Between concerns new homeschoolers have regarding their preschoolers and a continued mulling over of what to do with my little ones when the big girls are doing school, I thought I'd share some of how we occupy little people without turning on the TV or locking them in the dog cage (tempting, though).
First, let me begin by saying that I don't know much. We've only been at this gig for 2 years, 3 if you could kindergarten. There are many more qualified to speak on the subject than I. Having said that, I'm learning more all the time, and it would appear that I will be having preschoolers underfoot for several more years at least, so the sooner we figure this thing out, the better.
First, have them with you. In fact, Noah and Eleanor are required to sit with us during Bible, History and read aloud. They enjoy it (usually) and it's a good opportunity to teach them the importance of sitting still for a few minutes.
When we're doing things that they can't take part in, there's the chance to learn to play together. In our house, this means in one of the kids' bedrooms or the Family room. This can be a tough one, as there is often disruption when someone gets hurt or arguments erupt. I think that it's still important, though, because it does lay a foundation of learning how to play well together, share, and not lean solely on Mommy for entertainment. Just know that the disruptions will come and pray for the grace to disciple your children with love, rather than do what I do, which tends to involved getting irritated that all are not bowing to my Almighty Plan.
When big kids are doing things that don't require teacher's direct oversight or involvement, do school-type things with the littles as well. Read some stories, do some flash cards, play a little game or just talk to them. When they know that they are as interesting and important as your official "students" they are often happy to run off and play again for a few peaceful minutes.
We have tried other methods, as well, including busy boxes (a different box each day that's filled with a few different toys that only come out during school) and other sitting-down activities, which have had varying measures of success. Noah's every inch a boy, though, and really needs to move after a few minutes, so coloring and related crafts tend to take more time getting out than actually being used. Play dough and puzzles are good, though have the tendency to distract the school kids.
It is something of a juggling act and requires some creativity on my part, but to be home together as a family is so worth it. And it won't be long before Noah's doing his workbooks and Abi's teaching Ellie her letters. That'll be so cool.
Any other recommendations?