Our attitudes towards our little ones can help but sometimes more is needed. So Karla and Angela have kindly offered their practical suggestions for unschooling when there are babies and toddlers in the family.
When the older boys were younger, they always seemed to want my involvement at the *worst* times. So if they were asked to do a chore or go to bed, it was suddenly the time they wanted to explore whatever topic, do this experiment, etc. Throw in the needs of the babies and toddlers and it made me crazy. I figure unschooling has as a focus the child pursuing knowledge so they did a lot of solo learning which was great. Then just like the library has hours of operation, I as their mother/resource/facilitator have hours of availability. I told them my availability and it made a huge difference in the flow of our day.
I think it is perfectly reasonable to do things during naptime that would be difficult to do when the toddler/baby is awake and active. To me, that is not unreasonable structure. That is just common sense. 🙂 Otherwise, they can do what my eldest did and read the experiment books, find one he wanted to do, ask me if he could do it (solo) and then do it locked up in the bathroom so the pesky younger siblings didn’t interfere. 🙂
The other thing we’ve done with various levels of success is to have activities available for the toddler that are pulled out at times when we need a time of distraction. At times, we rotated the activities by day of the week. Other times, it was just sort of random, but the best thing was to have each activity come out no more than once or twice per week. Some of the activities were more high chair activities (we used the old fashioned kind w/ a metal tray which worked awesome for an art chair). Others we put on the floor (at one point we had an area rug and asked that the activity stay on the run but a blanket or hula hoop works too).
High chair activities:
*paint by number books
*button box for sorting and examining (under supervision, we have had several pretty young toddlers who have done well with this)
* colored rice and magnets (older preschoolers)
*markers (only in the high chair though!)
*butter and a cookie sheet (to make a mess w/ and draw in)
*fisher price sets
*plastics (figurines etc)
*Discovery Toys sets
*Duplos (these worked several times per week)
*dish pan w/ water and stuff to “wash” or play w/ (put it on a big towel)
I also have found we have to tweak our ideas and routines based on our current children and stage of life. I hope you are inspired to find solutions that work for your family!
First: play with the little kids first thing in the morning. If they have focused attention from you, they will then be willing to play alone while you do things requiring focused attention with the older kids.
Second: try to involve the little kids as much as possible. Do not segregate them to another room, for example. I had a little slide in our dining room at one time for a very active toddler.
Last but not least: make sure everyone has a high protein breakfast. This is even more important than #1, so I guess I should title it ” # 1/2″ . Greek yogurt and frozen strawberries in the blender are fantastic.
Next time… Anna and Willa