This coming school year will be the first in which I have had to juggle a baby with homeschooling older children - when Star was a baby Angel was a preschooler, so that hardly counts. And all too soon I will find myself homeschooling with a toddler in tow (can't believe Little Cherub is eleven weeks old already!). I have been inspired by a couple of things I have read over the last week or so. First, a thread on the 4Real forums about homeschooling with a fifteen month old that talks about "gathering in" rather than "pushing away" - having the toddler on your lap if that is where she wants to be, even if it does mean more interruptions. Giving time and attention to the little ones and fitting schoolwork around their needs, rather than pushing their needs to one side in order to concentrate on "getting it all done" with the older children. For many people this means unit studies, but I know from experience this does not work well for us. With only two school age children, whose temperaments and learning styles are quite different and with a fairly large age gap between them, I find having them work separately is easier. So can I both "gather in" and have Angel and Star on separate tracks? I think I can, so long as I keep the idea of gathering in at the front of my mind.
The other piece of inspiration was this beautiful post on practical life activities with the young ones at A Garden of Roses and Lilies. Donna Marie paints a wonderful picture of her eighteen month old daughter and three year old son helping with household chores, Montessori style. How I would love to gather Little Cherub into the rhythms of daily life in this way when she is old enough. As Donna Marie points out, this takes patience and consistency on the part of the mother:
I find that my biggest obstacle to this is being consistent with my own chores ...so working on the teacher is always a work in progress, but being AWARE that I need these precious teaching moments in my day makes me more apt to look for and find them and find time for training each of the dc. I do get rewarded for this...my ds throws his arms around my neck in a huuuge hug and with a huuuge grin states..."I DID it Mom!...I am proud"! :o)Lots of food for thought here! Patience and consistency are not my strong points, and too often I am focused on my own activities while the teachable moments pass me by. I know none of this will happen naturally here unless I work hard on some of my own shortcomings, but I now have a clearer vision of how I want life to look as Little Cherub grows.
It may be a very awkward thing for an adult to SLOW DOWN and allow the very young to have a part in things. It may take longer to get done, but they need to know NOW how to do it. Your patience will be rewarded ten fold...and you will see your little flower blossom and feel your own contented feeling because you were there every step of the way....with little toddler steps...