There are a lot of posts out there about homeschooling with little ones under foot. I have written a few myself. Most of the advice is generally very good and, honestly, any post written will be as timely as ever. Even Charlotte Mason and Rudolf Steiner still have very important lessons to give us today, despite having lived nearly two hundred years ago.
One of the hardest things I have faced in trying to homeschool with little ones is having... a lot of them. The key, as many of you know, is to keep them busy and let them feel involved... if they want to be. Homeschooling with little ones is always a lot of "ifs." If they want to... If they will let you... If they can sit still long enough...
When you have more than one tot running about however the ifs can multiply. Tot #1 is totally cool with coloring but tot #2 would rather tickle big sister's feet while she is trying to do math, and tot #3 is throwing a fit because you have not given them something to do that they think is "school." So you put tot #2 at the table with a cracker, and tot #1 is done coloring and now wants to recite the poem for you that he heard his big brother doing earlier during morning time, and tot #3 is eerily quiet and out of site, meanwhile the 6th grader has a math question and the 3rd grader can't find lead for his pencil, while the high schooler is demanding that everyone, "Please, be quiet!" Oh and that crash? That was tot #3 dumping all of the legos on the bathroom floor.
Just a typical day, right?
Seriously, however, it is important to make sure that your older kids are as independent as possible without forgetting that one of the main reasons you probably started homeschooling was to develop good one on one relationships with all your children. One post that has been immensely helpful in keeping me organized is on using Spiral Notebooks. I am not the overly organized type. I usually find this sets me up for failure. Sarah's idea really helps me be organized without being too organized. Sitting down every morning or even just once a week and putting daily work in their notebooks helps keep them on track and me from going crazy (well, crazier).
Sometimes, staggering your kids can help too, so that you have at least one kid to help you run defense. This can be great, as long as you don't forget that one kid is playing legos with the toddlers. If you forget, the 4th grader will happily not remind you, either, and next thing you know all they did was spelling and legos all day. Another way to stagger is to have older kids help make lunch or the like while you deal with something else. Even little ones can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and it can make them feel very important to do so.
The most important thing to remember is that this is only a season in your life. Those toddlers grow up and you will miss those days of chaos and adventure... believe it or not. Take lots of pictures so you can remember those precious days. Know that sometimes it is ok to only get math done. Hey, it got done! If the toddlers need to watch Puffin Rock so you can help someone with their science, it will be ok. I promise. And, Puffin Rock is cool, ok. Very, very cool and educational. I love educational TV.