It’s been an interesting year at our house. I will be honest, I didn’t picture it being as stressful as it was. I had visions of a “perfect” little homeschool: the three girls at their desks, and Cam in various stages of age, alternating between happily playing and peacefully napping. There are several homeschooling families that I follow here on the blogosphere, who have many more children than I, and I thought, “If they can do it with
7 8 9 kids, then surely 4 will be a breeze.”
That vision has happened a few times, but for the most part, it has been the exact opposite.
That wisdom of utilizing nap time for doing the bulk of your school? Genius. But what happens when baby doesn’t nap? What happens when he does nap, but the only place he will nap is in your arms? What then?
Our family has been called to homeschool, but for those of you who feel during this season that public or private school is the better option, have at it. You have my full support! However, for those of you pressing on with homeschooling while having a baby, here are a few things I learned during the Year of the No-Napping Baby.
Tip #1: Have a plan. The girls have quite a few things (especially Abby Grace) that they can do on their own. By having a plan, if Cam does happen to nap, I know that I need to work on Reading, Writing, and Math with Reese while he is asleep. These are subjects that need my full attention, and with a plan, our baby-free time is much more efficient.
Most of my homeschool planning is done on Saturday, but the idea is to find a time that works for you and get your week figured out. I am a visual person, so advance planning helps me in another way: I’ve already seen what needs to be done this week, so when I glance at my planner during the week, I have that “recall” from my planning session, allowing me to quickly take care of the task at hand.
Tip #2: Include your baby in your classroom by wearing him or her. I am quite fond of babywearing my son, even though his 25+ lbs can take a toll after awhile. I really love having him close, and while wearing him and teaching isn’t as easy as it was when he was smaller, it is still possible. In fact, I have substituted for one of our CC tutors twice while wearing Cam. It isn’t as easy as tutoring without him, but he was happy to be next to me, and I was able to be present.
Tip #3: If you have an older infant or toddler, try blanket training. I had not heard of blanket training until last year at Classical Conversations, when one of the mothers had her 10-month-old very well-trained to stay on a blanket. Frankly, I was amazed; I had never seen a child that young be so well-behaved for so long. It does take some training (hence the name) and possibly quite a bit of effort if you have an older child, but it is definitely something to be considered. Now, I need to take my own advice and try it out!
Tip #4: Find work that can be done without your constant supervision. Obviously, teaching your child to read does not fall into this category. But many things do: journaling, mapping skills, handwriting practice, math facts (see below), and more. As long as your child is fairly proficient and knows what you expect in each area, independent work is a great way to get things accomplished and teach diligence to your child. We use independent work binders to keep this work separate from their other work. The girls can go to the proper day of the week and have all of that day’s work at the ready.
When they finish their work early, my girls will use this “extra” time to work on their CC memory work. Abby will grab the iPad and turn on their CC songs, or they will “teach” each other their memory work through games and repetition.
A math tool that is new to me are these Math Wrap-Ups. My friend Jen of Ohio Valley Homeschool mentioned them to me, and since we are struggling with learning our facts, I purchased the addition, subtraction, and multiplication ones. Because these are self-correcting, the girls can do these completely on their own. They are fantastic for use in the car, as well.
Tip #5: School in the evenings/weekends when Dad is home. I know, I know. Who in their right mind wants to homeschool on the weekends? And I realize that all parents may not be on board with homeschooling, so this won’t work for everyone. But if the parent who works outside the home (or from a home office, or wherever) is supportive of your homeschool, see if schooling while he/she is home to help is an option. Another idea that extends from this is to have that parent actually teach a few subjects. This not only gives the main teacher a break from teaching studies that may not be their favorites, but it lets the other parent be even more involved in his or her child’s education. It can be a wonderful, win-win situation that may continue even after this season of life is over.
Bonus Tip: Enlist the help of an older child. In the last few weeks, Abby Grace has begged to teach Meleah. At first, I was reluctant; isn’t it my job to teach my kids? After I finally let her give it a go, I realized there was something to letting her teach her sister. Meleah loves having Abby take an interest in her, and Abby loves being in charge. She also is a natural teacher. Both girls have thrived, and Abby has almost completely taken over Meleah’s instruction. I still supervise, help when needed, and go over any pertinent details, but for the most part, this is now Abby’s domain. I completely understand that this one might not be relevant to everyone; either your older children might not work well with your younger ones, or you don’t have children old enough to help!
And speaking of seasons… remember that this time is one, and this too, shall pass. Oh, yes I went there. I kind of hate it when people say, “It’s a season.” when they aren’t in the middle of it. The difference here is, I am in the middle of it, and repeating that over and over to myself actually has kept me from crying at times.
I know these suggestions won’t work for everyone. Believe me, I’ve read several “How to” or “You should” blog posts lately and finished them feeling deflated. I’ve been looking for advice everywhere, and I suppose my expectations for myself are a mite high. So, if you have finished this and thought, “What a waste of my time.” I get it. I really do. These are not infallible solutions. They are just a few things that have helped me
sort of effectively homeschool my girls and stay halfway sane. Well, maybe one-quarter sane. And maybe one of them will help someone. I also realize that my experience isn’t typical. While most babies do eventually find their napping rhythm (that is only interrupted by sickness, teething, and the like), mine has not. And you know what? It will be okay. We have made it this far, so there is no giving up now.