Mom tips: Teaching and parenting at the same time
One of the toughest things I've had to learn this year has been how to teach the older two children while watching and loving on the little ones. Not an easy job. At first I tried busy activities when I needed to teach. I would sit all of the kids at the table and give the baby and four-year-old a coloring book or Play-Doh.
However, while the older kids and I explored ancient history, the Play-Doh flew everywhere and the baby treated the crayons like french fries. Then the cleaning up (especially after Play-Doh) usually took more time than the actual activity. Horror stories aside, a few techniques have worked well in our classroom, some of which might work for you, too.
First of all, I realized that mealtimes aren't really for eating -- at least not for Mom. Breakfasts and lunches are perfect times to do any out-loud readings. When the baby is safely in her highchair and the toddler is in his booster seat, Mom can read to everyone and they all can enjoy the story or lesson together. Then, as we finish up the meal, we can take the time to discuss what we read. I find that even if I have a science lesson to read, the four-year-old is somewhat interested and the baby just likes to listen to Mom's voice. It is amazing what the four-year-old learns, just from our lunchtime lessons.
The second thing I try to keep in mind is the need to be flexible -- VERY flexible. I have tried keeping a strict schedule, but there is always someone who has spilled something or a diaper that needs changing, and we get way off schedule. This is very frustrating as we then feel behind for the rest of the day. What ended up working out the best for us, was to have the kids work on independent things when all of the kids are around, and the more intensive one-on-one lessons when the baby takes her main nap.
This means that the most intense period of school we have is from 2:00-5:00 p.m. each day. It works well for our family, because we tend to do better work in the afternoon anyway. If you are a morning person, you could try getting up early with the school-age kids and working for an hour or two before the others wake up.
The last strategy that I have employed with good results is to let the older kids help. For example, when I need to take a little while to teach a lesson to the kindergartner, I may ask the older brother to help by playing with his littlest brother and sister. Then, we can rotate jobs and I can teach the third-grader while the kindergartner helps play with the younger children. Everyone gets a short break and changes up the activities. This helps the little ones feel like they are getting some good playtime with older siblings and Mom gets to focus her attention more directly on one student at a time.
If you have any other strategies you have used with good results, feel free to share them in the comment section.