Mama Monday: Taming the Toddler

Mama Monday will be the day when I discuss the challenges and joys of being a mom and wife.  I definitely DO NOT have these two roles mastered, but I have learned some tricks of the trade from older moms, younger moms, and other blog moms that have really made a difference in me as a mom and a wife, so I’ll try to share some of those here.

Scheduling…the thorn in the side of most moms.  How do I get all of this done with 1, 2, 3, 4, or more kids underfoot?  It’s especially difficult to juggle when your child’s education depends on having time to actually teach them. I’m talking about trying to schedule time to homeschool with toddlers in the mix. 
This is exactly where I’m at right now in my life.  Chipette is 7, Magpie is 4, and Monkey, dear sweet Monkey, is 17 months.  Remember back to when your darling was around 17 months.  Remember the inquisitiveness: fingers in electrical sockets, throwing anything and everything with great gusto, fascinated with toilet paper and the toilet water, etc.  Now imagine trying to teach your 7 year old and your 4 year old with all that chaos!!!
Mom: “Where’s your brother?” (As you are all gathered around the dining room table to begin lessons.)
Chipette and Magpie: “I don’t know.”
About that time Monkey walks down the hallway soaked to the bone carrying a dripping blanket.
Mom: “You guys didn’t shut the bathroom door again!!!”
Now you must take a 15 minute break to change Monkey’s clothes and put the blanket in the wash.
At this point not only have 15 minutes of school time escaped you, but the older two are off playing something and getting them back to focus on lessons is like trying to herd cats.  Obviously if this happens a few more times that day, you’re lucky if you’ve made it through half of your schoolwork.
And if you’ve had a toddler you also know that you’re lucky if it only happens a few more times a day, more like a few times every hour.
So what do you do? If you make a barricade to keep the toddler in the room, then they are going to be a distraction for the children working and you.  Unless you have a room in your house that has nothing in it for them to get into, and I mean NOTHING…no shelves, no books, no electrical sockets, no chairs, no tables…NOTHING.
Do you wait and try to cram everything into their naptime? I’ve done that and it works.  Until your oldest has more schoolwork than they can finish in an hour and a half or your oldest can’t focus for an hour and a half of straight schoolwork (I’ll raise my hand for that second one!).
I found a solution that is working for us this year and should be adaptable until Monkey is not so “monkeyish” during schooltime.  I read this idea on another homeschooling mom’s blog (if I could remember who she was, I would give her credit).  I schedule our days in teaching blocks with the kids rotating through their teaching time with me and their break times. 
Here is our daily schedule:
        8:00: Everybody eats breakfast and does their morning chores
9:00: Circle Time for everybody (pledge, calendar, read from devotional book, sing a hymn, prayer)
        9:20: Teaching Block with Chipette while Magpie plays with Monkey
        10:30: Teaching Block with Magpie while Chipette plays with Monkey
        11:00: Snack Time for everybody
11:15: Independent Work for Chipette while I work on housework and/or finish any school work with Magpie
12:15: Neighborhood Walk for everybody
1:00: Lunch
1:30: Teaching Block with Chipette while Magpie has screen time
2:30: Quiet Time for everybody
3:30: Chipette has screen time

Some things I want to point out:
1.   The times are not set in stone. The times are more of a guide, first teaching block lasts an hour, try to be done with lunch in thirty minutes, etc.  Invest in a timer and set it when you start the teaching blocks, set it when they go off to do their independent work (If Chipette finishes her work before the timer goes off, then she can join the rest of us.), or any other time you want to keep a strict time frame.
2.   Teach the olders that when it is their time to play with the younger, then they must keep out of the room where the teaching is happening. We school at our dining room table and the room is not one that can be closed off, so I had to train Chipette and Magpie to play with Monkey in one area (usually the play room or the backyard) and to not interrupt the teaching session unless death is about to occur or someone is bleeding.
3.   The teaching block after lunch is reserved for history projects, science, art, or any other messy, hands-on subjects. This is so that Monkey is taking his nap when these things happen to insure that no toddler hands get in the way. Also, Magpie can join in during these times, but the choice is hers (since she’s only 4).  If she chooses not to participate, then she gets her daily dose of screen time (TV, computer, Wii).
4.   If you do not already have a quiet time, then start one!  This is a blessing for everyone involved. Mom gets to have some down time and the children get some time to do something quietly by themselves. Chipette and Magpie alternate who gets quiet time in the play room or who has it in the living room, but the key is that they cannot be together and whatever they do must be a quiet activity (coloring, Play-Doh, puzzles, reading, etc.).  Quiet time ends when Monkey wakes up!
We’ve only been using this schedule for about a month, but I cannot begin to tell you how much it has eased our day.  I post a copy of this schedule on the wall so that everyone knows who’s supposed to be where, who they are supposed to be with, and what they are supposed to be doing.  It is glorious!!!
Hope everyone dealing with those toddlers finds a way to make it happen for you as well.  Feel free to leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments.

Typing during Quiet Time (shhhhh!) in the treehouse,

1 comment:

  1. Can't decide whether to chuckle or cry! :) My youngest is 13 months old--sigh. Next year will be easier. . .next year will be easier (chant along with me! ha)