hsing with littles

For the past 5 years we have been blessed to homeschool our little family. Granted, the first few of those years were the very basics of what you could call “school”, coupled with a lot of exploring, reading, and playing.

Now that we have entered into the realm of older grades and more expectations, plus added a few extra little members to our family, our homeschool day and routine is looking quite a bit different. Many people ask me how on earth I manage to get it all done with 4 kids at home, one of them being a baby.

The reality is, and probably always will be, that we will NEVER get EVERYTHING done. But, we CAN get SOME things done.

I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to figure out how homeschooling with littles works, trying different schedules, asking a lot of questions, crying through difficult days, praying for a break, and reading. A lot.

read aloud

We have learned some things along the way that have helped to make our homeschool days successful. Please keep in mind that this is what works for us, there’s no special formula for every single family, every child and family dynamic is different. Anything that you read or are told should be weighed against your own family’s (and your!) needs and desires. And heavily prayed over! Give it a try, and if it doesn’t work, don’t sweat it! But don’t give up either :0)

So, here we go with some Must Have Items for Homeschooling With Littles! First off, some goals to keep in mind.

Patience and Prayer

While these may not be physical items, patience and prayer are THE #1 things you are going to need to make your homeschool day work.

Gods word

Start your day off right, in the word, praying and asking the Lord to lead and guide you through your lessons while still being able to engage AND enjoy your time and your little ones.

A Schedule

Without a schedule of some sort, your day is likely to be quite stressful and exhausting. As moms we have a LOT to remember – who practiced piano last, which chores are up for today, what lesson of math we’re on, what we’re making for breakfast/lunch/supper, when the baby’s next feed is, who is taking their turn on the ipad, etc., etc., etc.

school schedule

You don’t have to do an elaborate schedule – unless that is something that you take great joy and pleasure in doing, I would suggest starting off simply with a list. Get those million things running through your mind out of your head!

With all of today’s technology, I still find that my best planning is done by hand with a pencil or erasable pen and paper :D Outline what your day looks like – determine whose school subjects demand the most time and attention, and work around that. (Don’t worry, as your kids get older and you teach them, they’ll learn to be more independent and do more of the work on their own, with you checking alongside).

Figure out meal times, naps, lessons and errands, and loosely (and I DO mean LOOSELY) schedule it all in.

I love how Amy starts out with a simple schedule of what her day looks like so she could have a quick, at-a-glance reminder of where they were supposed to be in the day. It’s so refreshing to have these things off your mind so you’re not constantly trying to think ahead to the next thing!

For a school schedule, we use Homeschool Creations Weekly Homeschool Planner which has the option of file you can save and edit on your computer, or pages you can print and fill out.

(By the way, you can check out our “Day In the Life” post to see what our days {sometimes} look like!)


When little ones are involved, anything could change at the drop of a hat. Really though, this is just the case with kids in general :D

Someone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed or with a cold, the alarm didn’t go off, the printer jammed and won’t print your worksheets, you can’t find someone’s workbook, the baby is teething and won’t nap. All frustrating situations, all potential for over-throwing your entire school day – if you let it!

be flexible

Remain (calm and ;D) flexible – though you have a schedule, don’t feel like you have to bark orders and be a drill sargeant to get it all done.

Flexibility is the beauty of homeschooling! If your great master plan to do lots of reading aloud and projects with the bigger kids isn’t working so well because someone is teething and super clingy, then just breathe, and do what you can.

If you’re finding you’re getting stressed out because the baby’s nap time is flipped on its head, and your 4th grader can’t concentrate on his math because the someone’s crying, then take a break, enjoy some fun time, and come back to school later. You set your own pace, and if you don’t get it done you can do it later, or tomorrow.


Especially for your toddlers and babies – as much as possible, be consistent with them! In their nap times, their discipline, your instruction. And most of all, YOUR love and special time with them.

If you need encouragement for putting biblical training into PRACTICE in a gentle manner – read Don’t Make Me Count to Three! by Ginger Plowman. LOVED this book!

This leads us to our next must-have on the list…..


It will be tempting to spend all day teaching your bigger ones, or get distracted with social media and general “busyness”, and have your younger ones just sort of “tag along”. This is ok, SOME of the time.

Your littles need to learn to wait their turn and have patience, being content, but in the training, make intentional time for them also. You will find that in doing so, they will also be more content to be on their own when you need them to, as they’ve already had their cup filled.

8 months Miss E

As important as it is for you to be present as a teacher, remember, you are also a mother.

I know, it’s hard, all these roles we are juggling and people we are teaching, shaping, discipling, loving. That’s why it is so important to start your day off in prayer, especially for grace and discernment.

Be intentional in making time with each of your children at some point over the course of the day. It doesn’t have to be a massive amount of time. It doesn’t even have to be outside of teaching time. Just make sure they each get a piece of mommy that is meaningful, in some way.

Encourage your older ones to be independent or take over some basic teaching and reading so you can have play time with the young’uns. At the start of quiet/nap time, read or sing before they go down.

During meal prep, set the baby in the high chair and talk to her (even if the only response you get is babbling).

mom and girls

The main thing is that you are using your time wisely and enjoying the blessing of being both your children’s mother AND their teacher.

Now on to the physical tools we’ve been using to help our days go smooth(er :D).

High Chair

In the bathroom while you’re taking a quick shower, or in the kitchen while you’re working at the table, a high chair is a great way to contain a squirmy toddler or baby who just wants to get into the middle of everything.

high chair and school time

Give them a snack while you’re at it, or, GASP, something messy they can be thoroughly entertained by (yogurt and chocolate pudding are a good idea).

Play Yard

Set it up with some baby toys and books and place the baby, or toddler, or the baby AND the toddler in it so you don’t have to worry about them taking off up the stairs or falling down the stairs.

Keep time in the play area limited so they don’t get bored and figure out a way to climb out on their own :D

Musical and Responsive Toys

ANY toys that play music (especially Classical pieces, education at its earliest :D) or respond in some way to what your little one does is always a hit.

piano player

Again, though, make sure you’re not using the toys as a continual replacement for time with mom (I’m speaking as a reminder to myself here too).

**A little note on ipads and smartphones – while we DO have these in our home, we try to keep them less for entertainment, and more for education purposes. I struggle with the idea of babies using technology as a replacement for mommies and daddies engaging them. BUT desperate times call for desperate measures sometimes! So set up boundaries and guidelines for yourself that YOU can stick to as far as when your little ones (and really any of your kids) can or should use technology.

Puzzle Circle

Pull out all your baby puzzles and put them in a circle.

Place the baby in the center and let her have at it!

puzzle circle

Have one of the older kids help “clean up” the puzzles after by teaching baby to match the pieces.

Baby Carrier

Your arms are about to break off from bouncing the baby around because she just won’t sleep. She’s popping TWO teeth at once, and is whiny and clingy. Strap on the baby carrier, position baby inside, and voila, hands-free baby containment AND entertainment! Your hips and arms will thank you.

You may need to take some lessons from your kinesthetic learner on how to teach while bouncing, or take the opportunity to go for a nature walk outside.

Blocks and Stacking things

Duplo, interlocking, bristle, stacking, plain old wooden.

building blocks

Blocks and stacking objects of any kind provide so much fun and entertainment! I remember building cup towers over and over, knocking them down with a big BOOM for one of the kids, and them just absolutely LOVING it! If you’re tied up in a lesson, ask one of the other kids to be involved with the play time.

Here’s a little side trick – when setting out toys for little ones to play with, leave them in their containers or baskets. There’s just something about the joy of time spent removing the toy from the “packaging”. Plus, you’ll be able to teach them about properly putting their toys away when they’re finished!

Easy Crafts

playdoh play

If you keep simple craft items on hand, you’ll be able to pull out a quick idea or activity if you’re stuck in a lesson and need to keep a little one occupied. Some things to stock up on:

  • glue sticks and tape
  • vinyl placemat
  • playdoh
  • stickers
  • pom poms
  • wooden craft sticks
  • construction paper
  • chubby markers / crayons, dot markers
  • washable paint and fat brushes
  • yarn
  • pipe cleaners
  • safety scissors
  • tissue paper
  • feathers

Make a special craft box for each child containing some of each of these items. Help them retrieve the box when needed and let them have at whatever their hearts’ desire!

Printables, printables, and more printables!

When our third child was 2 1/2, she suddenly decided she wanted to do school too, like her brothers. I balked for a bit, but then decided, why not, we may as well involve her in our routine as much as possible now so she’s used to it as she gets older!

There are TONS of printables available online, mostly free, and they are perfect tools for keeping little hands occupied during school time. Check out my Tot School Pinterest board for some of our favourites!

Tot School Pinterest Board ServingFromHome

Down Time

If not nap time, then quiet time! Our kids are 8 1/2, 6 1/2, 4 1/2 and 10 months, and EVERYONE (including mom!) has an afternoon down/quiet/nap time.

sleepy time

I will probably try to never let this practice end as it is just SO necessary for EVERYONE’S sanity! If your little one won’t nap, then require them to have a quiet time with books and CDs. It will be an enjoyable time of peace for all!

One more thing….

fresh roasted coffee

Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee :D

I hope this post has encouraged you in your homeschooling with little ones.

Check out the other great posts in the iHomeschool Networks Our Must Haves for Homeschool!