HomeSchool Question: What Do Little People Do During School?

Some homeschool questions get asked of me… a lot. Over and over again… And I normally respond with a Se7en Questions about Homeschooling post… But I think some questions get asked so often that they deserve their own space. Probably my most frequently asked question and the thing most people take a trip to our “contact page” for is to ask:

How do I keep my little people busy, while the big one’s do school?

I have answered this question before, a while back and to be honest nothing has changed!!! If I had to answer in a sentence I would say: I am the mother person and not the entertainment… but I should probably elaborate and say:

Our schedule is pretty accommodating as soon as everyone is awake and we have had breakfast we get on with the book work part of school as quickly as we can… During that time my little ones are free spirits to roam and play as they please. They don’t have special packets of educational activities, they don’t have boxes just for school time, they don’t watch cartoons on tv or do any specific educational activities… They play, because that is the job of little people… to play and play and play… If our school were of the “school at home” type it would be tricky, with me trying to spread my attention thinly across everyone at once. But I think over time home schools tend to follow the rhythm of their home and we have times of day that are more intensely school interspersed with times when my scholars might be busy but I am not!!! And as my older kids get busy so I get to spend time reading stories and hanging out with the little ones and then the balance changes again…

I don’t feel bad that my kids don’t spend every moment being either educated or under my focused attention – because frankly I think any playing that they do is far more educational for their whole little being than anything I could conjure up!!! If we want our children to grow up to be wonderfully creative beings and the problem solvers of tomorrow then they will need lots of time playing and inventing and creating… and problem solving!!!

So what do they do… nothing that involves my undivided attention – so no baking, limited concoctions in the bathroom sink, and no dancing on computer keyboards – as far as I know!!! They usually have a theme going and play it through from start to finish – so for a week they will read books behind the couch and the next week they will make houses under the table… I think it isn’t so important that I have activities planned but that I have resources hanging about for them… the crayons and paper are available for arting, the cushions and blankets are available for making houses, the books are stacked and inviting – ready to read…

Let’s Meet The Players:

Hood #6 (age 4):
Hood #7 (age 2):
Hood #8 (age 1):

Let’s Play The Game:

  1. They dance:
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    And unpack:

  3. They read:
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    And unpack:

  5. They paint:
  6. DSC_0011
    And unpack:

  7. They nap:
  8. DSC_0218
    And unpack:

  9. They make music:
  10. DSC_0570
    And unpack:

  11. They take trips in baskets, to the land of books:
  12. DSC_0122
    And unpack:

  13. They take snacks:
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And enough of the unpacking already!!! Though as you can see his unpacking is pretty localized and takes literally two seconds to return to it’s natural place!!!

To me it just looks like a regular day of living and playing. To them it defines their childhood… Because of that “school time” needs to be a happy time, a fun time and I think a time driven by them while they can still enjoy care free days without schedules and plotting and planning… I am there if they need me and they often do but I am also busy doing other things so the decisions to do what they do is pretty much theirs. They have lots of days full of surprises and spontaneity and that’s just how I think it should be!!!

32 Replies to “HomeSchool Question: What Do Little People Do During School?”

  1. Thank you for this honest snapshot into your life & the lives of your lil’ ones. Its very comforting & reassuring in ways I’m sure you hadn’t even intended! ūüôā

  2. HI Hannah – You are so right about the big ones!!! Nobody ever asks what do you do with the big ones while you are busy with the little ones… And somehow the bigger they are the more they need us!!! Great comment!!! Hope you have a fabulous weekend!!!

  3. Unpacking is the best thing ever invented for homeschooling moms I think! Loved the photos of the three small musketeers!

  4. feel a bit better now. people always ask what we do and sometimes i ask myself if i’m neglecting them but, really, they’re BUSY playing ALL DAY. my 6 yo’s reading takes no time and then they go of together on who-know-what adventure.

  5. Oh Olivia – I so know what you mean… totally busy ALL day, without coming up for air!!! Frankly I love it and can’t stand to interrupt their drive and enthusiasm!!! Have a great week!!!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing, I just love love love this post, it is so great to see how and what others do, seeing as most of us have not been homeschooled. Thank you. I know you guys have general tidy up sessions before food, but how do you handle things inbetween or do you only do tidy before food or snacks? For example in our house a whole bedroom is unpacked into the lounge early in the morning to build things and play play play which is great but I feel like I am telling them to tidy up all the time…

  7. Hi Tammy – Good to hear from you!!! We have a particular person who is very gifted at unpacking and playing… and by the time most of us get up in the morning he has had a good session already!!! Toys do stay in the room where they belong… kitchen toys in the kitchen, most toys in the kids room, a handful of toys in the bedroom and no toys in the lounge, the hall… So tidy up before breakfast, then my little guys finish school and tidy anything unpacked before our snack. One or two others finish school just before lunch and tidy up again… and then no tidying all afternoon till dinnertime. Generally it gets so bad and no further… there is a level of entropy beyond which chaos doesn’t seem to occur!!! our tidy sessions are quick, fifteen minutes max… otherwise it would feel like all day!!! So I try to turn a blind eye when it isn’t just before a meal so I don’t turn into the toy grinch… but there are days when I fail, galactically!!! Hope this helps!!!

  8. Very inspiring post. Wish all mom like you,have long long patience to their kids!! I guess i’ll keep coming back to your site. ūüôā

  9. Hi Dorothy, Thanks for stopping by!!! I never ever think of myself as patient, just getting by!!! Hope you have a great day!!!

  10. This is so refreshing to read. I’ve pretty much let my littles do their own thing, but always felt guilty like I should be organizing and keeping them busy. Thanks!

  11. Hay Julie B, So glad it spoke to you!!! Honestly all the activities in the world aren’t going to ever make up for the chance your little ones have to create and invent on their own… In a world where kids are so scheduled and driven it is nice to let the little ones escape the craziness!!! Thanks for stopping by and hope you have a fantastic weekend!!!

  12. Found you through Pinterest. Just wanted to comment and say THANK YOU for not telling us that you have 30 thousand carefully prepared and even more carefully organized project bags that your little angels use each day of the week on an even more organized rotation schedule!!! What a relief to hear that you just My guilt is gone…well partially anyway, I’m sure I’ll come across the 30 thousand project bag post sometime!! ūüėČ Although I would love to be that prepared, my reality is just not gonna let that happen. You are right, kids just need to play and I too am the “Mother person and not the entertainer.” Love that!!! Enjoyed this post!

  13. Hay Krissy…So good to meet you!!! Isn’t play the thing!!! I promise there is absolutely no “30 thousand project bag post” on our blog – somehow I have managed to escape that entire overwhelming “necessity” that seems to be required for homeschooling moms with little ones along-side!!! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, I really appreciate you taking the time!!! Have a fabulous day!!!

  14. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your post. I have a very active 3 year old who will play pretty nicely when I am right there playing but has been kind of needy when I am occupied helping his 12, 10 or 7 year old siblings with something. Trying to figure out a game plan for next week….
    Thanks for the post. ( :

  15. Hay Jennifer, Nice to meet you!!! Wishing you all the best with your busy little person… times will change and things will get easier!!! Hope you have a great week…

  16. While the idea of independent play sounds AMAZING, and my kids are actually relatively good at it, the reality in our family is that when school starts, the last thing the little one wants to do is play independently. She wants to go to school with the big kids (she’s three.) But she can’t sit still long enough (um, at all), is a natural clown who loves to entertain, and is far more interested in distracting the other kids than in going off and playing. (And they think she’s adorable and funny, so her distractions are very effective.) I’m so glad this works for your family, but please don’t knock the 30,000 bags of educational activities! For some of us, the only thing the little wants to play is play school, and she needs some tools to do it with!

  17. Hi Selkie, Thank you for you comment and I so admire folk that have been able to get their little ones to get into activities in the side while they do school. I have never managed that – mine have all wanted to be right in the swing of it all and we have had to find our way around that. I really feel, and I have said it many times, that this is what works for our family and some of it you may find useful and some of it not. Take what you need and inspires you and leave the rest behind… Wishing you all the best with your little trickster!!!

  18. First year homeschooling mom here! i am so relieved to read this.
    I have a 9 year old and an almost 2 year old.
    of all the worries I have about homeschooling, my biggest is what to do to keep the little one occupied. Ive never heard of “unpacking” and its just brilliant! is that a “thing” or did you make it up??
    Do you just throw random things in a container and let them at it??
    Thank you for this!

  19. Hi Sara, Good to meet you… Honestly I don’t know that “unpacking” is a real “thing” in the world of homeschooling at all, but it is what my little ones do during school and always has been. They tend to unpack wherever they are and whatever is available as long as we pack back before they move on to the next area of interest it is totally manageable. I cannot imagine a day where we just leave it and then try to put everything back at the end of it. So “let’s pack it back” is a common phrase around here and if we do it together it is quick and manageable. Wishing you all the best on your homeschooling adventure!!!

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