Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homeschooling with a Toddler

I figure there are those that are either going to love this or hate it, but I get asked the question often enough that I figured it was time to answer.

How do you homeschool with a needy toddler at your heels?

Well, truthfully up until recently, I was begging other homeschool moms to tell me how they did it! But the other day I was reading the Duggar's, book The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America's Largest Families--How they Do It and discovered an idea that I had to try, blanket time. Obviously three children doesn't give me near the amount of chaos as does 19, but I found myself fretting over not being able to give my elder children the one on one time that they needed during math. Blanket time offered a solution that not only gave me that extra time with the girls, but also began us on the path of learning self-control and contentedness.

So, what is blanket time? During blanket time I excitedly tell Lukey, "Yay! It's blanket time! Let's go pick out our blanket time toys and have some fun!". He excitedly helps me spread out his blanket, picks out a few toys and then will play contentedly by himself for up to 30 min.

What happens during blanket time? During blanket time he not allowed to play anywhere but on the blanket. If he throws the toys off I do not recover them for him. He learned very quickly that it was much more fun to keep the toys than it was to throw them off!

How do you get him to stay there? Actually, I am blessed with naturally compliant children (I say compliant because to us compliance and true joyful obedience are two different things! My kids still struggle with obeying with a joyful heart, however they are naturally compliant).We started small. The first day I announce very enthusiastically that it was blanket time and that he was going to learn to play by himself for a few minutes while mommy helps sisters with school. He was not happy. He tried to leave the blanket twice, but I very quickly placed him back on the blanket. After that he sat there and cried. He threw the toys off and as I said before I did not retrieve them. After 5 minutes I went over and hugged him and told him how proud I was that he stayed on the blanket (even if he was crying) and then we picked up the toys together while I said something like "wouldn't blanket time be more fun if we didn't throw the toys off?". We did that three times the first day. The second day I moved it to 10 minutes. This time he sat on the blanket without crying and instead of throwing the toys set them just far enough off the blanket that he could still reach them. Day 3 I moved it up a bit more. This time he excitedly got his blanket and picked out his toys and sat down without a problem. After about 30 min I told him he could get up and we cleaned up and since that day he is very excited about blanket time!

A few of my own tips if you are going to try this:
Be consistant. Your child will just end up confused if you just randomly throw blanket time in once or twice a month. We do it every day, even if only for a few minutes just to keep it reinforced.

Don't make blanket time a punishment! That is not what this is about! This is essentially a "playpen" without walls. The purpose is to teach my son that he is able to sit and play by himself contentedly for short periods of time, to foster self-control on a level that is appropriate for his age and to show him that he is OK not being the center of attention during times when his siblings need me. I do administer corporal punishment on occasion but I do not spank for leaving the blanket. I just sternly remind him that mommy needs to have a bit of time to focus on his sisters.

Don't let it become a baby sitting service. My son is usually compliant, but I am not delusional. He is 2 and at some point he would leave the blanket if he could not see me. I may take a short trip to the bathroom, or run some laundry upstairs but NEVER leave him unattended for more than a few min. I also will never ask him to do more than 3o minutes as I believe at that point I would be pushing what his abilities allow for. He is a baby and needs to be up playing most of the day!

Make it fun! Designate a few toys that are just for blanket time. Help him/her pick out a special blanket and be sure to be excited when blanket time arrives! If you make it seem like it is a punishment or speak in a dull boring voice your child will associate blanket time as such.

After blanket time is over give some PRAISE!!!! It is so so very important that you praise your child for doing a great job, especially when it is done with a good attitude.
I am looking forward to trying blanket time in church for the first time. I am going to spread the blanket out on the pew and see if he can sit there during the 30 min service. I think the visual of the blanket it really going to help him associate church with being quiet.
I have also adapted blanket time for my older two and they read during their blanket time.

Now if only mommy could get some blanket time!

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