|She's cute though, isn't she? =) We think so too.|
After a bit of brainstorming and tweaking, this is what I came up with. We've been using this system for about a couple months now, and while we certainly have 'off' days, overall it's working quite well for us. You will remember from my previous post about our daily schedule that I organize our day into blocks. (I've switched around our blocks a bit since my previous post, but the idea remains the same.) Basically, I have chosen an activity for Elizabeth to correspond with each block. This gives enough variety that usually she can "last" through the whole block without too much difficulty. I've also tried to strike a balance towards things that include her with us (because she so desperately wants to be involved in what we are doing) and things that will hopefully train her towards occupying herself independently. Right now, our schedule looks like this:
First Block - Elizabeth With Me: Before I start anyone's actual school work, I spend about 10-15 minutes JUST WITH ELIZABETH. We read a story together, just she and I, and then do some kind of simple activity. Often these days it's cut and paste (she's REALLY in to cut and paste right now). Sometimes puzzles. Sometimes playing with the alphabet letters. You get the idea. Basically just something simple that helps her feel a little more like she is involved and that we want her to be there. During this time Michelle (age 7) works on her independent work checklist and James (4) plays quietly by himself.
Second Block - Elizabeth With Michelle: I work with James for 20 minutes or so on word building and counting games. While I"m doing this, Michelle is responsible to do something with her little sister. Sometimes they read, sometimes they play or do puzzles, this morning they played playdough.
Third Block - Elizabeth With Me: This is our time where we do various things all together as a group - read poems, Aesop, sing French songs, etc. These are also the parts of our school morning that are the easiest to include the younger kids in. So, she is either on my lap during this time, or at the table doing something like scribble with dry erase markers or building with Math U See blocks. (I've also found that giving her time when it is OK to touch these things on the school table has helped her to keep her fingers out of them at other times, as a side benefit.) We do our French action songs at the end of this block which is a wiggle-reliever for all three kids.
Fourth Block - Snack Time: All three kids have a snack while I read aloud from a history or nature book (which Michelle narrates).
Fifth Block - Craft Time: I keep a special box of crafty things - paper scraps to cut up, coloring pages, dot markers, stickers, playdough, Kumon workbooks (for folding, cutting, mazes, etc) - that I don't get out at other times of day. Elizabeth and James get an activity out of this box while Michelle and I work together to finish her school work (going over her independent work, spelling, math, sometimes another read-aloud to narrate). There are heaps of ideas for busy bags for little ones out there on the internet, but frankly I don't have time to organize that kind of thing and I find that the simplest things are what keep my particular kids engaged the longest anyhow.
So that's what we do to keep our 2 year old happy and gainfully occupied for 2 hours while we try to do our schoolwork. Doesn't always work...but usually, it does. =)