Tandem Schooling

What to do with two?  There are days when juggling a toddler and a preschooler can be challenging especially when you are trying to get them to learn something!

Micah and Titus are 22 months apart and homeschooling both of them at the same time can be quite a challenge. A familiar scenario looks like this – while Micah is busy working on a lesson, Titus would be shadowing him and trying to get in on the work too. There are days, however, when the opposite happened  Titus would be independently working and Micah would come in and “show him” how things should be done. (Even though it was obvious that his little brother was doing it correctly.)

For parents who are having similar issues, here are a few suggestions that might create a more harmonious work environment for both you and your children.

1.  Teach Respect.

Speak to your children about respecting each other’s work.  With most toddlers, you can expect frustration at first.  Calmly and consistently remind him/her that he/she isn’t allowed to touch big brother/big sister’s work when he/she is busy.  Your little ones will learn and accept it — eventually.  This will be good practice for similar situations later.

*Creating an individual work space for each of them will help make this easier.  Sitting across rather than next to each other and working on individual mats help define personal space for each individual.

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Since we are currently in between living situations and our homeschool room isn’t quite set up yet, Titus asks to sit on his portable chair, which becomes his personal space.

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2.  Two Busy Bees

Always provide something for the younger child to do when the older child is using a specific material.  Have materials ready for both your children in two separate areas or baskets.  If possible, provide each of them similar “work.”  The younger child will usually be encouraged to work on his material independently and enthusiastically especially if he sees his big brother or big sister doing it.  This makes the younger child feel confident that he/she is doing big boy/big girl work too.

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3. Let’s do it together!

Do a cooperative project that will involve both children.  Choose a cooking project or an art project that both children can be individually and corporately a part of.  Find things that your toddler can do, like mixing or spooning – while your older child chops or slices, which requires more skill and muscle control.  An art work that requires both of them to do the same thing works well too! WARNING: It might be messy and crazy but…hey it’s art! 🙂 At the end, it is always helpful to congratulate both children and thank them for their individual contribution.

For Father’s Day, Titus and Micah made breakfast for Grandpa and Daddy!  Micah was in charge of the pancakes while Titus was in charge (slicing) the bananas.  Clearly, Titus did not get the memo about eating after all the work is done.  Luckily, Micah jumped in to finish the work!

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4. Mini-me!

Make the older child your assistant teacher.   When the toddler is ready for a lesson, have the older child show him/she how it’s done!  Children often learn best from each other. Godly characteristics are being developed through these social interactions with each other as well.  Encouragement, patience, kindness, cooperation and self-control are being exercised through these simple activities.  I must admit that is the most ideal but I must warn you, there are days when these two don’t look this pleasant around each other! *wink!*

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Micah loves teaching Titus how work is done.  (Sometimes, I have to even remind Micah to let Titus have a turn and leave him alone to explore on his own.)

Another way to maximize your little assistant is to allow the older child to read to or with the younger child.  Micah and Titus are encouraged to have “quiet reading time” together when they wake up in the morning and before they go to bed.  Since Micah has memorized a lot of the books that we’ve constantly read to him, he is able to recite the paragraphs and “read” to his little brother without our help.  He would climb into Titus’ bed and read to him while we sleep in especially during the weekends.

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5.  Capitalize on their independence

In what ways can each child be independent? Independence for an older child might mean reading or working on lessons by himself/ herself for a set period of time. For us, this usually means that Micah is encouraged to work on his writing sheets quietly while Titus gets a lesson across the table. Or Titus is encouraged to read a book or work on some simple fine motor skill activities such opening and closing a bottle (see the 3rd picture below), while Micah receives some one-on-one time.

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For a baby or a toddler, independence might mean naptime, time with toys on the floor, looking through a book or working on an independent material.

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Our boys are also encouraged to individually read next to each other too.  They may quietly flip through the pages of their books and look at the pictures.  Titus has a stack of board books while Micah has stack of picture books that he can read.

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I hope these simple tips can help you manage your time with two or more children while giving them the quality attention they need. By allowing them to learn how to work independently and corporately together, you will be able to save yourself some time, energy and effort. Happy Tandem Schooling!

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