When we began homeschooling, I had two small children – 1.5 years and 4 months – and by the next year we had another baby. To say our homeschool days were tricky would be an understatement. Most days I spent more time chasing down my “student” after taking care of the babies than I did actually teaching. There were days we didn’t get much done because of fussy babies. And then there were days that went so smoothly, I thought we must have entered the twilight zone.
So this time around, I was well prepared for homeschooling with an infant in tow…or so I thought. First of all, homeschooling itself isn’t easy. Second, trying to homeschool one child for the first time and teaching two others to read isn’t easy. Add in a middle schooler and an infant and things get really interesting. However, homeschooling with an infant can be done.
7 Tips for Homeschooling with an Infant
Set a Schedule
Getting my infants on a schedule was a lifesaver for me. From the first moment they’re born, I try to get them nursing on a 3-hour schedule. Starting them on a 3-hour schedule from the beginning helped my little ones learn night from day, as well as set a nap schedule we could work around. It also helped them sleep through the night at a young age, but that’s another post entirely. Since my I was able to “train” them, more or less, with a 3-hour schedule, it was easy to set our homeschool schedule around the feedings and naps. I nurse around 9am and then baby plays on the floor until around 10-10:15 and then naps until noon, when I feed him again. In between I am able to (usually) fit in my younger three’s homeschooling. My oldest does most of his schooling on the computer, so I don’t really have to worry about him. And often times he finishes after lunch.
Give them Expectations
The worst mistake I made as a new homeschooling mom was not giving my children expectations. I just let the day go how it went. However, once I figured out that I needed to tell them what I expected from them, the days went smoother. When they know the general plan, our days seem to go smoother. They know what needs to be worked on and what needs to be finished before our “school day” is done.
Other than having a schedule, being prepared is the most important tip I can give you. I didn’t really “plan” our days with my oldest. I followed his lead in how much school (beyond the minimal) he did each day. But, with three younger kids, I needed a schedule. Mister Mouse needs to know there is an end to the school days and my daughters have trouble staying on task if I am scattered, so I plan our days. I have their lessons lined out, but I also make sure to have extra papers/printables for them if the baby wakes up and I need to tend to him.
Don’t do too much
While I have a general plan for the day, I don’t over plan. Truth be told, I am a terrible time manager. Terrible in the fact that I constantly underestimate how long something will take me. I have made the mistake more than once in over planning our homeschool day. I know my children have their limits as far as cooperation and the amount of time they will pay attention, so if we miss a day, I try to plan around it. I might add a little extra each day until we get caught back up, but I don’t make them do two days of work at once – it’s just too much for them. As your infant gets older, hopefully their schedule will be more predictable and you can really plan your days and get school done in that time frame.
Make lunch simple and easy
I know this doesn’t really have anything to do with homeschooling, but it is important to the success of your day. Now that my oldest knows how to prepare lunch things are easier, but before he did lunch was something I stressed over all morning. If the morning didn’t go as planned and lunch was looming over me, I would get frazzled. We have tried several different ideas over the years and they have each worked in their own time. I have used meal plans that I created and just forced my kids to eat, which worked great while they were young. Then, I allowed them to each have a day to choose what we would have for lunch. And now that they are older, each child has a day they are scheduled to prepare lunch. It has worked wonders in our house. My picky eater gets to pick lunch on his day, which satisfies him and they all learn how to prepare food for the others, while I finish up school if I need to. It’s a win-win in my book.
Invest in a sling/carrier
My middle three children were all sling/carrier babies. If they had a fussy day, the sling was a lifesaver. I would simply put them in my homemade Moby wrap and we could continue on with school. I was able to have my hands free to work with my oldest and keep my infant calm and quiet so we could work. Since I have giant children, we don’t use the wrap as long as most people, but I was able to use it until my little ones took longer naps, which gave us more time for schooling.
Give yourself grace
I know we Moms say this so often, but its true. Some days are going to go as planned and others are not. But, that doesn’t mean everything is lost if you simply give yourself grace. If you have chosen to homeschool, then you obviously believe it is the best option for your family and you’re not going to give up. But, I know what its like to get frustrated and down on yourself when the learning isn’t going as planned. Give yourself grace. Grace for those days that seem so long they may never end. Grace for the outburst you had while trying to teach phonics with a fussy infant in tow. Grace for the days that just didn’t happen. Every day is a fresh start.