Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Trouble With Toddlers

It's a darn good thing they're so cute,
or we'd throw them out with the bath water!

This is a family saying I remember hearing when I was little, in reference to one or another of my many little brothers and sisters, I'm sure. I can't help but use it myself now, occasionally. It just means some sweet little thing is driving its parents nuts! And, sure, it's a sentiment that's true of most any toddler on occasion, but when you're trying to hometeach, oh my goodness... Homeschool mothers with little ones, you know what I mean!

I think we've probably tried every one of the tricks in the proverbial book here at our house, and some that aren't in it, to corral our junior bi-peds for a few hours in the morning during the schoolyear. We tried for over fourteen years. And now that we're back in the homeschool saddle again after a two year hiatus, I need to revisit the issue again, big time! Is there a system, other than letting the little buckaroo run amok and fight the brushfires as they come? How successful were past methods? What's worked and what hasn't?

Here's our shortlist:

1) Have a special bin just for school mornings with special (educational!) toys to be used only at that time. Change the toys out periodically.
~ Sorta Works ~ until the pieces are lost by the toddler(s) over time, or confiscated by Mommy because the four year old and the two year old constantly fight over them. Children need to stay close by which can be distracting, as well. A good trick to trot out periodically, nonetheless.2) Have the older children do their schoolwork in shifts, so that one of them can be in charge of the troublemaker(s) at all time.
~ Works Sometimes ~ but can be tricky to keep track of whose turn it is. Also, overriding the whining of those who don't want to babysit gets old and disruptive, and trying to remember which siblings are purposely trying to stretch out their babysitting time instead of working can tax the focus of the best of us. Also requires careful scheduling of any "together" time projects or classes. But little ones can be moved away from students, helping with the distraction problem.
3) Hold the little squirming bundle of energy on your lap while trying to teach.
~ Rarely Works ~ at least not longer than ten or fifteen minutes. For obvious reasons.4) Have the schoolchildren do independent study until the toddler takes a nap, then do hands-on instruction and projects.
~ Can Work ~ especially if your toddler is still taking two naps a day, then life is good. But, unfortunately, this just doesn't happen for us past about 15-16 months at best ~ about the time they really start to get pesky. If your little tumbleweed only takes an afternoon nap, this limits things a bit. We, like most homeschoolers we know, get our best work done in the morning; waiting until after lunch to get to the meat of things generally spells doom for our schoolday. But, when necessary, waiting 'til that naptime does give Mom and students some good concentration time.5) Turn educational programming on the television.
~Works ~ but I admit it with reservations. It just sounds terrible to say I'm a homeschool Mom who uses TV as a babysitter. But, there it is. I admit it. It's the solution that provides the best, most predictable results, for us anyway. It's a crutch. But sometimes we need a crutch. Used judiciously and sparingly, Blue's Clues and Rolie Polie Olie tapes can save a school day.

So there's the main list. You'll note I didn't include anything like hanging the child by his hoodie on the clothesline, or any of the other suggestions the older siblings make. Anyone with any other good ideas (I mean besides ones that might be used in A Series of Unfortunate Events), please send them to me!

So, what should be my plan of action? Well, after careful re-examination of the problem, it's plain the plan is to work around the fact that there just isn't one easy plan. Never has been, unfortunately. If there is a solution to the toddler problem, it's a combination of all the above ideas, changing with the individual day, week, month, and child. What our success really (really, really) all depends upon is our determination.

And our determination has got to be to just get the job done, no matter what, and with as much patience and love as possible. The job is to do God's will for us in our stations of life as best we can, and to teach our children to do likewise in their stations, whatever they may be ~ and to prepare them as best we can to do so.

Fr. Lejeune says that "perfection is accomplishing the will of God in a constant and generous fashion." Homeschooling with toddlers underfoot certainly provides the "constant" and it definitely gives all of us plenty of practice in the virtues, especially of charity, patience, long suffering, fortitude and fear of the Lord.

Still, it's a good thing that, with the invention of modern plumbing, we don't need to actually throw the bathwater out anymore ~ and that the youngins don't quite fit down the drain.



As a fairly new homeschooler (we're starting our third year in a few weeks), I'm both relieved and discouraged to hear that an experienced family like yours has the exact same problems.

As a very slight improvement over the TV solution, I plan to let the little guys use quasi-educational computer games (the older younguns play and the younger ones watch).

I have also found that a bath with no washing mandated will entertain as many as three kids at a time; and it forces me to wash the bathroom floor (sop up is more like it), which wouldn't happen otherwise.


I meant to add that my kids like the Jump Start series of computer games, and they actually learn things from them.

Theresa said...

I think you should add some more onto this one!!!!