We are nearing the end of our first year of homeschooling with a baby. Already! It has gone so fast and I can’t believe my littlest girl is almost 1! Time seems to go faster with each child. I remember before she was born I worried a bit about how I was going to do everything. How would I keep up with all the great things my older two and I had been learning together while also looking after a baby? Where would I find the time? I think other people must wonder the same thing because I get a few questions about how I manage with different ages, and comments from people that would like to homeschool but don’t know how they would do it if they had more children. After reflecting on how it’s been, I thought I’d write down a few of my tips based on what has worked for us. Hopefully it will give some insight into how it all works and show that it really is possible (and not as hard as you expect it to be!).
It’s ok to have a break
I think this is the most important one. When you have a new baby, it is ok to have a break! No matter how you homeschool. With us, it’s quite easy as we follow a natural learning style. That means there is no distinction between learning and life. There is no ‘school time’ and ‘free time’. So it wasn’t that hard. But I definitely was taking it easy for a while and doing not a lot but sitting around resting and feeding. Even if you homeschool in a more traditional style you can still take a break though. Or schedule your holidays around when the baby is due. I think people worry a lot about what their kids are missing if they need to take it easy for a while. But instead, think about what they are learning…that life is not about trying to do everything at once. That it is important to slow down and look after yourself at these times. The importance of rest and taking care of others. And don’t forget getting to know this precious new family member.
Get a carrier
The second most important. Get yourself a carrier STAT! Seriously. A carrier is a lifesaver. Great for settling baby and you have your hands free for when someone else needs something. I can even feed in mine, priceless! Make sure you get a good one though, that holds baby in the right position. I use an Ergo when out and about because it’s quick to put on and a woven wrap at home because I find it super comfy.
Prepare meals earlier
In the early days, after my husband went back to work, I found the hardest thing was someone always wanting food when I was feeding. Or baby nap times always ending up being around mealtimes for the older two. I had to be more organised and remember to make meals whenever I could and then put them in the fridge so all the girls had to do was get them out themselves.
You don’t have to wait until baby’s asleep to do things with your other children. When my littlest was a newborn I would lie her on the floor near where we were, to have some independent play time. Yes, even babies can play by themselves!
Babies are self-learners and what they truly need (and pays enormous developmental benefits) is the time, freedom and trust to just “be.” – Janet Lansbury
It’s never too young to start fostering independence. Now, as my 10 month old gets older, she is already good at finding her own things to do and doesn’t need me to constantly entertain her. As she grows she is also able to join in with things we are doing on her level. She doesn’t want to be distracted and restricted to ‘baby things’. Her little eyes are always watching her big sisters and she’s very keen to join in. Anything that is unsafe for her to use we keep out of reach, but we let her join in when we can. Don’t be afraid! Things could get messy, but they’ll definitely be fun.
I guess you could do things during baby’s nap times. Personally, my babies have always been more of the sleep-on-your-chest-and-wake-as-soon-as-you-attempt-to-put-them-down types. The good thing is I get to rest when baby naps too. For the other girls, this is a time for independent play. If you haven’t read it already, I posted here previously about how I encourage independence and self-directed learning.
Encouraging independent learning makes our job much easier. In our home, my job is not to have all the answers and direct all the learning. All I do is follow their lead. I pay attention to what they’re interested in, I listen to their questions and ideas, I provide materials, and I help them find their own answers. I am there to help but not control. This means that a lot of the time they are going about their learning without needing any assistance at all. They come to me when the need arises. I’m not saying that it’s always easy and that there won’t be times when it feels like everyone needs something at once, but fostering independence in learning really helps.
We started implementing ‘project time’ relatively recently in our house, after reading ‘Project Based Homeschooling‘ by Lori Pickert. It really is a fabulous read with practical advice for helping identify your child’s interests and encouraging them to go deeper in their learning. I highly recommend it. The idea of project time is having a specific time each day when you are fully present with your children while they are working on their current interests. By having this time each day when you are there with them and completely available, they are less likely to need you at other times when you might be busy with baby.
Set out materials
I usually set out some materials for the girls at night, for them to find in the morning. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Maybe just get some art materials off the shelf, put out a puzzle or two, set up a little tea party, put out some figurines and blocks. Anything! It doesn’t take much time and it means that when they wake up in the morning there is something new (and quiet) to engage them and they are less likely to try and get me out of bed. I get to sleep in a little longer if baby is.
Do you have a co-op? Or do you meet up with other homeschool friends regularly? Our co-op is awesome. After the initial settling in period with a new baby, I found it really good to get out with the kids. It seems easier just to stay home sometimes but I actually found getting out to be better. The kids get to play with their friends, plus we usually have a theme and some learning materials out for the kids to get involved with. They’re busy, learning, playing, and having fun. Baby is sleeping in the carrier. And I’m free to chat with friends and relax! Plus, the house is not getting any messier if we’re not there!
Don’t worry if it doesn’t go to plan
Last of all, don’t worry if some days everything just goes by the wayside. Relax. Have a PJ day. Watch too much TV. Eat snack foods. That’s life. Not every day is going to be perfect. But every day you’ll be together. And that is awesome!
I think that’s about it! It has all really been a lot easier and much more enjoyable than I imagined. I share what works for us, but everyone finds their own way. And the best part is, everyone has been able to bond and have a lot of time with our newest family member. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if Miss 5 had been at school this year, and how that would have changed the relationships between the girls. I’m so grateful that she hasn’t missed any of this. And when I see the three of them now playing together, my heart is so happy.