Dear Pooky: How Do I Keep My Little Ones Occupied While Homeschooling the Bigger Kids?

*Disclaimer:  Please realize much of this advice is meant to be “tongue in cheek,” not to provoke hate mail or death threats.  Hopefully, you can relate to having done some pretty crazy things as a parent and can have a good laugh at my expense. Yes, this advice is taken from my own actual parenting experience and is many times just plain wrong.  No, I will not be winning the mother of the year award. Yes, I realize lightning might strike me at any moment. Please read this post before continuing, and only attempt to follow this advice at your own risk.  Results may vary.

Dear Pooky,

How do I homeschool my oldest 2 children with 3 little ones in tow? We are getting ready to start homeschool in a few days, and I’m panicking!  Please tell me how you do it!


Haggard Homeschooler

Dear Haggard Homeschooler,

This is a big job!  First, make a schedule.  Plan out on an hourly basis what each child will be working on and whom you will be working with at any given time.  Be sure you are spending one-on-one time with each child at some point during the day. I personally like this schedule template. I won’t go in depth here.  If you need more help, Google it, and you will find millions of examples.  Realize that a schedule is merely a guideline to follow, and a day following the schedule exactly (or even moderately) will almost definitely never be attained. Have a plan, but go with the flow—the crazy, maddening, tumultuous flow.

Entertaining your younger children while doing one-on-one teaching with your older students will be your biggest challenge by far. You may have children that will be entertained with the traditional and antiquated charms of crayons and paper, stickers, and/or toys. You might even be able to use the infamous “busy bags” for these children. By all means try these ideas. The little ones might indeed sit quietly entertaining themselves with these things while you help your older children with their schoolwork.  If so, bully for you!

On the other hand, you may have a child (or two or three) who just can’t seem to occupy himself. For this child, playdough play lasts approximately 15 seconds.  Drawing with a crayon almost instantly becomes drawing on his brother’s schoolwork, the table, and the walls.  He may even scream incessantly anytime you tried to read a book aloud. He may endanger himself when your eyes are diverted for even seconds.

For this special brand of child, I recommend lots of electronic devices.  Television and videos provide hours of entertainment and education for your little ones.  As long as the materials are good quality educational or character-building shows, go for it.   iPads in particular provide complete peace and quiet for hours on end.  Computer games, handheld video games, and Wiis are all good options (as long as the game is not violent or inappropriate for young eyes). Many, many games and videos now teach your child to read, understand math, love history, and more!

If you feel the need to limit screen time, limit it at other times of the day, but not while you are teaching your older children. If the electronics your little ones are using are distracting to the older ones, consider giving the little ones headphones, or taking the older children into an adjoining room where they can’t see/hear the media.

Yes, electronics may cause your child to develop some ticks or even ADHD, but you can cross that bridge when you come to it. It’s quite possible that scientists will one day discover that screens don’t cause ADHD after all.  Remember how eggs were bad for us? Coffee, oil, salt, and butter have alternated between being good and bad for us over the years.  Who’s to say screens won’t come back to the good side? Consider this article which tells of a study that concludes playing video games helps dyslexic kids read better.

Feeling your pain,


What are your favorite games, videos, or apps to keep your little ones quiet?

2 thoughts on “Dear Pooky: How Do I Keep My Little Ones Occupied While Homeschooling the Bigger Kids?

  1. this made me laugh out loud! my three year old daughter is that “special brand” it has been such a challenge keeping her busy and from hurting herself, the dog, or her brothers special school projects all the while trying to teach my 3rd grade son, thank you for tips, I will defintely be implementing this week!

    1. Glad you could relate, Kelly. My “special brand” is now 5 yrs old, but 3 was definitely the most difficult age. Hang in there! 🙂

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