Are you wondering how to homeschool older children AND a toddler in the home? It’s tricky, but there are steps you can take throughout your day to make homeschooling with a toddler easier.
Homeschooling is flexible, and that is the homeschool superpower you will need to homeschool with a toddler around.
I can’t tell you how everyone else does it, but here are some tips I have learned over the years for homeschooling with toddlers around.
1. Are We Ready to Homeschool Today?
A quick check-in to make sure everyone is in a good place for learning doesn’t hurt. You can simply ask your older kids how they are feeling.
Being mindful and noticing if anything is “off” with anyone can let you adjust how to homeschool for the day. Maybe reschedule that frustrating math lesson if tensions are already high.
Mom Self-Care Before Homeschool Begins
What is that saying you always hear? You can’t serve from an empty cup.
Get your cup of coffee and breakfast before you start your day or whatever makes you smile.
To homeschool school-aged kids and handle a toddler, too, you need to be in a good place.
It’s hard. Your to-do list feels never-ending, and getting it all in is challenging.
Here are some of my options for self-care during the day:
- Drinking coffee with cocoa sprinkled in or whipped cream on top (can you tell I’m writing this in the morning?)
- Listening to some of my favorite songs or motivational podcast through my Airpods
- Messaging with a good friend
- Crossword Puzzles
- Snacking on a hidden, indulgent piece of chocolate
- Hiding away in the bathroom to paint my nails.
- Watching a funny Story, Reel or reading a few memes on social media
- Hiding away on my patio in the sun for a few minutes
- Brainstorming ideas in my notebook
- Chasing my kids at the park
Getting enough sleep, water, and exercise is easier said than done, but one out of three ain’t bad if that’s all you can do! If you are in a good place, you can think on your feet to handle that toddler who has just climbed to the top of the bunk bed.
Check for the Basic Needs of Your Children Before Homeschool
Homeschooling with a toddler in the home begins before the worksheets and apps come out.
Are all your children equipped with their self-care basics too?
- Enough quality sleep?
- A nutritious breakfast?
- A positive attitude?
Take a moment to scan the room after breakfast and think about if each child slept well and what kind of mood they have.
It is not your imagination that each homeschool day is different. Sometimes we have to shift things around or delete them!
I gave up trying to stick to a strict schedule a while back.
Each homeschooling moment depends on what happened the day before or the hour before. Does one of your kids have an unmet need?
Maybe an older kid needs to talk about something that is bothering them. Bad moods or scary dreams are just a couple of things that can change your homeschool day.
Take note of a potentially challenging day, and pick your battles wisely.
2. Re-Think Your Homeschool Schedule with a Toddler
Have you tried to squeeze all the subjects into the morning, but it’s just not working with your darling toddler around?
You homeschool because it gives you the freedom to school your kids your way. Homeschool means creating a schedule your way.
Homeschooling is so flexible. Do you need to homeschool in the morning? Maybe it’s convenient to homeschool in the afternoon or at night. Perhaps you want to homeschool on the weekends. It’s all possible.
Homeschool is not “school at home.” It’s teaching your child whenever and wherever. You can instruct your children in whatever blocks of time you can imagine.
Homeschool Fun with a Toddler
Maybe your kids need to get the wiggles and jiggles out of their system at the park before starting their homeschool day. You can take them to the park— ideally, one with a gate!
Have the older kids do their work at a table while you push your toddler on the swing. The older kids can finish a task and then join in.
If you live in a condo or apartment building that has a patio or a safe outdoor area, you can do the same thing. Go outside and have the older ones work while the toddler explores.
No local park? You might consider an indoor gym. I bought one of these during the pandemic, and it’s a kid favorite.
The older kids can switch between work and play. I like to set a “play” timer so the older ones can come back and do some work. I prefer to use a visual timer during homeschooling and other times so that all my kids can clearly see time running out.
You can frontload their day with an exercise video.
Sometimes homeschooling is easier if all the kids are tired but not too tired.
During your toddler’s nap, in the evening, or on the weekend, there are also learning possibilities.
Create a daily routine that works for all of you, even if it feels like no one is doing it that way.
Make Your Traditional Homeschool Schedule Work for You
Something about the traditional school year is so nostalgic for someone like me who went to public school. The excitement of the “first day” and the “it’s almost time for winter break” cheer.
As a homeschooler, it’s ok to carry on that same traditional schedule, especially if you homeschool with a charter. Still, there’s always summer if you feel the traditional school schedule is “not enough.”
If you have a toddler and are also trying to cram “all the things” into a traditional schedule, let me remind you — that’s a lot. Meanwhile, your toddler is dealing with big emotions and can’t express them.
Big things come in small packages.
Even a few hours of living the toddler life can make you feel drained. Oh, and you homeschool older kids too.
There’s Always the Summer!
Don’t forget about summer school. You can always take 15 minutes a day during the summer for a fun hands-on learning activity, online class, or worksheet.
Fifteen minutes a day for even a month can help you feel “caught up.”
This summer, I will experiment with “school lite” for a few weeks in the summer. I will pick a few concepts I cover with my kids that will (hopefully) give them has.
Just fun stuff, a review of concepts learned over the year and a second chance with whatever was tricky.
I might find a cool video that explains subtraction differently. I struggled with subtraction at my daughter’s age, so I may have some mental block to it.
My other kid can work on phonics for a reading boost! She can’t wait to read all the things.
The great thing about kids is that they learn without any structure. You’re doing great, and they have their entire lives to learn.
Year-Round Homeschool Schedule
If you are curious, a year-round schedule is just like it sounds, with some breaks of your choosing. Some families homeschool for one month and then take a break the next month.
Whatever works for your family will create the foundation of a great learning environment. Be spontaneous. Be you.
If you like the year-round schedule but have a toddler, too, you can make adjustments. How about longer breaks? Or a shorter daily schedule.
3. Re-Think Your Older Kids’ Curriculum
Is your curriculum very intense and hands-on?
Does it require that you sit next to your school-aged kid and walk her step-by-step every day? Or does it feel that way?
Are you cutting out knick-knacks and laminating stuff?
You may want to reconsider your curriculum or not follow the “rules” of your curriculum.
Homeschooling is not school-at-home. Consider that the “school at home” homeschool model may not work well when you have a toddler in the home.
Public school teachers have to put up with a lot, but having toddlers in class is not one of them.
You can make changes to what and how you are teaching.
Your curriculum should reflect that you have a toddler. If it isn’t working this season, change it.
Video-Based Curriculum for Homeschooling
Homeschool has so many possibilities! Technology makes it a great time to homeschool. Consider offloading a subject or two.
It’s nice to have a low-maintenance curriculum you can depend on with your older kids. Or, if you are interested, there are curriculum available that does the teaching for you.
While an instructor on a screen teaches your child, you can do an activity with your toddler. Your older child may have questions after the video, but they can write them down or put them in a voice note for you to get to later.
Here are some ideas if you are interested in a video-based curriculum.
- CTC Math
- Outschool Classes
- Local Vendors
If your children love the video-based curriculum, great! If not, break up the tasks of your current curriculum into bite-sized pieces.
Live Zoom Classes for Homeschool
Have someone else teach language arts, math or science, or social studies. In the fall, I am going to have my older ones do a Zoom class for one or two of their subjects.
If you choose to take the Zoom route, you can take the time to watch your toddler, organize, eat a snack, exercise, use that Breathe app, or do whatever you want to do.
In case no one has told you, you don’t have to be in charge of teaching everything.
4. Family-Style Homeschooling
Working on a project or activity is helpful for learning with minimal hair-pulling. When you have kids of different ages, it’s not always possible, but it’s nice when everyone can participate at whatever stage they are at.
Let’s say you are cooking. You can give the toddler a Tupperware and water to play with (maybe) and let other kids pour the ingredients for a recipe. If you are looking for an easy way do a project together Kiwi Co has project kits for different age ranges.Friends & Family Sale! Get a 3, 6, or 12 month subscription for $16.95/mo (reg. $23.95) with code EXPLORE. Ends 4/25.
5. Consider Unschooling
If you haven’t already, you may need to sprinkle a dash or two of unschooling into your day. A source of stress may be trying to wear that teacher hat all the time.
Today I asked my kids, “What do you want to know?” It is amazing how many educational topics are on YouTube.
Today’s learning adventure led to an unexpected conversation about evolution and a video. A video about evolution was our random science plan for today.
Also, for science was a trip to our community garden plot where we observed insects.
In addition, I suspect that my kids retain more when they lead the lesson.
What is Unschooling?:
Unschooling is a homeschooling method that is student-led based on their interests (Enter slow clap here).
I think unschooling is a method to consider when homeschooling with a toddler in the mix.
If your child is pursuing an interest, it counts as school.
On some days, your toddler will require lots of attention, and you might as well trash the to-do list. Sticking to a strict schedule where you always take the lead will be challenging.
You might like unschooling.
6. Educational Apps for Your Toddler
When you have a toddler, you have to pull out all the stops every day. You have given her paints, playdoh and all the things. It’s exhausting.
If you are ready for your toddler to have screen time, you have great options.
- Reading Eggs/Math Seeds is a fun reading and math program that combines lessons and games. The lessons and games are for kids ages 2-13. You can create a separate profile for each child and monitor their progress. I talk about my love of Reading Eggs/Math Seeds right in this article.
PBS Kids App is original kids’ tv (at least from my 80s kid perspective). The PBS app has at least a dozen shows your kid will enjoy while learning. The classic Sesame Street or the adventurous Wild Kratts will have them know more than you in no time.
- Starfall is a free multi-subject app that helps kids from preschool through third grade with reading and math skills. Your child will enjoy the games and songs. Starfall was one of the first apps I used with my first kid. If you want to upgrade to a subscription to access all, Starfall is reasonably priced.
- ABC Mouse It’s another preschool-friendly app that encourages your child to learn with the help of games and lessons. It’s worth a try so you can start building your list of apps your kid enjoys.
- YouTube has lots of learning channels that are worth your time, like
- Jack Hartmann Kids Music Channel
- Scratch Garden
- The Singing Walrus – English Songs for Kids
- Sci Show Kids
- Homeschool Pop
- The Learning Station-Kids Songs and Nursery Rhymes
- Free School
- Nat Geo Kids
If you have a YouTube premium plan which eliminates commercials, you are much better off! You want your kids to learn and not ask for a toy from a commercial that will collect dust at the bottom of the toy bin.
Or is that just me? #minivent
If you are looking for more ideas for teaching kids under 5, take a look at my other post!
There are plenty of quality apps to keep your little one busy while you help an older child get through things like a tricky math problem. Get some tricks up your sleeve and use them.
7. Fun Activities for Your Toddler
On some days, you can win the toddler battle with classic crayons and a piece of paper. I often sit my toddler down, put arts and crafts in the middle of the table, and slowly step back.
Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Your younger child is a unique individual and may enjoy building blocks versus art. Experiment to find his favorites.
Below is a list of possible activities to inspire you.
Get your tarp ready and throw down some supplies.
Everyone has different comfort levels with arts and crafts, so if it’s just crayons for you, that’s cool too.
Glitter rarely crosses the threshold of my home, so I totally get it. Here are some art supply ideas.
- Roll of butcher paper or Melissa and Doug paper
- Kinetic Sand
- Amazon Boxes
- My kids call those airbag things from the Amazon boxes “dragon wings.”
We have a giant toy bin for all the kids at our house. Lowe’s had a nice container with a lid on and the rest is history. The kids decorated it with stickers. Done.
I enjoy “Mid-Year Christmas” by dumping the bin so the kids can rediscover long-lost toys.
You can take a few bottom-of-the-bin toys and see if they spark your toddler’s interest while homeschooling your older children.
- Play kitchen items
Busy boxes are boxes of fun knick-knacks for your toddler to enjoy only during homeschool. The key is only to take out the box during homeschool to keep those activities feeling “new.”
Use whatever your kid is motivated by. Maybe it’s a box with stickers or a wind-up toy. If your other kids want to play, too, it can be a reward for finishing their activity.
A great place to go for busy box supplies is the Dollar Tree or 99 Cent Store. You can change itLet’sften without spending too much.
8. Frequent Breaks
Let’s face it. We all need frequent breaks in our lives, and kids are no different most of the time. When I was in the classroom as a teacher for students that have special needs, frequent breaks were necessary.
Breaks are fun and give us something to look forward to when working. Look around and see if anyone needs a break. That includes you.
LetDon’t watch a few science clips on YouTube while reheating and finishing your coffee.
9. Get Help!
Getting help is last on the list of this post, but in order of importance, it’s first. If you have a support system, reach out and ask for help. Or create a support system.
Maybe a relative can come by once a week to visit with your toddler or take the older ones to a museum or park.
Are there any older homeschool kids you know that can come by and be a mommy’s helper?
I am not opposed to paying the kids to do extra chores. Figure out all the things you do and delegate those household tasks asap!
Use Instacart. Gamechanger.
Just an hour of extra help can make a world of difference.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed homeschooling with a toddler in the home, don’t worry – you are not alone.
Remember to rely on the flexibility of homeschooling, taking care of basic needs, and getting extra help.
There are a few things you can do to make things easier:
- Carve out some time for your self-care. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Maybe it’s 15 minutes a day to start, but starting to focus on your spiritual, physical, and mental well-being is a top priority. Also, check in with your family.
- Lean on the flexibility of homeschooling and make sure your schedule is realistic for having a toddler.
- If there are any feelings of dread with your curriculum, think about how you can change things up.
- Try out family-style homeschooling when you can. Gather everyone around for the same activity.
- Take a look at unschooling and see how you may be able to sprinkle it into your homeschool day. Let the children lead what they learn.
- Select learning apps for your toddler. High-quality apps can keep your toddler busy while you take a break or help another kid.
- Hands-on activities for your toddler can keep her engaged and prepare her for writing and math one day.
- You are allowed to take a break. You are human.
- Make asking for help a part of your day. If you have a community of family and friends, lean on them. If you can pay for help, make it happen.
Each day is a different adventure, but you can make homeschooling work for you and your toddler.
What has been your biggest homeschooling challenge so far? Which tip above resonated with you? Leave a comment below.
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