On my post on Magic 100 Words or Sight Words a number of people asked how do I manage to work with my prep child on these activities with younger (and older!!) children around.
Firstly I will say that it is a juggle and it doesn’t always go quite as interruption free as I would like, but over the years I have found a few things to help:
The Earlier The Better.
Prep is a big year and they are often very tired at the end of the day. We now have two nights a week where we have to be back out of the house by 4pm. There is no chance for me to do the activities before this, so we do have to do them later once the baby has gone to sleep for the evening at around 7pm. On these nights I will shorten the time that we do the activities and select the most fun based activity to keep up the enthusiasm.
Ensure that all the kids, including the baby are well fed and watered before we start. I find hungry kids are more irritable and the preschooler has little tolerance when it comes to waiting for food, so it is best to sort this out first.
All Do Homework At The Same Time.
The two older boys are independent readers, so they use this time to do their reading as well. It means that they are occupied and are less likely to interrupt or distract the prep child in her activities.
Preoccupy or Involve The Preschooler
Obviously the preschooler does not have any reading to go off and do, so the first tactic that I try is to set him up with an activity near where we will be working. We have one room with very little furniture and a large floor space, so I choose this room to do the activities in and work on the floor. As our preschooler loves trains, I will work with him first to set up some track to play with while we work on the sight words.
Depending on the mood of the preschooler this may or may not work. He is very interested in the words and most often likes to be near us and see what is going on. I am lucky that the majority of time, he will sit quietly next to us and just observe. Sometimes though he want to be involved and if this is the case, I try to find ways for him to be quietly involved with what we do. He can select the cut up words out of the bag, help find objects to make the sentences, hold the word sheets that we are using or play the memory game as my partner.
It is a fine line though and too much involvement sends the prep child into a hissy fit, so I have to ensure that at no stage does the preschooler take over the activity.
Entertaining The Baby
Working on the floor to do these activities also makes it easier to have the baby near by with his toys set up, yet not close enough to be destroying the worksheets that we are using. I can also be breastfeeding whilst working with these activities, which is getting a bit harder to do, now that he is more easily distracted when on the breast.
Enlisting The Help Of The Older Children
Sometimes if the preschooler is becoming too much of a distraction, I can call on the older boys to take him outside on the trampoline or kick the football with him, when they have finished their work. Thinker can also pick up the baby and soothe him, if he needs more attention. It is always beautiful to see the older children helping their younger siblings and I do try to encourage a nurturing relationship amongst them.
Turning Off Distractions
Not only will I turn of the music, but I will turn the phones off. The older children will often still answer the phone, without knowing that I was happy for it to go to message bank, so it is better to have it off, and then no one is tempted to answer the phone.
Making Separate Time
I also try to make sure that when there is a chance for me to work alone with the preppie that I take advantage of it and spend extra time with her at that point.
Keep It Fun
I don’t think that doing these activities should turn into a battle. The moment that tears or anger start, I give the child the opportunity to finish up. My preppie is very determined and has rarely taken up this offer, but I need her to know that these activities should not be a source of angst and that it is okay to miss a night occasionally when she is tired.
How do you juggle the after school homework the kids have to do?