Ever been at your whits end trying to juggle your “blessings” all the while accomplish schooling with one or more of those same blessings?! Time management is the key!
We’ve talked about Structure and Routine in Episode 5 and a part of that structure is training your children to stay within boundaries set by mom. We started with training “blanket time” for the boys when they became mobile. I would put down a blanket with a few toys on it and set a timer. Each time they went to crawl off, I would redirect them back on the blanket. If you keep some toys set aside to use for blanket time then they maintain their novelty and can successfully lengthen this time once it has been trained.
With a houseful of siblings, that blanket time is often seen as a relief to have their “own” space marked off as theirs! I have found that “blanket time” doesn’t HAVE to be just for toddlers, in fact it illuminated an area that needed training in my 4 ½ year old today. You will notice there is a child missing from the picture above because he was on his bed working on his obeying without complaining as he was not happy with the choice of activity I gave him (coloring sheet). This is character training, and is the main reason our family has decided to homeschool. This is also school!
There are several different ways to use the blanket boundaries for school teaching time and for structuring preschoolers so you HAVE TIME to teach (and yes, house cleaning too!)
I have taken that blanket time training (which I learned about from On Becoming Toddlerwise) and blended it with a teaching practice of “learning centers”. This is where you have several areas of learning activities set up throughout a room and the children are rotated through these centers. You can use these educational activities for school and swap children after a determined amount of time. All the while, mom is available assisting and redirecting those little ones, working on behavior, or doing some chores.
Another use is to give the children relatively independent activities so mom can have some one-on-one time to work on a subject with another child. Do realize that if you have toddlers, mom needs to be able to pause this instruction time to redirect the little ones (so save the very difficult subjects for when the little ones are napping or resting on their beds). If mom doesn’t insist the little ones stay on the blanket, then they will stop doing so and this tool is no longer usable.
I also use these boundaries and small, quiet toys (what my son’s occupational therapist calls “fidgets”) for when I have a good amount of reading aloud to them. We start reading on the couch and I dismiss them to their blankets once they have done all the sitting I can reasonably expect. It looks sort of like a train making stops letting off passengers. I use this method instead of having the child go play somewhere else because if they are in the same room they are still absorbing information. The only caveat is that they play quietly or they loose the freedom to play with their “fidget”. I use mainly sensory items as fidgets (meaning they are squishy, stretchy, or textured). You can check out a special needs catalogue such as Abilitations or try a craft store like Michaels. Our favorite fidgets are various size pompoms. This method works great for my special needs son and for the younger ones (4-6 year olds) but NOT for the toddlers! When I have a lot of reading that is when I put the toddler in his Pack and Play in the other room with a few toys (basically “blanket time” but with the physical boundaries).
Ideas for learning centers:
Leappad electronic games with educational game cartridges (many of these are retired by Leap Frog but are worth the hunt)
TAG Reader (also by Leap Frog)
Discovery Toys “Playful Patterns”
Discovery Toys “Learning Bugs”
Discovery Toys “Think it Through Tiles”
Tangrams with patterns
Lacing cards – fine motor skills
Design & Drill – copying patterns & fine motor
File Folder Games
coloring or activity book