I have a friend who will begin her homeschooling journey this fall. She has been asking some excellent questions like this one: how do you homeschool with toddlers and newborns? I homeschooled for nine years with toddlers and newborns and while I didn’t do a perfect job of it, I do have some things to share.
- The first and most important way to homeschool with little ones is to reign in your expectations. In this regard, I had an advantage because I had never homeschooled WITHOUT toddlers and newborns in my home. If I had, I probably would have been tearing my hair out! As it was, it was all I knew. If you are picturing school at home rather than a home that is a school, you will end up frustrated. Babies and toddlers aren’t allowed at traditional schools. It’s impossible to create the same quiet, orderly atmosphere at home as a classroom teacher can when you have little ones. But that doesn’t mean your homeschool is inferior!
- Recognize that there are advantages to having babies and toddlers in your homeschool. They aren’t an interruption in your school day; they are the reason you are teaching. Having older children experience young children is a part of their education. I taught a college developmental psychology course and had to ask the students to find a way to spend time with young children. The sad fact is that in our lower birthrate, age-segregated society, having a lot of experience with young children is rare. Younger siblings teach your older children to be gentle, patient, and less self-absorbed. The olders learn how to teach the youngers. The youngers learn from their siblings and listen in as you teach the olders.
- Homeschool in the most baby-friendly area of your home. The last thing you need to worry about is the littles getting hurt while you’re explaining long division to junior. The room I used as our primary school room was attached to our playroom. I allowed the youngers to move from room to room as they chose. Lower shelves in our school room had toddler-friendly books and toys. Consider having a box of school time toys that are only available at set times.
- Buy your toddlers the same workbooks as their siblings. David Hazell of My Father’s World does an excellent talk on the subject of occupying toddlers. One of his best suggestions has to do with the fact that we homeschoolers buy all kinds of new school goodies for our elementary kids every fall and nothing for the toddlers. David calls this “Christmas Without Me.” He recommends buying identical workbooks even if it costs you a little dough. The peace you get in return is well worth it!
- Schedule projects that aren’t baby-friendly during nap time. I spent lots of time reading to my older kids while nursing babies. When it came time to do the timed science experiments, the baking, or the obstacle course races, I made sure the little guys were sleeping. Does that always work? Nope! Some days there is no nap. That’s when you reign in your expectations. Tomorrow is another day.
- Schedule play dates with other homeschooling moms with young kids. You’ll discover you’re not alone and your friends will help you reign in those expectations. For several years, I participated in a Bible study with other moms while a teen watched our youngsters. A Mothers of Preschoolers group is another great way to connect with moms in the trenches.
- Make sure you have “me” time. When I had lots of little ones, I had a housekeeper come in twice a month. I also had my niece watch the kids for me a couple of hours every week. Occasionally, I would use that respite time to go on dates with my husband. It helped me enormously! If you can’t afford these options, swap babysitting duties with a friend or clean together. I’ve used these approaches, too. Having some time away isn’t selfish; it helps you to be a better mom and wife.
- Remember that this is a short season. Even though I had nine years’ worth of little ones in my homeschool, it flew by. Now I wonder why I had such a fit about all the books being pulled off the shelves, the toys scattered everywhere, and the lessons we didn’t finish. These are precious days. Enjoy learning together.
Do you have any other suggestions for homeschooling with babies and toddlers? Join the conversation at Homeschool Sanity on Facebook.