartener while my toddler crawled in and out of my lap. 🤪
Parents have asked me how they can keep the younger children quiet and keep their school-aged children attentive when younger siblings play. There is no easy solution to this problem, but here are my top eight strategies for having a successful homeschool day when you have a range of ages, including toddlers and preschoolers.
In episode 79 of the All in a Homeschool Day podcast, I elaborated on these eight strategies.
8 Simple Strategies For Homeschooling With Younger Siblings Present
1. Let everyone play together first.
Older children can feel stuck doing boring schoolwork while their younger siblings get to play all day. You can’t completely alleviate this feeling, but allowing your children to play together for 15-20 minutes before starting school lessons can help your older children not feel left out.
2. Tend to the needs of the youngest child first.
When you give your younger children attention at the beginning of the school day, they are more likely to play quietly while you work with your older children, at least for a little while. You could play a game, read a book, or push them on the swing. One of our favorite activities was playing rhyming games together.
3. Involve younger siblings as much as possible.
Younger siblings want to do what their older siblings are doing. Take advantage of this desire and include them in lessons. Here are some ideas you could incorporate.
- Read books to the whole family.
- Have quiet activities that are only available to them during “school time,” such as
- Kinetic sand
- Rice with measuring cups and spoons
- Water play in the sink or a small bucket outside (fully supervized!)
- Lauri brand toys and puzzles
- Sorting items (erasers, linking cubes, coins)
- Lacing items (pony beads and shoestring, Lauri lacing items)
- Preschool quiet bags
- Print off extra worksheets.
- Let the younger ones draw with sidewalk chalk.
4. Train younger children to read or play quietly nearby.
It will take some time to train younger children to play quietly, but this strategy pays dividends for years to come. Once your child has mastered this strategy, you can take advantage of it during homeschool lesson time, doctor’s visits, and other appointments or meetings!
Start small and increase the amount of time your child plays quietly alone. You may want to practice quiet playtime while cooking or folding laundry, so you don’t have to worry about interrupting school lessons.
5. Take lessons outside.
There are many activities younger siblings can do outside while older children work on school lessons. We enjoyed using the sandbox, water play, sidewalk chalk, Matchbox cars, and Polly Pockets, to name a few.
6. Incorporate breaks and recess.
The 10-minute break was our favorite strategy, even when my oldest daughter was in third grade. We worked on lessons for 10-30 minutes (depending on her age), and then she could take a 10-minute break to play with her sister. Be sure to set a timer so that you don’t lose track of time! When the timer goes off, she had to return to start the next lesson quickly. If she didn’t, she lost the privilege of taking the next break. (She only lost the privilege once.)
Sometimes, we used brain breaks between lessons and everyone participated, including me!
7. Decrease the amount of work older children complete.
When you have younger siblings around and your older children still need your assistance, you may need to decrease the amount of work you expect to complete. Remember that homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. When my children were young, I focused on instilling a love of learning and developing habits that would benefit our homeschool in the long run instead of worrying about checking everything off my list.
8. Take advantage of nap time.
You could work on lessons that require more concentration during a younger sibling’s nap time. Naptime generally provides a quiet, uninterrupted block of time during which you can accomplish a lot.
Do you have questions about homeschooling?
Watch the FREE Homeschool 101 Workshop. It’s an on-demand workshop you can watch at your convenience.
Ready to start homeschooling but not sure how?
Check out the Homeschool Roadmap. It walks you through establishing your homeschool with confidence and joy, one step at a time.