When I wrote a post debunking some of the myths surrounding homeschooling, this was a comment that a reader left:
It is such a good question because I know many parents are nervous about trying to homeschool school-age children when they have demanding and busy little toddlers or babies in the house, too.
The main thing is to spend time with the little one first doing a special activity like reading or playing together. Little ones crave one-on-one time with Mami (and/or Papi), so before you focus on your older kids, give your younger ones the attention they crave.
Then there are quite a few options that homeschoolers use:
Purchase a no-prep curriculum (or one that requires little preparation on your part).
Your older child should be able to get out and complete at least one or more activities/subjects on their own. This is even easier when you buy a no-prep curriculum. Don’t get me wrong: no-prep doesn’t mean you don’t spend time helping and guiding your child. It just means that you don’t have to spend a lot of time getting materials ready for class. And older children should be able to read the directions and begin the work on their own.
Plan your lesson time around your younger children's naptime.
If you have your baby or toddler on a consistent naptime schedule, then you may be able to use this quiet time to teach your young student. Even if your baby doesn’t sleep long enough for you to finish homeschooling, try to concentrate the more difficult subjects that require your active input during this time.
Create a "quiet time" box of goodies.
This would include special toys that your younger children can ONLY play with while you are doing school with your homeschool child. Keep them in a large tote or several boxes that you can switch out during the week. Make sure the toys aren’t noisy or obnoxious. Things like play-doh, LEGOs, pipe cleaners, sensory bin, lacing activities, and special art materials make good choices.
Invite the younger child to "do school" with you.
Give them their own assignment(s) - drawing, coloring, playing with clay. Usually, this only works for one activity because their attention span is so short, but you might be able to squeeze 15 - 20 minutes out of them and then give them a snack that you prepared earlier. That's another 10 - 15 minutes.
Don't be afraid to take breaks.
You don't have to sit down and knock out the whole day's worth of work in one sitting. Maybe you focus on math and reading in the morning and science and geography after lunch. Some families find the evenings work best for homeschooling, when both parents may be home to take turns watching young children.
Invest in a good baby wrap or sling.
Little babies can stay content for an amazingly long time nestled against mom's chest in a baby sling. Musical boucy chairs and high chairs are also great for keeping baby safe and nearby while you work with your child. If they are old enough, teething rings and toys are good for entertainment.
Hire a Mother's Helper.
I've never done this, but I've read of homeschool families who do. This might be a teenager or adult who spends time watching the younger children while you are focused on your older child's schooling. They may read to the little ones, play with them, feed them, etc.
Jamerrill Stewart of FreeHomeschoolDeals.com says that she has her kids play outside for 30 minutes to 2 hours before starting school.
Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool switches off and has older children take turns playing with babies/toddlers while she works with first one child and then the other.
And check out Lauren Hill’s comprehensive Pinterest board dedicated to this subject.