Wednesday, November 7, 2012

what does your daughter do all day?

I have two school-age boys and a 2 yo girl. The question I get is, how do you keep 2 yo occupied while you are teaching the boys?

As you can surmise from my posts, I do not spend hours every day just sitting and breathing down the boys' backs as they cover subject by subject. I am present, and I might be more involved in some areas (chumash, kriyah) than in others. Most of the activities are hands-off for me, and I just check the final result, or tell where the corrections are necessary. That gives me more time to attend to 2 yo.

As far as her schedule goes, she gets quite a bit of freedom. She gets dressed when the boys get dressed, eats breakfast with the rest of us, davens after the boys and just hangs around, observing and joining in whatever we are doing. If the boys are sitting at the dining room table, writing, she will do one of her "projects". She knows where I keep the scrap paper, stickers and shapes for gluing. She gets glue and scissors, pencils, crayons, whatever strikes her, brings them over and starts working. Then she will tell me when she is done, and usually wants to display her creation. She is also pretty good about cleaning up after herself.

We had quite a few spills and messes. She cut up things while learning how to use scissors. She made large puddles of glue, but it is all washable. She spilled her shapes and we had to sing clean up song numerous times to get all the shapes back in the bucket. The tables get some of the mess, too, but it is all washable and wipeable. Besides, since I am usually more focused on the boys' work, I am not breathing down her back to be perfect, either.

Working alongside her brothers
Today she chose to do play-do while the boys worked in the morning. She got out the shapes and a small tub, set herself up in the kitchen and had fun time cutting and mushing. Then she put it away and joined the boys at the dining room table. She brought over a lacing kit. I was asked to untangle the strings and then she proceeded to lace a dog while the boys did Lashon HaTorah and math.

Later in the afternoon, she found a papier mache peach and wanted to paint it. Originally I thought it would make a great sukkah decoration, painted and covered in mod podge, but it never happened. Now she pulled out paint, a jar for water and a paint brush and worked on adding different colors to it. When she was all done, she wanted to thumb tack it to the board in the kitchen. I tried explaining how it would not work, but she wanted to display it. I suggested hanging it up in the dining room. She brought me a piece of string and we hung it from a curtain rod.

When she is not involved in these projects, she plays with her dolls, puts them to sleep, changes their diapers, makes strollers out of bins and spreads out blankets for picnics and boats and whichever way her imagination takes her. She got tall enough and strong enough to open the fridge doors, so she can help herself to the snacks I keep in the bottom drawer: squeezy yogurts and regular yogurt cups and string cheese. I leave the bowls of dry cereal on the table ( if someone didn't finish theirs during breakfast) and she would snack from them.

She comes to sit on my lap occasionally, and to cuddle up. But lately she has been valuing her freedom of roaming more than the comfort she gets.

Someone must be thinking, what about the academics? ( As if all this that she does could not qualify as a full day of schoolwork). Well, she likes when I read books to her. She knows the first two letters in her name and points out that combination whenever we encounter it. She learned the first letters in her brothers' names. I have a bag of magnetic letters which I got when the oldest was one and half. She likes to assemble them on the fridge.

She can count solidly to ten, and more shakily to twenty. She is learning her numbers from pressing them on the microwave pad to cook her morning oatmeal. When she is asked how old she is, she says that she is in "quarters", which means two and three quarters. She also knows that if you have one marshmallow and you need to end up with three ( like your brother), you need two more. And she know what two more looks like!

She knows what we do on Shabbat, and how we get ready for it. She knows that Hebrew books go the other way from the English ones. She has a few favorite Hebrew songs, and she sings them on her own: HaShafan Hakatan, Af Echad, Torah, Hashem is here.

She also still mercifully naps most days ( my boys gave up naps right after turning 2), so we all get a bit of downtime.

So, while I cannot tell you exactly what she does all day, I know that she keeps herself busy. Lately, 6 yo complained how she does not get to do any real schoolwork, and all my talk about how her playing is her schoolwork was not what he wanted to hear. He is not the only one. I just saw an article where a veteran homeschooler explained how all different activities can count as schoolwork. As far as I am concerned, she is doing quite well, whether formally, or informally. She is proof that unschooling works.


  1. sounds like you're doing a great job with all your kids, daughter included! I think its great that you keep art supplies out for her to access when she wants. I used to question this method in our home, because it inevitably makes the house much messier. We have a "kids table" where they do homework/projects and stuff is always out. But I love that they can be creative when it strikes them, and its not an organized, dictated project from me. My kids love to draw and do it so often; I know its a good thing for them.

    1. Thank you! I had someone come and organize our homeschooling/art supplies before the year started and all the art stuff that was washable was put out on low shelves to be easily accessible. This way I am not the one always having to dole them out. The scissors and the glue share a bin, and there is another one for markers, those I put away when shabbos company with small kids arrives.
      I keep really messy things like acrylic paint and moon-dough out of reach, but they are available upon request and under closer supervision.

  2. Thank you for this post. You've inspired me to think of more ways that I can set up my home so my little ones can be more independent.

  3. That sounds pretty academic to me, meaning it seems like she's getting all of the learning she needs!

  4. It's so funny, my oldest is the same age as your daughter and I think all the time how much she would be so much happier with older siblings around doing school! She does the same kinds of activities throughout the day as your daughter, but enjoys them more when there are other older kids around doing their own things. My 18 month-old is the hard one! It's impossible to keep him out of all of her "projects"...