Homeschooling with Babies

Kara studies for one of her senior year classes while her youngest brother snoozes

“Where's the baby? Where's the baby?" 

Yes, it's true. I had the ability to misplace children #6,7, and 8 when they were babies. I never seemed to have trouble keeping track of the little guy when there were fewer of them and we lived in a smaller home, but by the sixth, distracted with teaching the older kids, I could easily forget if I'd put the baby down for a nap, left him in the care of a sibling, or he had crawled away. (We always knew where baby #9, our high-needs preemie, was. Nicknamed Velcro for obvious reasons, Ben could invariably be found attached either to myself or one of his oldest sisters. See above.)

I love baby backpacks. But this guy might have been a tad young.
But assuming I could locate the newest baby, for the most part, adding a new little person while homeschooling usually wasn't all that difficult. (Exception again: Baby 9,  who cried most of his entire first year.) Generally, the adjustment I noticed most was that suddenly my hands were always full - literally. Even with baby carriers, one of mothers' greatest helpers, a new baby means more time sitting and holding the little one, whether nursing or just loving that dear one. Teaching, unlike mopping the floors and folding laundry, happily doesn't necessarily require arms, so it is easy to continue to instruct, read to older children, and generally carry on schooling as usual while baby rests in your arms, plays nearby on a blanket, or sleeps in his crib. (Or backpack.)

A bigger concern with infants is mom’s fatigue. Having a new baby, sweet as she is, means sleepless nights, but you still have to wake early with the rest of the family, ready to feed, dress, keep clean, and oh yes, teach for another day. Busy homeschool moms often end up running themselves to shreds caring for their crews. It is good and necessary to pour out yourself in service for your family, but remember that when you are depleted you cannot meet the needs of your family well. Dr. Rodger Sayre, homeschooling father of 12 and “Doc’s Digest” columnist in The HSLDA Court Reporter, writes about the difficulty that busy homeschooling moms of large families not infrequently have with nursing a new baby and offers some great practical advice. Getting proper nutrition, rest, and exercise can make a huge difference. (“Right!” I hear you saying. ) But working on these things will make you much more equipped to love and care for your baby and your other children!

So what can you do to survive and thrive as you homeschool with a new baby? First, take a hard look at your outside commitments. An older mom once told me that the first year of each baby’s life she did almost nothing outside the home, at least with her latter children. Each family will have to decide what is right for them, but often the good is the enemy of the best here. These days opportunities for homeschoolers abound! In an effort to make sure our children don’t miss out on any of these wonderful experiences, we often schedule ourselves ragged with extracurricular activities, music lessons, co-ops, Bible studies, and so on. Staying home goes a long way in keeping your baby contented, and that in turn makes life happier for everyone else. When you do need to go out, schedule around your baby’s and preschoolers’ naps. 

Before a new baby arrived, I would try to pick up a few new fun things that would help my children spend time in some educational activity that didn’t require my constant attention. Timberdoodle sells some wonderful thinking skills games that young children can play. Some years I purchased science kits that the older ones could use with the younger ones. For a toddler I might buy something like Wedgits. Whatever the new educational activities, I’d store them away and not bring them out until after the baby arrived. Also, make sure your older children are learning to work independently part of the time, and choose your curriculum accordingly.

Besides that, schedule your day around your baby’s (and toddler’s) day as much as possible. Plan reading and sitting times for when your little one will nurse. Begin working with your new one to help him conform to a regular nap schedule as soon as reasonable. Then plan messy or intense hands-on art, science, or history projects for naptimes so you will have free arms. Use strategies like teaching all your children together whenever possible, employing your children’s help to teach siblings, and “multiplying yourself” by using technology. 

Older siblings can be wonderful helpers. Train them to work willingly and diligently. If they are old enough to take the baby for 15-30 minutes, schedule periods in their day to play with their baby brother or sister. You could even create index cards with ideas of developmentally appropriate ideas. (A good resource is Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready by June Oberlander which lists activities for each week from birth to age 5.) 

Babies add such sweetness to a home! Homeschooling with a new little one means changes, but you will figure out what works and what does not with each new child. While you are adjusting to a new baby, do cut yourself slack! Sometimes the best thing to do is take some time off to allow yourself time to rethink your schedule. It will take some time to get in a good pattern again, but just keep working at it bit by bit. Have a plan, but stay flexible. Try to inhale deelply in the lovely aroma of these sweet days, because they will blitz by more quickly than you can ever imagine.

And once you have things just figured out, he becomes a walker and you are in for new adventures!

Next up: Homeschooling with Toddlers!

Related Posts from the archives:

Scheduling for Homeschool Moms

Establishing Routines

One Train, Many Stations (Multi-Age Teaching)

Multiply (Yourself) and Divide (Your Work)


Lisa Marie said…
These posts could not have come at a better time....thank you so much Anne, for the practical advice and encouragement! We are so enjoying this time with our sweet newborn....and easing back into a routine.
Anna said…
Thanks for the tips! I'm looking forward to the toddler post, too :) Love to your family!!
Anne said…
Anna - Your family has been on our hearts frequently the past week. We're so glad you have power again. Hope that things are will be starting to return to normal.
Love to your family, too!

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