Infant Care and Homeschooling

mother holding baby feet

Infant Care and Homeschooling
Author: Candi Summers
Published in: Home Educator Quarterly
Published on: Apr. 2, 2019
Updated on: Apr. 22, 2019

One year into homeschooling, I was so discouraged that I wasn’t sure how I could keep it up until all of my children graduated.

My husband and I were both homeschooled in the “dark ages” when homeschooling in Texas was illegal. Having lived through the battle to legalize home education in Texas, I was fiercely protective of my right to teach my children at home and so excited to get started.

We started in 2005: My daughter was four, my son was two, and I had just learned that I was pregnant with my third child.

My dreams were soon crushed as I tried to get my daughter (who we later learned was dyslexic) to conform to my expectations. Added to that was caring for my toddler and newborn.

I am here to level with you: there have been some ridiculous days in my homeschooling journey. There have been many sleepless nights followed by days spent in breastmilk-stained PJs. I am not one of those moms who is Instagram ready. I’m happy if I get out the door with everyone’s shoes most of the time. I have dealt with “mom guilt” and cried out to God for wisdom. So, if I can homeschool five children, you can do it, too!

Some seasons are smooth sailing. And then comes that sweet season of having a new baby in the house. The first days seem hallowed, but they soon give way to an often frustrating season of finding a new normal. But you find it … eventually.

Do you have a new baby that’s causing you to wonder if you can keep up this blessed calling? Here are my hard-earned secrets to incorporate caring for your new baby (by birth or adoption) into your homeschool.

You need to have a plan.

I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants kind of gal. I have always balked at schedules and plans, and I resisted them for years. I thought those things would shackle me to a boring routine. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my fifth baby that I finally made a real schedule for school and for our days. I was amazed at how much freedom followed.

The secret is that a plan actually relieves some of the pressure. I know you feel frazzled, distracted, tired and depleted much of the time, but having a structure will bring some peace to the chaos.

Before your baby comes, take an afternoon and put some solid schedules and plans in place. Get a notebook and write out a school plan for each child, their curriculum, and how the school year will be structured. Include some time off school when the baby first arrives, then a slow ramp-up back to full-time school.

Create a daily schedule that is loosely structured with minimum expectations. Maintain your plans by setting aside an hour each week to tweak them based on how each child is progressing. If part of the plan isn’t working, try something else.

Don’t sweat the small stuff—and keep in mind that a plan that goes off the tracks is often far better than no plan at all! The plan is here to serve you, not the other way around. Give yourself permission to have days where you don’t accomplish anything other than keeping the tiny humans alive!

As soon as your older children are able to help in any way, give them some responsibility.

Start with “gopher” jobs, then assign more and more difficult chores as your child grows.  Have your toddler bring you a diaper or help pick up toys. Use the gifts your children have been given to supplement your own hard work during this time when you are stretched. This enriches your children with life skills for the future and can build camaraderie between siblings.

Yes, sometimes a child will say, “But I didn’t make this mess, why should I clean it up?” To which I reply, “We all live here together, and it takes all of us working together to make our home function.”

Pair older children with younger ones.

Let them be special buddies. Let your older child read to, supervise schoolwork, or play with the younger child while you care for the baby. Planning which child is buddied up ahead of time will give you an easy out when you need backup. You can simply say, “Big buddy, I need your help!” Make sure you thank your older children and compliment the way they help.

Create the expectation that big kids help little kids and that they will be buddies for life. Teach your older children to change diapers, bathe, and rock the new baby, too. Get an extra Ergo or other carrier that they can wear. Every little bit of help counts when you’re trying to parent and teach multiple children.

Have school, chores, or quiet activities planned for your older children to do during the baby’s naptime.

Build these activities so that the moment you need to put the baby down for a nap, or the moment the baby falls asleep, you can say, “Quick, do your naptime activity!” Puzzles, studying spelling words, reading books, and worksheets make great naptime go-to activities.

Take advantage of the flexibility of homeschooling.

If you need rest or you are nursing, have your children take turns doing their work on your bed or on a chair by your bed. Let your older children rock the baby or play with the baby while you do a read-aloud or grade someone’s work.

There will be many days when your plans fall apart, no one is cooperative, and you don’t know how you’re going to make it. On those days, hit the reset button by gathering the children to do a read-aloud or going outside if the weather is nice. Change the atmosphere by changing the scene.

Think outside the box about instruction time. For a few months after my fifth child was born, my eight-year-old son did his schoolwork in the late evening while his older siblings got ready for bed (the bathroom was full anyway, and he was at his best late in the day.). It doesn’t matter when or where your children do their schoolwork, as long as they are doing it!

Set boundaries for yourself.

You cannot fill from an empty cup. Whether you add to your family via birth or adoption, it is a stressful thing. It is physically taxing for you as a mother, especially if you are breastfeeding.

It is wise to set some boundaries for yourself. I know this is impossible sometimes, but if you don’t build the framework, it will never happen. It is important for you not to overextend yourself. Your children will survive (even thrive) a season of spending more time at home with one another. If you have a child under one year old, limit big outings and put a rest day between activities outside the home.

Recognize that these moments won’t last forever.

No one will remember years from now how many worksheets your child did, but all of you will remember your precious baby’s first months with your family.

Look around the room at those other precious faces. They grow up quickly, don’t they?

Candi Summers is executive director of BESTWA, a ministry to children in extreme need in Liberia, West Africa. She lives in Arlington, Texas, with her five children and husband, Nathan. Candi has served on the advisory board of THSC since 2015. Homeschooled in Texas from 1980-1990, she now homeschools her own children.

This article is reprinted with permission of Texas Home School Coalition and the author. It originally appeared in HEQ. Visit THSC.org.

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