Homeschooling a Kindergartener with a Toddler in the House

a follow-up to my series Homeschooling a Preschooler with a Baby in the House

Note:  * denotes that I’ll follow-up on that topic in a future post. If it’s underlined, click it – that means I’ve followed-up!

The first thing I’d like to clarify is that every family has to find what works best for them, and in fact, I’m in the process of trying to figure that out for myself.  As children grow, and with life’s ebb and flow, I think our schedule will naturally evolve to fit the needs of my family at any given time.  What I offer here is what I’ve been doing thus far.

However, to understand how I homeschool, you must take a look at my series on my mission / priorities.  Sorting out my priorities for my boys at this age (5 and 2) was invaluable for me, and as you’ll see much of what I do for my boys’ “homeschool” is simply life experience with a little bit of guidance and influence from me and my husband. 

Learning happens all the time, and I don’t feel like I need to “teach” much at all.  My boys absorb almost everything on their own.  At this age, I don’t believe there’s any need for a curriculum or a lot of planned, formal lessons.  Though I’m not there yet, I bet this will hold true for the future too.

However, I do some formal lessons with my five-year-old.  Why?

  • Because my five-year-old is ready and wants to do them.
  • Because I want to give him those first links in the long fence of learning.
  • Because it helps me find out what he’s interested in and what he’s ready for….If I don’t try something, I won’t know whether he’s ready for it or not.  If he doesn’t try something, he won’t know whether he likes it or not!
  • I consider this a time to experiment with different approaches to see what works and what doesn’t.  I am trying to ascertain what his learning style* and needs are.
  • I want to get him used to having some kind of schedule and goals to accomplish.  Just like cleaning the house, I feel that a little schedule and a little accountability now can set the stage for when he’s older and doing more on his own.
  • Honestly, I’m not completely comfortable with a pure “unschooling” approach at this time.  If I did that, I would probably come up against some strong opposition anyway, so I feel like by stating my priorities, keeping track of what they do on a daily basis, and by doing short lessons, I’m finding a balance and an approach I like.

As I said, learning happens all day, especially when the boys are playing by themselves, watching educational television, or playing a game like Simon Says with their parents just before bedtime.  Many of our days are spent running errands, going on play dates or playing outside if the weather is nice.  But for the purpose of this post, I’m writing about when we’re home and inside most of the day. On those days, our formal “homeschool” happens at two points during the day:

1. Between breakfast and lunch ~ This is when both boys are awake, so I do things they can both participate in.

  • We do a long book time. I call out, “It’s book time! Everyone get a book!”  The boys go the bookshelves and pick one or two books, and I do the same.  This gives me a chance to read something new or educational to them.  They often pick the same books over and over.
  • We do puppet shows. I don’t force the puppet shows, but if the boys don’t initiate some other activity, I say, “Let’s do puppet shows!”  We’ve accumulated a basket of puppets, and we each take turns getting behind the love seat and putting on a show. Puppet shows have all the educational benefits as storytelling, which you can read about by clicking here.
  • We may or may not do another activity.  My five-year-old is quick to initiate all kinds of projects.  He wants to build, make paper animals, or he wants to watch a video of something on the computer after we read about it.  I usually go with the flow here.  If the boys begin to play on their own, more power to them. (I do chores or take a break.)  If they want me to play with them, I do it.

For me, our morning rituals are about making learning fun, igniting their imaginations, and letting me spend concentrated, quality time with them.  This sets a good tone for the rest of day, and no matter what else happens, I feel good because I’ve accomplished my most important priority.

2. When the two-year-old is napping ~ This is when I do more formal lessons with my five-year-old. I only do one kind of lesson each day, and I keep it short.  There’s no way I could do it any other way.  He’s five.  He’s a boy.  This is not the time for longer lessons.

Note: As I write this, my two-year-old is transitioning out of naptime. (Yikes!)  This is what I’ve done for the last several months:

On our white board, I write our goals for the week and check off each time we finish a lesson.  It doesn’t always happen, but my goals are two reading lessons, two math lessons, and one day to work on our project.  This is what it might look like at the end of a good week:

2x Reading ✓✓

2x Math ✓

1x Project ✓

I should also note that I feel like we’ve hit a plateau with the reading and math.  While my son really moved quickly at the beginning of 100 Lessons, I haven’t seen a lot of progress lately.  However, that’s okay with me.  I have to consider these things:

  • He’s only five, and if I were putting him into school, he would be entering Kindergarten this coming fall.  He’s way ahead of the game already.
  • Children all learn at a different pace, and there’s a lot of evidence that boys (and some girls) learn to read slower. This has no bearing on their level of intelligence.
  • It’s not my priority to make him learn how to do anything right now.  I believe that the most important thing a teacher can do to teach any child how to read or do math is to read to them frequently and show them how math is used in an everyday context.
  • I believe that developing his imagination and showing him the wonders of this earth will lead him to want to learn how to do all these basic skills on his own time.

In addition to all this, my son gets a good dose of science, social studies and art through the classes we attend, books we read, crafts we do, television we watch and conversations that I have with him.

Please stay tuned for my follow-up posts on this and more!  And to find resources on how to start telling stories to your children, see my Storytelling Page.

Do you have a blog post about how you manage your daily homeschooling?  Feel free to link to it in the comments section.

11 thoughts on “Homeschooling a Kindergartener with a Toddler in the House

  1. This is so great. In fact, it will be me in September (although it really is already). So, I appreciate reading about how it works for you. It sound pretty similar to us, except that we don’t do anything formal, yet (if?). Thanks for the insights, and recommendations!

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Kelly! From what I’ve read, there really isn’t any need to do formal stuff in these early years, but for some reason a little of it makes me feel a little better. Involving them in the world, reading to them, taking them to the library, museums, and letting them play with other children are the best ways of learning, IMHO. 🙂 Good luck to you!!

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  2. I so enjoy your blog! Our kids are close to the same age (except I have daughters!) and we’re just starting to homeschool as well. So I’m usually contemplating a lot of the same things your blogs are about. I’m really excited by the future posts you notated today!

    I was doing the same thing as you for a while, activities with both kids after breakfast and then formal lessons with my older child while the other napped. But we’ve also transitioned out of naps. So lately when it’s time for formal lessons, I “do school” with the little one (only because she begs to be involved).

    When we first wake up, we do a pretty basic “calendar” time: she traces the date on the calendar and then colors in the square (continuing a pattern) and then colors in a square on her weather chart. She also practices counting to whatever the number is. The older one does all this too, independently.

    I have these very large old fashioned ABC cards, that have the uppercase and lowercase letter, a picture that illustrates the letter, and a sentence about it. A little later in the day my the three year old and I snuggle, and we go through the cards and she identifies the letter (if she can) and the picture. Then, we sing the ABCs and point to the corresponding letter. By the time we’ve done those three things (calendar, once through the alphabet with flashcards, and singing the ABCs) my youngest daughter feels like she’s had plenty of school and she’s ready to go play quietly. Then, I do the reading or math lesson with my older child (who had been enjoying a bit of quiet, independent playtime while I worked with the younger).

    With my older child, we also did 100 Easy Lessons, but we stalled in the 50’s. Now we’re doing Explode the Code 1, and that works really well for her. We do a couple pages each session (sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how much she wants to do).

    For math we tried MEP, but it wasn’t working for us. So we ordered Singapore Math (it’s being delivered today!).

    It may sound like we do a lot, but it’s really not. We spend probably half an hour to 45 minutes total each day, when you add all the pieces together.

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    1. CC, thank you very much for your comment, and I’m flattered that you like my blog. It’s very nice to connect with other moms who are going through the same experience! Your “homeschool” sounds perfect for your kids right now. It sounds like they like it and it’s fun for them, which is how it should be. I keep hearing about Explode the Code, and I need to look it up. What does MEP stand for, if you don’t mind?

      We had a similar experience to you with 100 Lessons. You can read about what happened here, if you want to: https://mamaofletters.com/2011/10/23/review-teach-your-child-to-read-in-100-easy-lessons/

      When I write everything down in my blog, it helps me because it gives me clarity, and it also makes me see that we really are doing quite a bit. However, on a daily basis, it doesn’t always feel that way! There are interruptions, and for the past few weeks, there have been illnesses to contend with. Yet this is why I like a relaxed approach to homeschooling because it’s flexible, and by keeping track of what we do, I see that we do quite a bit even when I’m not being intentional about it.

      Thanks again!

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  3. I made the decision to homeschool in the last couple of months and I happened upon your blog in my searches for like-minded homeschool families. We are moving to Japan with the Navy at the end of July, so I’m giving myself until then to figure out what I want our homeschool days to look like. I have two daughters – my oldest will be 4 later this month and my younger one is 28 months.

    Just in the last couple of weeks, she has started transitioning out of a nap. I have to admit, I cried yesterday when she got up after just 20 minutes for naptime. I feel like I’ve barely got that time of day figured out with my older child (who stopped napping at 2 as well) and I’m not sure what I’m going to do when my 2 year old stops taking naps altogether. I am very interested to see how your day adapts with no naps anymore and how you manage the increased awake time for the 2 year old.

    Thanks for blogging about your days and life. It is a HUGE help for people like me who are just starting out. And, I feel incredibly lucky to have found a blogger who has kids the same age!! 🙂

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    1. Kimberly, thank you so for your comment. It’s great to connect with other moms that have kids of similar age! Good luck with your move to Japan! I lived there for one year when I participated in the JET Programme. It’s a beautiful country and it should offer your family an incredible experience. If you ever need some encouragement while you’re living there, feel free to e-mail me!

      For the past five days, my two-year-old has not taken a nap, so I think it’s safe to say we are pretty much transitioned. On one hand, I mourn losing this time because it did give us a bit of a rest, but on the other hand, it also frees us up tremendously. The other day we were invited to a friend’s house for a last minute play date at 1pm! And we could go! It was great.

      I’m going to write about this in some upcoming posts, but I’ll tell you that I already let my five-year-old watch T.V. after his lessons in the afternoon. I know people have different opinions about T.V., but we watch quite a bit here. I don’t approve of all of it, but I quickly learned it was a battle I wasn’t going to win, especially when I desperately need a break in the late afternoon (and to be honest, at some other points during the day). So considering that I have my children involved in a number of things, and we go outside whenever the weather permits, I don’t mind that they watch T.V. So I’ll probably just let the two-year-old join his brother during that time. And if I need to, I may let him watch something while I do lessons with the five-year-old. We’ll have to see about that.

      I also don’t mind changing our lessons a bit…. That is, making them lessons for the two-year-old instead of for the five-year-old. I noticed that whenever the five-year-old is “teaching” his younger brother, he seems very proud, and I think it helps his self-esteem and perhaps makes him realize how much he knows (not the case when we’re doing harder stuff). Maybe he can use that for a while? After all, he’s well ahead of his grade level anyway. Again, we’ll have to see what happens. I’ll be sure to write about it!

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