I am so sorry. To help you feel better, please take a look at my day today.
Mom and two 8-yr-olds are sitting comfortably on the couch reading about Native Americans while 5-yr-old plays with action figures. 2-yr-old takes all the papers for the craft project and scatters then across the room. After mom picks them up he grabs them and crumples them while running as fast as he can from mom. Mom gets out bag of dinosaur counters and continues reading. 2-yr-old plays quietly for 3.5 minutes then begins to chuck them one by one across the room. Mom pretends she doesn't see it and keeps reading. For the remainder of the day - 2-yr-old dances across all the tiles other children are using for math, throws the tiles across the room, grabs white board marker and workbooks from 5-yr-old, strips out of all clothes, puts large white board on the couch and jumps up and down on it, sticks magnet letters on board then chucks them across room, goes into a different room and dumps Goldfish crackers on the floor and stomps on them, goes upstairs and finds a stray marker which he uses to color the table red. And then he went to bed.
This is not normal for him. But, he does have those days. I feel your pain. MOST of the time the following works:
1. Have him sit on my lap or near me when we read story books or books with lots of pictures.
2. Spend 10-15 minutes playing with him several times a day while the older boys do independent work.
3. I have a cupboard with one shelf just for him. It includes a variety of activities he can choose from (or I can get for him) to play quietly with while we are working. I change these out every few weeks to keep them new and exciting.
4. Sometimes he just needs a snack or something to drink.
5. Have him participate in whatever we are doing. If we're using tally sticks for math, he takes a handful and 'counts' to himself or makes towers. If we're doing a science experiment he's right there with us.
6. I sometimes, gasp, turn on a movie for him upstairs. He loves the animated storybook videos as well as LeapFrog and Between the Lions and Super Why. I try to keep it educational but I have been known to turn on Dora or Diego. I don't use this often, but in a true emergency it works.
7. Some days we ditch our regularly planned lessons and go outside for P.E. or nature study or we just read lots of books that day; I'll read some and the older boys will read some.
8. I'll have one boy play with the 2-yr-old while I work separately with the second and then they'll switch.
Here are some ideas for things to have in a cupboard or in shoe boxes or other containers that you can change out every few days.
1. lacing cards
2. beads for stringing
4. play dough
5. styrofoam with toothpicks (they love to stick toothpicks into the styrofoam)
6. small containers with small erasers or beads - the child takes the small objects and puts them in the small container. You can use small snacks for this as well.
8. file folder games (like matching shapes or colors)
9. shape sorters or geometric stackers
10. those bead things with the crazy wires and you move the beads along the wires
11. animal toys
12. fill a sink with water and let them pour water into cups or give their animals a bath or swim
13. put child in bathtub with cups and/or toys and sit in the room with them while you teach school. We've done math and reading in the bathroom/hall many, many times.
14. string a small rope somewhere in the room and let them use clothespins to hang up socks or washclothes
15. have them sort objects into containers - put a red tag one one, a blue tag on another, etc and have them put the reds in the red and blue in the blue
16. paper and washable markers or crayons
17. your 3-yr-old might be able to handle scissors so give her paper and scissors
18. pom-poms - they can put them in small cups or I made some pattern type cards with different circles of colors and they match the pom-pom to the colored circle - I also have given them a slingshot and let them shoot pom-poms.
19. pipe cleaners - my kids love to string beads onto them or just twist them around
20. stickers and paper - the foam type stickers seem easier for little hands. I buy them on clearance after a holiday.
21. a medicine dropper and a cup - let them squeeze drops of water into the cup. Use a mat or have them do it on the counter or tile floor
23. I've sometimes filled a bucket with rice or beans and then hid a whole bunch of their toys. I place it on a large cookie sheet and they have to dig through and find their toys. It can get messy though.
I'm sure many other ladies here have many more ideas.
Homeschooling with little ones can be challenging. But it can also be really fun. It might take a while for your kids to get into the groove of things. This is different for them too. Take some deep breaths. Pray. Smile. You can do this.