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Home-Schooling Tips When Gate Crashed by a Toddler

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Home-schooling can be challenging with one child but when you add a toddler into the equation it can drive you insane. You are constantly torn between the needs of home-schooling a child whilst carrying a toddler around or having your kitchen trashed whilst you try and help your older child.

The good news is help is at hand.Here you'll find tips on working area setup and space (using what you have), how to keep your toddler busy and stimulated, how to juggle two children homeschooling, and when is the best time to do home-work? As well as timetable tips varied to help children with different needs.

 

I have tried a few methods of home schooling. We have had schooling provided in paper format accompanied by pre-recorded videos and we have had live lessons accompanied by additional homework. Both methods require different approaches to time planning and toddler management.

 

First before I share my tips the most important thing to remember is you will have good days and bad days. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself as a parent. My personal aim for any week is to start Monday’s full of enthusiasm which can often encourage the children to approach the start of the week with the same enthusiasm.

I have split this article into four sections: Paper Home-Schooling, Live Lessons, Toddler Activities and Final Thoughts (which includes some useful contacts).

 

Paper Home-Schooling And Video Links

Printing

We have received lots of home-schooling emailed to us in various formats. My original plan involved printing all this out which ended up being a mammoth task and obliterated my printer. However, after a little chat from our teacher they said that no printing is actually necessary. We then setup a computer with a file on the desk top for the child’s homework for the week. This worked very well as we were also able to click the video links and I could type next to the piece of homework when completed. With two primary school children it was necessary to have two files on the desk top.

 

Planning

This is one of the most important aspects of home-learning, originally I timetabled for both children to be taught by me at the same time. This did not work as both children had different topics and they required different levels attention. Plus my toddler also needed time spent with him and not just me to carry him around on my hip. I did draw up a time-table that incorporated the points detailed below.

 

Early Start

We started the day early, dressed and breakfast done by 8am (Mondays are always our earliest days and we do have a tendency to get up slightly later each day. I’m not sure why).

 

Exercise

Going for a walk outside guaranteed that my toddler would be worn out and my kids would not be full of beans. We did try some indoor exercise such as Joe Wicks or Captain Fantastic but outdoor walks wore them all out best. We also send sometime in the garden in the afternoon after lunch to try and use some of that energy.

               

Individual Needs

If you have two to teach, you may have to teach separately.

 I split our school day into two with the morning slot for the slower one and the afternoon slot for the faster one. That way if the slowest one took longer you could let them carry on in the afternoon.

 

Lesson Blocks

Both my primary school children’s concentration were different lengths. One child could concentrate for 40 minutes and the other could concentrate for an 90 minutes (if your child concentrates less it really important not to waste precious time pushing it, you’re a busy mum and you don’t need any extra stress). I only found this out after the first lockdown but once you work out how long your child can work for, you can get a more out of them. So I would teach a child block and then we all get a break for a few minutes and for lunchtimes longer. I tried to make sure that each child got 3 hours of schooling a day.

 

Speed of Learning

One of my children worked to fast and missed questions. So I had to spend more time making sure they did everything they were asked to do and in the correct way. However, I had another child who would spend too much time answering a question when something simple was required. So in this instance I had to ensure that I checked they were doing what was required and completed more tasks rather than spending too much time on the wrong thing.

 

Toddler Entertainment

The toddler had their own lesson blocks too. What??? You may ask. This was crucial in keeping the toddler happy. The best way I found was during kid breaks have play sessions with toddler and their toys (I needed 3 themes/toys a day). Once the short break is over you can get lucky and they may continue to play whilst you teach with the occasional interaction. Playtime sessions with their sibling is also a must. This means you get a crucial bit of downtime to just sit and watch for a moment. There’s a couple of easy things to setup (It a seconds setup ideas so very simple and quick) under Toddler Activities section below.

 

Video Learning – Pre-recorded

I was very grateful to the teachers for the video learning but I found they lead me into a false sense of security. Even though both children could pause videos they often forgot to pause before writing. The only way around this was to sit with them.

 

Work Area

We found the best work area was the kitchen table so I could keep an eye on the child at all times. I put the laptop on large book on a tray. The book elevated the laptop and the tray kept it safe from drinks. I also ensured that the kids drinks were only half full and I had a tea towel on the table. Rarely does a day go by without a spilt drink in our house.

Toddler In The Work Area:

There will be times when your toddler wants to get in on the action. We pushed two chairs together and sat a child and toddler next to each other. We found that if we placed the chair, with the toddler on, at an angle against the table. He would be wedged against the table on one side and the child on the other. We would then give the toddler the pencils, pens and paper to play with….all supervised and no pen lids. This is fun for a little while and sometimes works well.

 

Final Opinion On The Paper Method

Overall, the paper and pre-recorded video learning is a tough method. However, the teachers are understand this. They understand you have to read everything and teach… and look after other children.. and feed.. and work. That’s why I start on the Monday as my best day and let things slip throughout the week. Some days are impossible and that’s OK. The rule is, if nothing works that day just snuggle and read together.

 

 

Live Video Method

When we were moved to Teams, I didn’t have clue what this was and felt a little annoyed that my teaching plan would be changed. However, this turned out to be the best method. Not without its challenges of course but still a more relaxed working pattern for all of us.

So just to let you know what Teams is, it’s basically a live video messaging tool that you can also share files on and its free to download. The children and teachers can all see each other and the teachers can present their teaching material. This is great as the teachers can see exactly what is happening and who’s doing what.

 

Planning

With the teachers make the appointment times for the class video sessions, there was no timetable planning involved.

 

Exercise

P.E. is sessions were offered and we did accept them. However, in order to keep the kids and toddler in check that morning walk was still an important and effective method of keeping order for the rest of the day. Our starts were still early, although by the time we get to Friday our walk time maybe down to 30 minutes rather than the 1 hour like Monday’s. Whoops..

 

Homework

With live sessions you may also get homework.  My advice would be to get the child to do their homework straight away. We found if you left homework until later, it would just get lost in the distractions of the day. Plus the later we left homework the less chance the child would be persuaded to do it.

 

Workstations

One child is fine on the laptop alone. Although I did find that if the setup was in their room, they were less likely to do their homework and more likely to play with their toys. We found a hall way can work well as an office space. Their setup is an old coffee table with a small plastic child’s chair that I brought in from the garden. For extra desk space we used empty, upside down cardboard boxes.

Another child’s setup is in the kitchen, as they need to be supervised during class too. This supervision is very relaxed with the occasional glance from me as the teacher can see them too. However, they can hear everything if you’re child is not using head phones with a built-in microphone. This was the only thing we had to purchased (luckily) and it prevented the toddler and I interrupting the class. I just can’t keep quiet when playing with a toddler.

 

Toddler Time

With less input from me and live lessons from the teacher this has freed up more time for the toddler and to do some baby classes. We have signed upto a paid class, a free Children’s Centre class (on Teams) see What's On and Listings pages. We also watch and take part in the BBC’s Baby Club on iPlayer. I find this very entertaining as it reflects the struggles mum’s actually go through. A nappy change, a sleeping child, a screaming child..my toddler also loves the programme too but probably for different reasons. We also do Captain Fantastic Toddler time (found on our What's On page) on YouTube.

Devices

This is the biggest problem. Both children’s lessons overlap so we have to use an old laptop and my work laptop. Plus for the toddlers Teams session or Zoom session we hoped to use a tablet but it was too old to work properly. I was worried my phone would be too small but that does seem to work OK.

 

 

Toddler Activities

I have split these up into Toddler Exercise to wear them out and Toddler Brain which hopefully gets there attention long enough so that you get to help teach or get a break.

 

Toddler Exercise

OUTSIDE WALK OR GARDEN PLAY. Just being outside really helps stimulate those brains and get their little legs moving.

SIBLING PLAY. Playing with energetic siblings can bring extra opportunities to wear that toddler out.

FETCH. Also known as ball play. Throwing a ball and encouraging a toddler to fetch it, roll it or kick it will have them running around and using all that energy up. You could even see if they could learn to catch it too.

BUBBLE TIME. This never fails to get my kids moving of all ages. This can be done indoors or outdoors too.

TODDLER GROUP ONLINE. This is great for both you and the baby. You both get to learn new things and meet people. Sometimes a toddler can seem disinterested but if you notice they will stay nearby to listen to everything and join in at a moment’s notice. They’re very clever. These groups can be found on our What's On page and our Listings page.

 

Toddler Brain

The key to this is to play with your toddler doing these activities at the start. You can then sneak up from the floor to the table to help your child whilst keeping an eye on the toddler happily, hopefully, playing on the floor. Some activities will engage the toddler more so you can always adjust the activity to their likes.

POSTING. Turn a nappy box upside down and cut two holes in the top. You can then add masking tape above the holes and label/colour them in (masking tape is very easy to pull off so you can change the labels).

Your child can then match the colour to the letter box or word. Or post a number of items in. This is great with pegs, duplo, cars, toy animals, plastic food. You can add as many holes as you like and to retrieve the objects you, or your toddler, can open the bottom up.

STACKING POTS AND PORRIDGE. Put these in an under-bed storage box and watch them have lots of fun. If they show any signs of boredom just keep adding plastic kitchen things like bowls, ladel, spoons..

PASTA BAKE. Dried pasta in a plastic mixing bowl and a wooden spoon.. lots of fun.

CUPCAKE TRAY AND CASES. My toddler will sit happily peeling the cases apart and popping them in the tray. You can get them to stay longer by giving them dried pasta to add. As they get older you can add sorting games too.

 

Final Thoughts

Home-schooling is hard on all parents. However, we must remember it is hard on the kids, toddler and teachers too. That’s why we have to give ourselves daily breaks and not expect every day to workout. Sometimes you just have to say I can’t do this today. That’s OK to say that about schooling and housework. In fact, my house has never looked so bad and I am not happy about it either.  I always say… there will always be housework but the kids will not always be children.

Mood Boost

Put some of your favourite music on and have a dance with the kids. How easy is that?

We have done some more elaborate activities during the weekends as lockdown treats. Like pitching a tent indoors and having a movie night with popcorn. Our kids have grown into board games now, although this happens after the toddler is in bed.

Help

The teachers are there to help you with your children and the Huntingdonshire Child and Family Centre is ready with advice about babies and toddlers too.

There’s also more help for parents themselves from Family Lives and Mind too. Family Lives is a great resource for parents who need advice and support (this can be support for you not just the kids). Just sharing a few words with someone who understands can really help.

Good luck!

Louisa x

 


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