Rough Week….Need Suggestions, Please!

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  • mycupoverflows

    Well, we started our new year this week and it has been rough, to say the least. I have an 11yo boy, 7yo boy, 5yo boy and 2yo girl and while the 11 and 7 are loving their books and work and can’t wait to get started each day, I’m having quite a time with the two youngers.

    I could really use some suggestions from those of you who teach multiple children on what you do with the young ones?! Last year, when my second child was 6, the two littles would play quietly together during the hour or so that it took for the 6yo to do his work. But now, he has a little more work to do each day and the 5yo is actually becoming a troublemaker. He takes the math manipulatives away from the 7yo during math lessons because “I want to do math too”; he writes on his older brother’s math papers; he wants to sit in on read-aloud time but doesn’t understand what’s going on and keeps shouting “What?! What is happening?! I don’t know what you’re saying!” 

    Each morning I sit down with him and we do a few pages from one of those kindergarten workbooks you get from Wal-Mart but he is not satisfied with this. He desperately wants to participate in everything the olders are doing but when he doesn’t understand what’s going on (which is frequently) he loudly interrupts with his shouting (like I described above), tries to wrestle or pick fights with the olders and even started throwing himself on the floor, crying in frustration because he doesn’t understand what I’m reading about. And when he finally leaves (and we get enough moments of peace to finish the story) I discover that he was doing something that he knows he’s not supposed to be doing!! Arghhhh! 

    I’ve repeatedly told him that he is more than welcome to join us if he can be quiet and just listen and if he can’t do that, then he will have to go to his room but this isn’t working. He just comes out of his room with the same attitude. 

    Have any of you dealt with this before?? If so, what did you do? I know he just really wants to be included but it’s so disruptive that it’s actually causing friction between all of us. By the end of each day this week, I’ve been wiped out and just want to crawl in a hole. I can’t keep doing this for eleven more weeks of our fall term! 

    Any ideas or experiences would be very helpful! Thanks!


    No advice here – just sympathy!  This was our first week of school and we had two days of my 3 year old mostly behaving well with work boxes and workbooks and three days of constant interruptions and unwillingness to do tasks.  I’m not sure yet whether some of the work boxes she has are really that much less appealing or if it’s just a daily temperament thing… so I’m going to try to keep track and see if there are any specific activities that consistently occupy her.

    Do you have enough manipulatives to let him play during math?  We use Math U See and do our manipulative work on the floor, so this week, I’ve allowed our three year old to sit next to us quietly and build with the blocks in her own space.  But I understand that for some kids, sitting quietly beside just wouldn’t happen. 🙂  

    Deep breaths!  One of the things I’ve tried to keep in mind this week is that in the first few weeks of school, teaching everyone the proper habits and expectations for school time is even more important than the lessons themselves.  We might have to do a mini “habits” boot camp for the next few weeks to get us rolling and then revisit the habits slowly CM style. 🙂  

    I’ll be anxious to hear ideas from some seasoned hometeachers! 


    Hang in there and focus on getting him into some good habits. Even if it slows down the rest of the schooling for a few weeks. Good habits will pay off for the rest of the year!

    What I would suggest is a set of structured activities for him as he wants to ‘do’ something. So a tub with several types of activities and give him one to use every half hour or so or just when he is pestering too much. Also it sounds like he wants his own read aloud time with a book he could enjoy. Be sure to give him his own time to use the math manipulatives too!

    I’ll try to post more later but baby #8 is waking up, the 1yo has a crayon, the 2yo is helping him color, and the 4 year old is climbing on the bookshelf to get scissors….LOL. At least the older 4 are doing their schoolwork. Time to manage the chaos!


    Oh, I do love hearing these great ideas from Tristan! I have read about Tristan’s structured activities and tubs over the months and years I’ve been reading here…it must be working amazingly well given that she keeps it going with 8 kids! Tristan, we just need a “menu” of what gets put into each tub, LOL!


    Ha, here are current items we rotate through. I try to rotate items so if we have 4 Melissa and Doug chunky puzzles we don’t have all 4 available, just 1. The next week I switch out (well, I grab a different tub technically). Also a note, M&D is Melissa and Doug. Love their stuff and we’ve bought it on sales over the years and even used.

    • Melissa and Doug Chunky Puzzles

    • Floor puzzles

    • Magnetic wooden dolls (M&D) We have two girls and a boy doll.

    • Laurie Puzzles

    • Wooden letters with word puzzles M&D

    • Wooden pattern blocks with boards M&D

    • Magnetic pattern blocks

    • Leap Frog Fridge Phonics (two sets magnetic)

    • Three Bears Math manipulatives, cards, boards.

    • Easy Pattern blocks wooden with puzzle boards M&D

    • Wooden magnetic fishing puzzles M&D

    • Stacking pegs and boards

    • Wooden clock with shape pieces for numbers M&D

    • Lacing boards

    • Unifix Linking Cubes

    • Guidecraft wooden feel and learn shape puzzles

    • Chess set

    • Math U See manipulatives

    • Yellow plastic toy clock

    • Melissa and Doug Cube Puzzle

    • Spot It Jr, Spot It

    • Boggle Jr

    • Pictureka

    • Scissors and paper

    • Crayons, colored pencils, paints

    • Do-A-Dot paints (like bingo markers)

    • Thinkfun Roll and Play

    • Rush Hour Jr. and Rush Hour

    • Flash cards from the Target Dollar Spot

    • Dry erase bards, dry erase books, markers, and dry erase crayons

    • Snap Circuits

    • Playdoh

    • Large magnets and items to magnet to

    • Pocket Microscope

    • Ice Cap wooden game by Hape

    • Scrabble Jr (one side you match letters)

    • Large dice

    • Laminated file folder games

    • Duplos

    • Wooden trains

    • Legos

    • Wooden blocks and CitiBloks

    • Qwirkle

    • Tangrams

    • Prism

    • Chalk

    • Magnifying glass

    • Wooden slicing food M&D

    • Dominoes

    • Find It Games (used to have two but they broke open eventually)

    • Zingo

    • Perplexus Rookie

    • Magnetic dart board

    • Bean bags and bowls to toss them into

    • Indoor kids bowling set

    • Indoor basketball hoop

    • Dinosaur magnets M&D

    • Yahtzee Jr.



    Thanks for the list!  When I include activities they don’t know how to use/play they interrupt more asking for help.  How do you respond to them if that happens?  I’d like to add some items from your list but my 2.5yo doesn’t know chess, boggle, etc.  I know there is an exploring phase but I’m more referring to when she’s beyond the introduction of it.  I hope that makes sense.


    Tristan, great list. How many activities per tub? Do you label the tubs or arrange them in a systematic manner?

    Do you also have tubs like this to switch out for the older kids for their playtime? I ask because I am thinking of cleaning out their room of toys and I could bring out one tub per day. Do you have other toys/activities out all the time? Do you use play tubs on non-school days too? Many toys are rarely played with and they complain of boredom!?! So we need to find a way the toys will get used or get rid of them.

    Leap Pad Jr. is another one for the tubs.


    Mrsmccardell – I try to play with them or have older kids play with them on weekends or evenings with new items so they learn how to play or at least get some ideas. Some of the games I listed we simplify, while others are already simple enough. Boggle JR, for example, has word cards and letter dice. They roll dice and match the letters. Easy. For qwirkle they can match colors, match shapes, even make a rainbow of different colors. Chess, let them pretend play with the pieces (though let me tell you they can learn! My 7yo has taught the 2yo the actual names of each chess piece this week. Hilarious. Then someone just calls out pieces for him to find or he moves them around the board any way he wants.).

    Wings2fly – I just fit several in a 16 quart storage box. Some things go in a crate if they’re big. I also have small sets with lots of pieces in plastic shoebox type containers (like the magnetic Leap frog letters). Gallon size Ziploc bags with slider closures can work for pieces too inside a tub.

    There is no system to it really, I just filled a stack of tubs and redo them every so often. These live on the metal shelving unit in the dining room.

    Bedrooms, yes, things are in tubs, tubs are put away and one or two out for the week. This week, for ex, in the boys bedroom is Legos. In the girls room my 7yo has some dolls and clothes out. Downstairs I have a few toys in our cubical for the 1yo/2yo. That and a basketball hoop indoors is it for the week.


    Oh, bored with too many toys is something we had. We drastically eliminated toys (gave them away) and then kept it down to just 1-2 tubs out per week. They started playing with things once they realized I would give them chores/work to do every time they complained of being bored. My walls are pretty clean from about 3 feet down thanks to some scrubbing chores…LOL.

    I think less is better for toys!

    And school activity tubs get used any time but I try to keep that week’s tub for school time only. So they can use other tubs in afternoons and on weekends, but one is special for just school time.


    I had a hard time last year too w/my 3 year old.

    I love all the ideas Tristan suggested and I did occupy him in the morning but in the afternoon it was just getting too much for everyone.

    I might be a bad example but for me the only way I could focus doing work w/the older ones was to put something on tv for him (Netflix).

    I didn’t like the idea but didn’t see it as a permanent solution and this year already things are much different.

    My 6 and soon 4 year old play and occupy each other and we do not need tv anymore.

    Amazing how one year can make a difference.

    I am guessing it will be the same for you! life becomes much easier when they can start playing together.


    Wow, you’ve got some incredible activities and advice so far. I would just say that with my kids ( 12yo, 10,9,7,&5) it works better to move the older kids to individual areas (desks in the bedroom) for their independent work. So our day looks like:

    Bible, Hymn, Memory Work together as a family,then…

    Split up for independent work (I keep 5yo with me for his ‘work’) while the older kids do the things they are generally independent with first. For us, that means copywork and language arts comes first.

    When I have worked with my 5yo long enough (for both of us ;0) then he is ‘excused’ to play, read, etc…but he must do so quietly, and he cannot interrupt his brothers and sister in their work.

    We do our read aloud subjects in the afternoon, during what used to be ‘naptime’ for the little kids. This leads into your next question:

    The concept of respect for others’ time and attention can be carried over to the read aloud time. My littles are taught to raise their hand if they have a comment or question during read aloud time. They wait to be called on. I know this is ‘schoolish’, but it’s better than constant interruption during a reading time! For my 5 year old, if he can’t be respectful and listen – raising his hand when he has something to say – then he is ‘excused’ for quiet time (ie: naptime). He knows that if he wants to participate in BIG BOY school, he must be respectful like a BIG BOY! That’s a powerful motivator!!

    Hope things begin to roll a little more smoothly in the coming days. Hang in there and keep trying – new habits take time to develop!


    Thank you so much everyone for your wonderful suggestions! I love the tub idea, Tristan. We actually own many of those things on your list but they are all over our playroom and no one really touches them. Maybe the tub idea will help make them “new” again. Now if only I can pull myself together enough to actually implement it… 😉

    The next day after I posted this, I sat down with my son and told him that I was noticing how miserable he seemed and was there anything I could do to help him because I hated to see him so unhappy. He told me that “I just want to do what you guys are doing”. Poor guy. 

    I think my plan of action needs to focus on habits (i.e. showing respect during the olders school time, not interrupting, practicing patience, etc.) and then having certain things (like the tubs) to pull out when I need to give one of the olders my attention. I’m going to start these this week and see if things improve.

    Thanks for the advice and helping me process and identify some possible solutions. It’s really hard to be objective when you’re so exhausted and frustrated! 

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