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“Imagine you’re drowning and someone hands you a baby.” Jim Gaffigan
Life with little ones can be challenging, but oh so rewarding. We’ve homeschooled for almost 6 years now, including through a new baby and working full time while homeschooling.
The Charlotte Mason method can be very demanding, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming! Here’s how to homeschool with a baby or toddler in tow.
#1 Establish Routines
It can be tempting to let the day slip by, putting out one fire after the next. Your toddler is having a meltdown. The baby won’t stop crying. Your 3rd and 4th grader won’t stop bickering with each other.
Are you stressed yet??
Establishing routines, even if they get derailed sometimes, sets expectations and a tone for the day. As much as they want to do it themselves, little ones thrive with structure.
#2 Make Good Habits
When we train our children in good habits, it makes for smoother days. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cringed when parents tell me they can’t wait to hand their child over to the teacher/coach/grandparent because their child misbehaves around them.
“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.” Charlotte Mason
Expect Good Behavior
If we don’t show our children what is good and right, then expect it, they won’t do what is good and right. Kids will develop habits regardless. It’s our responsibility to make sure they’re good ones. Unruly little ones make for unruly adults.
If everything is chaos, that’s just not going to work. Stress, yelling, overwhelm… you know the drill.
Habit training is more work up front, but saves us (and our kids) from grief in the end.
#3 Naptime is Gold
Younger babies often take 2-3 naps a day. Even most toddlers still take an afternoon nap. Take advantage of this time! I sometimes save harder subjects, ones that require more concentration or guidance, for nap time.
Homeschooling with a Newborn
Speaking of naps, newborns (usually) nap more than older babies and little ones. Don’t stretch yourself too thin though stuffing everything in during naptime. It’s important to get adequate rest.
This may mean taking a break from school during this season. I planned for a 1 month school break when baby came. This reduced the stress of trying to get it all done with a newborn. When we’re not rested our attitude reflects this and it affects the mood of the home.
#4 The Cutest Fashion Accessory
Babywearing was a God-send with my little ones! They could snuggle up with me and not feel left out from the action. My youngest often fell asleep in the carrier and took a nap right there.
My favorite carrier is the LilleBaby. Little ones can face towards you if they prefer, or face out if they don’t want to miss out on any action. My youngest trekked around in it until he was almost 2.
I like the Moby Wrap with newborns, but after they reach 10 pounds it’s too much back strain for me.
#5 Don’t fit a Round Baby into a Square Schedule
Or something like that…
The idea is make your day work around your baby or toddler’s needs, not the other way around. Don’t teach a Shakespeare lesson right before lunch when baby is getting cranky.
Try to help your baby or toddler have a routine, like scheduled nap and eating times, then work homeschooling around that.
My baby was most calm in the mornings, so I took advantage of that and we did lessons first thing. I’d often nurse him in the rocking chair, while I read aloud, answered questions, or listened to narrations.
#6 It’s a Family Thing
We don’t have to do everything ourselves. Not only can older kids do chores like feeding pets, cleaning, and making meals, they can help with baby. Older ones can take turns watching and playing with the baby while you work with another student.
This doesn’t mean the baby needs a personal entertainer all day, but when they need focused attention, enlist help.
#7 Choose Your Space
We homeschool at the kitchen table which is open to the living room. This way I can work in the kitchen and supervise the toddler playing all at once. Somedays more successfully than others. You can also set up a baby pen area for times when another child needs more focused attention.
In on the Action
Little ones want to be involved in what’s going on. I pull up a chair for my toddler at the “school table” next to his brother. He can color, paint, squish playdough, or do other activities during this time. The key is to have variety so they don’t get bored and fussy.
#8 Busy Boxes
Toddlers and preschoolers like having special activities. You can have “busy boxes” with toys and activities that are for school time only. It keeps the experience special so they look forward to this time and are more engaged and peaceful.
Here are independent toddler and preschool activity ideas.
#9 Take Care of Yourself
I feel thin, sort of stretched. Like butter scraped over too much bread.” – Bilbo Baggins from J.R.R. Tolkien
We can’t give our family our best when we’re worn out. Take some time for self-care. There will be stressful days. Recharging our batteries so we can cope with the stress is a must for a healthy mind and body. Here are some ways to pamper yourself.
Now is not the time to be involved in 3 homeschool co-ops, weekly swim meets, and dance lessons. A young baby or toddler takes a lot of physical and mental effort. When you feel like you’re ready, add these things back in.
#10 Call in the Cavalry
Once a week I have a mother’s helper come in. This gives me a little breathing room and takes some of the stress off my plate. Sometimes she watches the kids while I take a much needed nap or get some work done. Other times she cleans our house while I’m doing something with the kids.
This could be a young girl from a fellow homeschooling family, a college student, or a family friend with an empty nest.
Homeschooling with Little Ones
Homeschooling with little ones poses its challenges, but with targeted effort we don’t have to feel like we’re drowning.