Babies and homeschooling; is it possible to mix both? Most people think a mom of 15 should know!
In fact, recently a dear mama sent me a question which inspired this entire post:
I was wondering if you could give me some advice and insight. Here’s what I’m in question about…
Our school year is coming to an end very shortly–as in we are finishing up formal curriculum that lasts about the 36 weeks of a typical school year. I am due with our 5th baby come September. It’s an odd time of year because this usually marks the beginning of the school year for us. I have been finding myself in a tizzy thinking about having a baby and then trying to start a new year of school. My question is this: do you think it would be wise for me to continue homeschooling through the summer? It’s not as if we ever completely stop doing any work; we always read, do math drills, enjoy nature, etc. but I am talking about the more formal type curriculum. I just need some perspective on what to do in the summer months. Is there something you have done to lighten your load, but yet keep your kids minds sharp? I am just so worried about balancing a new baby, new school year, and brains that might be dull from taking too much time off.
Any advice you could give me would be so appreciated! I absolutely love this blog and have grown so much as a Christian and as a mother because of reading it. Oh how I wish I could have a cup of coffee with you and pick your brain for hours! You have so many years (and children!) under your belt!
Now, I know the title of this post says, “15 Homeschool Hacks,” but really my entire experience boils down to one word:
Listen, I’m a chicken just like you. Without Jesus life looks like a huge, scary monster story. I don’t have it all thought out and processed. My husband and I did not sit down 34 years ago, gaze dreamily into each other’s eyes and say, “Darling, lets have 15 children and homeschool them all.”
Are you crazy? Were we crazy?
We didn’t have a clue, and we certainly didn’t have a plan. Most days I still don’t. But that’s the point, Dearies. God loves it when we trust Him.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
So, that’s where you start. You don’t try and micro-plan every aspect of your homeschooling life. It’s impossible. It’s frustrating. It’s downright NUTS!
Instead, you gear up and shoot from the hip, trusting that God will help you hit your target.
How do you gear up? By doing what Hebrews 11:6 says: you earnestly seek HIM, and then He will reward you with the desires of your heart (such as children who know how to read and write before they turn 30).
Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Along the way, as the Spirit leads, you can keep these ideas in mind:
1.Stack it up
While you are “nesting” and preparing your home for a new baby, why not use some of your energy to “nest” homeschooling? Get them ahead in the areas you are most concerned about. If one is behind in reading, concentrate on that. If one is behind in math, focus in and get them up-to-snuff. This way you can rest more easily during your “baby moon.”
Take all that you’ve been doing for homeschooling and rethink it: How much is fluff? How much is busy-work? Then cut out all but the essentials and formulate a new way of doing things based on that. You can add back some of the extras after you and your family adjust to having another little one around. For more on this, refer to my post, How to Solve Homeschooling Problems.
Stop thinking of how you aren’t doing enough. Concentrate on what you are doing right, and it will clear your mind so you can be more productive all around. Remember, pregnancy hormones can make things look a lot more serious than they actually are.
This is probably the best advice for moms during the child-bearing years. Remember, I had our 15 children in 25 years, and I had 12 of them while I was actively homeschooling. Since I was going year-round I could afford to miss a month during morning sickness and a few weeks just after the birth.
5.Don’t be afraid to start up right after the birth
Many times I would plan on taking a huge break after the baby was born, only to find out that our lives were actually better if I added that bit of structure. Of course, this depends on how well your body is recovering, but even a little bit of homeschooling helps. Why? because the other children are usually feeling a little insecure with the new baby in the house, and having some learning time with Mommy helps them settle down emotionally. This always helped cut down on the “acting out.”
6.Swing and sling
I haven’t ever had a baby that was happy by themselves. They were all pretty clingy/fussy as infants. This was a real problem during lesson time unless I put them either in a swing or wore them on me in a sling!
This is a great idea for those times when you are too ill to get off the couch (or even read a book), but you need to get rid of some of your mommy guilt. Here are some free sites that we have found pretty amazing:
- Khan Academy
- Teach Your Monster to Read
- ABC Mouse is one that you pay for, but it is very affordable. My daughter uses it with her children (she has four and is homeschooling). She demonstrated it to me when they were visiting and I was impressed.
8.Use nursing time
There is a few months’ window when an infant will actually rest quietly on your lap and nurse to sleep. This is when you can sit in a chair and read aloud to your children, have them share their schoolwork to you, or have them work quietly and bring their questions to you.
9. Give the kids a break and do research
One pregnancy I was so sick I could barely move, but somehow reading about homeschooling kept my mind off of how miserable I felt. The research I did then made me so much more confident and efficient that I didn’t mind taking the break at all.
10.Keep a basket
This is great for anytime, but especially for those times when your brain is fuzzed by pregnancy or extreme postpartum sleep deprivation. Having something physical to jot your memory keeps you on track. There are many times I am multi-tasking to such extremes that I can’t remember what we are supposed to be doing next (and I don’t have time to jot down notes or look up the ones I’ve already made). If I have a basket filled with the books and materials we are using, all I have to do is grab it and “do the next thing.”
This is essential if you are struggling with energy during your first trimester or pregnancy recovery. Keep your other children together doing the same thing at the same time. If one is coloring, they are all coloring. If one is playing with Lego’s, they are all playing. If one wants to play outside, they are all playing outside, and so-on. (For more on this, read this post.)
I think this is just about the best advice for homeschooling during morning sickness. I remember times when I tried to “power through” my first trimester only to fall on my face (almost literally). Finally, I was forced to sit with a hot water bottle on my sore belly and read a novel to my children. Not only did this help them in their learning, but it gave me an escape from my agony. Those times are now treasured family memories.
13. Use your pregnancy as a learning experience
If you’re like me, you’re already doing loads of research on the subject because you are so fixated. Why not bring the kids in on what you are learning? They are usually fascinated by the process. If you can explain human procreation and then add in how other creatures multiply you have a whole, huge unit of study that will cover loads of science, health, and, of course, ethics and Bible.
14. Use homeschooling to reinforce your love for your other kids
Tiny ones, especially, can feel pushed to the side by a new baby. Homeschooling gives you the excuse you need to spend quality one-on-one with them. Even if you are holding a tiny newborn in your arms, you can sit and have your toddler color a page as you watch, or look at a board book as you point to the pictures and talk about what they see. The older children need this special emotional encouragement, too.
15.Work around your baby’s rhythm
Every baby is so different. Some of my infants were night owls, some wanted to nurse and fall asleep at seven. Some slept most of the morning, others slept most of the afternoon. Instead of fighting against them, I decided to work around their innate habits. If they slept in the morning, that’s when we did concentrated lessons, and vice-versa.
What about the time around the birth itself?
Don’t even think about homeschooling; everyone will have enough to think about already! Just enjoy your special time and don’t sweat it. We were always able to recover from all of those joyful “interruptions.”
And there you have it; just about everything I think I might know on the subject.