Finding time for learning with 2 toddlers - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 12-25-2012, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm sure this has been asked before, but I feel like our 8 year old spends all day just hanging out, and I can never find time to get with her and read stuff, or talk about stuff, or do fun stuff because I have a 20 month old and a 3 year old (turned 3 today) and they use up all of my attention all of the time!

My 8 year old daughter is amazing.  She will enjoy reading books with me and the younger kids.  She plays with them.  She writes and illustrates books and does other projects on her own constantly.  She is super smart: understands quickly and retains the knowledge forever.  But there's so much fun learning to do, and I feel like we're missing out on it.

We are on a very tight budget.  We have a zoo pass (the zoo is 2 blocks away) but I can hardly ever bring myself to go by myself with the two toddlers.  We do go with daddy or grandma fairly often. 

We can do the library, but again, it's finding time to then read the books with her, or if we can read a book, to then follow up with the cool thing that's related to that which I wanted to show her on the internet but never got around to because I can't find the time.

Do I just have to wait this out?  In a couple of years, we can really start plunging into life and learning?  I am so eager to do fun stuff with her! 

 

Thanks for reading, and for any insight :)


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#2 of 14 Old 12-25-2012, 08:38 PM
 
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My eldest is 3, 5 and 9 years older than her younger siblings, and there were certainly times when it was a struggle finding one-on-one time with her. She got very good at amusing herself. orngbiggrin.gif

 

From a practical standpoint, though ... once she was reading, that solved a lot of my worries about her lack of intellectual fodder. Prior to that I armed her with audiobooks. Back in the day we relied on cassette tapes and CDs; these days basic ipod and kazillions of free podcasts and free audiobooks (or library-borrowable audiobooks) make it so much easier! Often we would have an audiobook running for us all to listen to, whether on the stereo, or while doing household chores, or while I was nursing whoever was the baby at the time, or in the minivan ... and that allowed a lot of conversation. But she devoured books and audiobooks on her own too, and it really helped enrich her life, her knowledge, and her imagination. So audiobooks, radio plays, podcasts ... I'd suggest plenty of that if she's not yet reading fluently. If you can't afford the $30 for a used ipod nano on ebay, you can just play stuff directly off the computer.

 

The next thing that helped was just including my dd in my life. If she was my sidekick while I folded laundry, or nursed, or put away the dishes, or swept the floor, or chopped carrots, if I engaged her with conversation and real work, she was happy and benefitted from feeling useful and from having adult company to bounce her thoughts off. She was very capable, and enjoyed helping a lot of the time, but if she didn't want to help that was fine. I just wanted the time with her, for both of our benefits, and I often asked her to just "keep me company while I stir the sauce" or whatever. 

 

The last thing which helped a lot wasn't really something I did intentionally. It just kind of happened, but once I recognized why it happened I supported and encouraged it. She stayed up really late in the evenings. We always had a really child-led bedtime policy, and she gravitated to late nights. Why? Because that gave her two or three hours of quiet time apart from siblings in the evening. By fully utilizing evenings, she got a deeper relationship with her dad (who wasn't home during the day) and time to do stuff like math and poetry with me once the other kids were in the bath with daddy supervising, or in bed. It was our routine for many years to do any academics after 9 pm. And it worked wonderfully well. It also gave me time in the morning more fully focused on the younger kids, because she tended to sleep in. 

 

HTH!

 

We have neither a library or a zoo, so I have to say I'm very jealous of your once-in-a-while visits. My eldest got to a zoo once during her childhood. We'd visit libraries every year or two when we were travelling, but we could not borrow. So even your limited access seems very rich to me! Don't worry! I'm sure she's learning just fine. I think it can actually be an advantage not to have a parent leaping upon every teachable moment: it helps kids hold onto questions and ideas, formulate their own hypotheses, ponder and be patient, and ultimately self-motivate and self-direct.

Miranda


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#3 of 14 Old 12-25-2012, 09:35 PM
 
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I could have written that same post, but change a couple details ( my kids are 7 and 2 and I'm pregnant with #3). I try to get her to read and writeon her own, I put the "story of the world" on her iPod (though she rarely listens), I put lots of educational games on the iPad, but I do sometimes find it hard to do 1 on 1 learning time. The most frequent response to asking her to do anything educational is "I'm playing!" I think it's great that she gets so deeply into her imaginative play, but I do waver between thinking that she's right where she needs to be and worrying that I'm not doing enough with her.
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#4 of 14 Old 12-25-2012, 11:59 PM
 
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"My 8 year old daughter is amazing.  She will enjoy reading books with me and the younger kids.  She plays with them.  She writes and illustrates books and does other projects on her own constantly.  She is super smart: understands quickly and retains the knowledge forever.  But there's so much fun learning to do, and I feel like we're missing out on it."

 

See to me that sounds so great. It sounds like you have some great things going on and that she is creating learning opportunities that work for her where she's at. But that's just me, looking into your life. 

 

I wonder whether it might help for you to describe the learning you would like her to be doing and maybe there might be ways to brainstorm doing that?

 

With the zoo, what occurs to me first of all is that if you have passes and its close anyway, what's stopping you timing a quick visit for naptime, putting the two babies in a double pushchair and making a focused visit, say to see one particular animal of interest?  I am assuming something IS stopping you because if this is something you want to do you will have thought through it. Maybe we can help?

 

If it helps at all I have never found delaying academic work, within reason, to be a problem, I also think that the 7-13 years are really for learning skills like numeracy, reading, maybe an instrument, but more importantly life skills like cooking and being alone with your thoughts. An awful lot of this I consider that they will pick up without intervention, just by being and being with you and in your life (and I am not coming to this as an unschooler, btw) . Personally I tend to suspect that anything more will be largely forgotten. So at this age, I personally would try not to worry and just do what you can with what you have, and trust that if, say, the maths is a problem for you, if you wanted her to have completed a maths curriculum by a certain age then as the babies get bigger you will find chunks of time to do this. 


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#5 of 14 Old 12-26-2012, 07:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your responses. It is so nice to feel not-alone and know there are other mommies out there who care enough to read and offer outsider insight!

I should mention that I'm not worried about her falling "behind."  I tend to be a curriculum free type of mom.  But when we are reading about things together, in books, or on the internet, or elsewhere, we both have so much fun, and I want more time for that.  We read some short kids space books and they were really interesting, and now I'd like to take her to the childrens science museum (which we also have a pass to) and do the planetarium, which we haven't been to for over a year and which would be even better now that we both have some more knowledge about space.  That sort of thing.  Maybe I'm just impatient.  I'm not one of those moms who sighs because her babies are growing up.  I can't freaking wait!

 

Anyway, I also thing she is too bored, too often.  She would be happier with more.  For example, we used to write a haiku for each other every day, but then I got too busy and it fell out of practice.  Which is lame.  Because I just need 5 minutes of peace to write a haiku and ought to be able to work that out.  And I think I will!  A lot of what you ladies said reminds me that I can be doing more with her without making major changes.  I can involve her more in what I'm doing.  It is hard, because it seems like I am constantly getting somebody some milk, and then cleaning up the puddle of milk they spill, and then taking them to the potty, and then getting the other one some milk, and then coaxing them to put the ornament back on the tree, and then fishing the board book out of the toilet, and then washing their hands, and then cleaning up another puddle....so I don't just fold laundry all at once and get to have a conversation with my daughter at the same time.  Plus, the toddlers want to help me fold laundry, and make smoothies, and it takes all of my attention to let them "help" me.  But I think the fact that it is tricky has made me stop trying, and I could do better than I am :)  

 

And I ought to find a way to have time with her after her sister's bedtime.  Usually they go to bed at the same time--daddy reads Lord of the Rings until the 3 year old conks out, and then kisses the 8 year old goodnight.  Takes an hour or so.  Meanwhile, I'm nursing the 20 month old until he is deeply asleep enough to put to bed--often for hours.  But I am inspired now to work towards having the 3 year old go to bed without her sister so sister can stay up and do grown up things, and to work towards having the baby go to sleep either without nursing, or after nursing but then be moved right to bed and stay there.  I like these goals, but not sure how to get there!  I'll have to brainstorm...

Unfortunately, the 3 year old doesn't nap, so there is no break in the day when it's just me and the 8 year old. 

 

But that double stroller plan could still work...I am an avid (or is it rabid?) babywearer, so I probably just need a single stroller (we don't have any stroller).  I bet if I time the zoo for nap time, the 20 month old will be very excited and enjoy it for a half hour, but MAYBE if I wrap him up at that point, he'll go to sleep.  I just don't know if I could coax the three year old into a stroller, so the trip might be a lot of work talking her down from the fence to the lion's cage...basically, I've been too chicken to take them all by myself, so only do it when there are two available adults!  But I love that it's so close, and I'd love to do some unit studies on animals where we learn everything about one animal for as long as that takes, and go to the zoo to see that particular animal, and maybe the complimentary animals: others from that region, the animals that are it's prey and/or predators, etc  So I should try taking them by myself and see if it is easier than I think!

 

Also, my husband and I are working on a schedule that will give us time to split the kids up more so one of us can be doing something fun and interesting with one of them more often without being overrun by the horde of them.  We both work from home, so it's not like I'm alone with them all day every day.  Also, we live with family and, of course, everyone is busy, but there are opportunities for one adult to take one child aside for some origami, or coloring, or book reading and I need to get more organized to make sure it happens.


Miranda, you mentioned traveling and I wondered if you'd tell me about that.  We've just settled down after a year and a half of living on the road!  It does seem like a luxury to be able to check out library books again!
 


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#6 of 14 Old 12-26-2012, 11:44 PM
 
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Ok that makes sense. 

 

Can I just say, I think you are probably at the hardest stage of this? My three kids are all close in age too, though I think yours are a little closer. That age when you have one kid who has just started walking and talking, who doesn't really have the concentration span to sit down with a puzzle but who wants to be into everything-well its hard. Hard! But the good news is that it will get easier and really fast. 

 

Another solution could be to heavily engage your three year old in where you are going. When my kids were small before we made a trip anywhere new we read book about it, loads of books, which was as much part of helping the younger ones get interested as anything. When we went to the zoo, for example, we normally went with a particular animal in mind, knowing that if we only saw that we'd have done something cool, and we'd read a bit about it first so everyone was excited.

 

TBH if you have the ability to schedule things so that your partner is home and you and your daughter can make trips places I'd do that. Sometimes its just a case of realising that there is a problem, and that you need to prioritise it, and then the solution comes!


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#7 of 14 Old 12-27-2012, 10:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, thank you!  Just the act of complaining seems to dissipate the problem winky.gif
 


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#8 of 14 Old 12-27-2012, 10:53 AM
 
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Yeah, I mentioned travelling, but that was very infrequent for us. I have had dreams of travelling as a family lots, but it turned out that my kids, my eldest two in particular, needed a very strong connection to home and community in order to stay grounded and happy as young children. We turned that to good, I think, by building really strong community connections and capitalizing deeply on that "rootedness" in place and commitment to long-term local endeavours, even though it hadn't really been my vision on unschooling at the outset. 

 

The reason for our limited access to libraries was not extended travel: it is that we live in a community that is too small to have a public library. So even in our rooted existence, we can't easily borrow books. Our village has about 600 people and while there's a "reading centre" for the exchange of books, it doesn't have a proper collection, and it doesn't work well as a resource for children. It's not bad for adult fiction, especially trade paperbacks, but for kids it's pretty much a bust. The only chance we ever got to be in a real library was during our infrequent travel, which took us through larger towns and cities.

 

We were a baby-wearing, co-sleeping family, and I can't help but wonder about the hours you spend in the evening trying to get your little one deeply asleep. Could you maybe use that time with your elder dd? Nurse the baby, but do so while looking up cool stuff on the internet, chatting about stuff, reading together, watching videos? My kids did not sleep much as babies (or ever, really, not until they became teenagers!) and I just gave up trying to get them to sleep so that I could put them down and do other things. I just nursed them in a sling or in my arms and kept going with whatever else I could do at the same time. 

 

I agree with Fillyjonk that the "toddler plus a preschooler" stage is the toughest parenting stage. This too shall pass. In the meantime you'll probably see that the constraints on your family lif nurture some very special capacities in your eldest.

 

Best wishes!

Miranda


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#9 of 14 Old 12-28-2012, 11:40 PM
 
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i SOOOOO know what you mean.  my kids are 1, 3, 5, and my oldest will be 7 in a few days.  i feel like there is sooooo much i would like to do with him, but i just CANT right now because of the younger siblings.  but i think that in a few years it will be a lot easier.....we will be able to do more when everyone is a bit older.....and then they can ALL benefit at the same time.  but for now, i try to:

-do as many things as possible when my husband is home to help

-schedule outings when my husband is off work to help

-fit in as much as possible while the younger ones are napping (i have them all on the same nap routine)

-set him up at the table with interesting things to do while i care for the younger ones (like today he did a writing/drawing from Draw Write Now, and he did 2 watercolor crayon pieces from Artistic Pursuits, and he watched an episode of How It's Made on Netflix, and he listened to an audio book, and he played a math game on my ipad, etc.) 

-i "do school" when i am able...which sometimes means evenings or weekends instead of traditional school hours.  as long as he is being educated and stimulated, it doesnt matter when it is happening.

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#10 of 14 Old 12-30-2012, 12:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you Reebekah!  My 3 year old doesn't nap, unfortunately so I don't get nap time.  But since I started this thread I have begun reading a wonderful book History of US with my daughter and we are both loving it.  We stop and look things up on the internet as we go (let's find a comparison picture to see how big a mammoth was compared to a modern elephant).  I just made it happen.  I'm going to continue with at least that one activity and try to make that daily.  There are tons of other fascinating things we want to learn about but maybe one at a time, an hour a day, is the pace for us right now :)

I looked into Draw Write Now since you mentioned it, but since my daughter writes about a book every day, I think she's covered writing and illustration without a curriculum.  Which I love!  How It's Made looks like an amazingly awesome series.  Maybe I'll get some of those for her.  Thanks for mentioning it!
 


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#11 of 14 Old 01-02-2013, 05:03 PM
 
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I'm so glad I found this thread!  I have been feeling soooo frustrated and guilty, because I have a wonderful, patient, loving 9 year old boy and a wonderful but super high needs 1 1/2 year old boy, and it is so hard to home school my 9 year old, let alone do anything substantial with him at all, it seems.  But the thought struck me the other day (duh!) that it will get easier with time.  I love the idea of going later with bedtime.  We had been home schooling in the evening (and also reading the History of US!) which was working pretty well, although he always wants to play with me when I first become available, and I feel so badly saying no, we have to do work.  He was my only child for 7 1/2 years, and we had such a wonderful, relaxed, close, intimate bond and time together, and so much time to play, and it feels so weird to now have no time (or little time) to devote to him.  But anyway, I am going to try the late bedtime a bit more.  I'd love to hear more suggestions, and it's so good to feel like I'm not alone!
 

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#12 of 14 Old 01-02-2013, 09:25 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Adasmommy View Post

My 8 year old daughter is amazing.  She will enjoy reading books with me and the younger kids.  She plays with them.  She writes and illustrates books and does other projects on her own constantly.  She is super smart: understands quickly and retains the knowledge forever.  But there's so much fun learning to do, and I feel like we're missing out on it.

We are on a very tight budget.  We have a zoo pass (the zoo is 2 blocks away) but I can hardly ever bring myself to go by myself with the two toddlers.  We do go with daddy or grandma fairly often. 

 

 

Sounds like she is doing fine to me. :)  This is how my 8 yr old was when still homeschooling before she started to school in 4th grade, except she wasn't reading a lot at that time.

 

My oldset is 17 now but he home schooled fine when his little sister was a toddler/preschooler just doing things on his own a lot of the time because she took a lot of my time.


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#13 of 14 Old 01-06-2013, 07:35 PM
 
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Thanks for starting this thread Adasmommy! It has inspired me to try harder to find one thing every day to do with my oldest. I have a 6 y/o, a just turned 4 y/o, and an almost 18 month old who is very high needs. I am having a hard time doing anything else other than just surviving, and the older kids end up entertaining themselves a lot. On top of my difficulty in being able to do anything with anyone one-on-one, is that there is no place safe for the bigger kids to do projects without the baby getting into it-he will climb right up onto the table, even over them if we put the other chairs up. So that leaves naptime for me to to do chores, do anything with the older kids, and maybe try to relax for a minute myself., and DS2 is not a good sleeper!

But that is my daily mantra-It will get better....It will get better....and in the meantime I will try harder to find stuff I CAN do with them now!!

Kelly, wife to DH, mom to Caden Reese (10-2-06), Tessa Brynn (12-26-08 ), and Maddox Quinn (7-16-11). Fur-mama to Finnegan, Ripley, Raisin (my little kitty amputee) and Kimchi. 748/2011, 2028/2012-I did it!! 2023/2013-Again!!! 404/2014
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#14 of 14 Old 01-07-2013, 01:29 PM
 
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I can totally understand where you are coming from. I have a 5yo (turns 6 in two weeks), a newly 4yo, a 1 yo (turns 2 in 3 weeks) and a 3 month old. The only ones that nap are the younger two and the 1yo doesn't nap consistently. I spend so much of my time taking care of the younger three that my oldest is left to do a lot of things by herself. Something I'm learning is how to engage all of them at their level. I can read to all three at the same time and I provide the 1yo with legos/blocks/something similar for him to play with. My 5yo can help me with basically all of my daily tasks, in fact she loves to help me cook and clean so why not involve her.

 

As for getting out with all of them I have no option if I ever want to leave the house. My husband is gone alot (military) so its just the children and me. I find the best thing to do is just get out and do it. You can build it up so much in your mind that it makes the event "bad" no matter how good it is. Also, kids will behave the way they are expected to. I tell my children straight up this is how we act and if we don't act like this then we leave. Then I follow through. Takes maybe 1 time missing out on the fun for them to behave well. I'm sure this won't sit well with some but when you are alone with multiple children then you need some sort of order. Also, Id wait till after nap time and go since most children are better behaved and more cooperative if they aren't tired or hungry.


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