Why yes. Yes I do have a toddler at home. Boo is 2 and a substantial amount of change, putting him squarely in the toddler category. While trying to homeschool a going-on-eight-year-old with a toddler at home does have its challenges, it's not crazy. Well, not completely crazy.
When we first started to homeschool Bean, Boo was about 18 months old and he was very excited to have his big sister home. He wanted to sit on my lap or in her chair while we were doing schoolwork. Or he wanted to do something too. For a while, I found something comparable for him to do - crayons and paper for example- so he wasn't left out of all the fun. There was an all-too-brief period when we counted on his nap time to do more concentrated work; and then his nap became less reliable.
Gradually, it's all smoothed out and Boo is used to school time and busies himself easily, sometimes after I read one of "his" library books to him. The last couple of weeks however, busying himself means he sits on the sofa with either Netflix on the iPad (yes, he can manage this almost entirely on his own) or a movie on the portable DVD player (the only part of this he can't manage is opening the door to the movie closet.)
I am not opposed to either Boo or Bean watching TV or using the computer in general, they are a part of the world in which they live. However, I do monitor content and call a timeout on the TV/computer when their self-regulation leads them to marathon media sessions a few days in a row. Bean only occasionally gets into a media rut that requires intervention, but she has never been one to just watch TV without doing at least one other thing at the same time. Boo, on the other hand, has no problems sitting in one place staring at the screen for two hours straight. He has a "better" attention span than Bean. At 29 months.
It looks like I will be doing preschool at home sooner rather than later, because in this house, necessity is the mother of homeschooling. We plan to enroll Boo in a Waldorf-ish home preschool near our house in the fall, just two mornings a week, but that's months away and my toddler needs some directed playtime NOW. Peese.
After reading a lovely article about turning every daily experience into a preschool opportunity, and almost falling asleep looking at a site after site that suggested theme weeks, and then having a moment or two of feeling complete and utter inadequacy while looking at several Montessori "Bambino Academies" I realized I HAVE DONE THIS BEFORE.
That's right. This is not the first time I've had a two and a half year old in the house and it's not the first time I thought about preparing a rich learning environment - I just wasn't thinking of it as school the first time around. Even though Bean was trundled off to a Montessori program at 18 months, I still did a lot at home with her. I still find dried beans in odd places and come across teeny tiny scoops and tongs in the kitchen drawers.
I have been trying to tame the playroom and art closet (again) and have started mentally setting aside materials that would be perfect to bring out one at a time in the mornings for Boo. Over the years, as they have segued from toddler learning materials to big kid toys, many of these things have become jumbled. I spent a rainy weekend morning going through the box of lacing "stuff" and sorting out lacing beads and the lacing frame from the lacing cards. Then I tackled the dozen or so sets of flash cards that had become one humongous game of Go Fish. I set aside the sign language cards, the money and time sets, and the phonics set then further segregated the remaining cards into small, manageable groups: shapes, numbers 1-20, letters, solar system, ocean/marine life, ecosystems, bugs.
I rescued some plastic trays from Bean's art table and will start setting out work for Boo this week. I also pulled out a few preschool teacher's books that I found at a church rummage sale, moving them from the Someday stack in the playroom closet to the Right Now reference box on my desk. One is Investigating Science With Young Children by Rosemary Althouse and the other is Start to Finish: Developmentally Sequenced Activities for Preschool Children by Nory Marsh (this one shows up on a lot of lists online, but without any pictures or information and appears to be out-of-print).
The first one is more for inspiration, but I think I will use Start to Finish more directly. The activities are intended to strengthen the skills that will eventually be needed for holding a pencil and using scissors. The first activities are "Stringing Medium-Sized Beads," "Pegboard Patterns," "Playing Paper Basketball," and "Putting a Lid On It" (screwing lids on jars.) I would probably have done most of the activities on my own, but it's nice to have a guide.
And of course, before, after, and during the school day there is lots of reading. Boo is always around when Bean or I are reading her history, science and literature lessons out loud and I always include what Bean calls "Boo Books" during our reading time.
We'll see how this goes and I'll report back.