Does this sound familiar?
Your older kids are finally ready to learn … sitting with books or on the couch. You’ve got everything settled and your homeschool can actually get started.
AND … the baby starts to scream.
Or your toddler is pulling at the book and won’t let you read.
I totally get it! My youngest was just like that. And it was so frustrating.
But I figured out how to homeschool AND still give my youngest the attention he needed.
So today I’m going to share several ways that you can successfully homeschool with your baby or toddler.
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How to Balance Home and Homeschool
Hello, My name's ToriAnn Perkey, and from my homeschool to your homeschool, today I want to talk about a question I get asked a lot. How do you homeschool with a baby or a toddler? This is a really good question.
You know, I have four kids. And for a lot of years, while I was trying to homeschool my kids, there was a baby and a toddler - or a toddler - crawling on my legs, sitting on my lap, demanding attention while I was also trying to do school. And I'm here to tell you there are days when it is hard. But there are ways to make it easier. And so today that's what I want to talk about.
How do we do this? And I have five things that I want to cover. Five kind of general principles or ideas that you can try, some of which you may have heard before. And some of which may be you haven't. So let's get started.
Number one. You can do school during nap time. This is one that a lot of people talk about, and they recommend as kind of an easy way to get school done. Put the kid down for a nap. Put the baby down for the nap. Put the toddler down for a nap, until they stop napping, and then get out the math books.
So I think this has value, and I know it works for a lot of people, but I'm going to tell you a little secret. It never worked for me because when it was nap time, I needed a break. And I needed all my kids to take a break, not just the baby or the toddler. I was really tired. My brain was fried. So while this is a doable option, it might not be the best option if you find that nap time is when you get to reclaim a little bit of your mom brain so you could be sane for the rest of the day.
Okay, so the second thing that you can try that I have seen work is that you can create activities to keep them occupied, that you only bring out during school time. Whether this is puzzles or crafts or, you know, some kids actually like to do the schoolwork, and then the toddler will get out their own little paper and do the work sheet - their version of the worksheet. It is something that can work.
On the other hand, I will say that depending on the kid, this is a mixed bag. If you have a kid who delights in as much about making a mess as they do about doing the activity, it's probably not gonna work for you. Also, if you have a kid that bounces from activity activity about every 30 seconds, that toddler - that's not gonna work for you either. But if you have a toddler who will sit and engage in an activity, and you can be engaged in all those activities simultaneously, then it's something to consider.
The third thing that I want to talk about - that as an idea to try - is if you have older kids and younger kids, older kids and toddler baby - what you could do is you can rotate who is assigned to play with the toddler baby while you're homeschooling with another child. This works particularly well if you're doing a math assignment or you're working on reading - you know those type of homeschooling where you really do need that one on one time. And so you have another sibling assigned to be in charge of the baby or to be in charge of the toddler. And that can work if you can equally distribute the time. And as long as the older siblings are all kind of equally able to take care of the baby and toddler. I never had the luxury of that because my kids were so close together. But I have also heard that that works. Something to consider, something to consider.
Now, the fourth thing that I want to recommend - the fourth way that possibly you could balance this whole baby-toddler thing with the homeschooling - is to set some expectations for your toddler. This one kind of delves into the discipline area, and it can be a little ... I just I want to tread carefully because I totally understand that some kids are easier to discipline than others. I had some that were super easy, and I had some where you would have thought we didn't have any discipline in our house because of the way they behaved with discipline. So totally get that. But I also know that it is okay and appropriate to set boundaries about appropriate behavior.
Let me give you an example. When my youngest was a baby and a year old, he delighted in ruining reading time on the couch. I’d have my other kids. We'd have the book open. We'd all be reading. And he would come up, and he would pull on the book. Or he would pound on my legs. Or he'd pound on the book. Or he tried to climb on my lap. He was super disruptive because he wanted attention at a time when it was inappropriate. And he was not interested in sitting and doing anything else. He wanted my attention.
Well, I needed to set a boundary and tell him that wasn't okay. So for quite a long time - I want to say probably 4, 5 maybe even 6 months - he sat in a high chair in the same room, separated. And he was eating a snack while we read. He was … we could see the kitchen from the couch, and he would sit and eat, but he was contained. Now that worked for a while, but then he started to get loud, and he would make so much noise that being contained wasn't enough. So at that point during the 15-20 minutes that we read, he sat in his crib in his bedroom. It was not torture. It was not painful. And as soon as we were done, I would go and get him. And every day I would explain. I would explain to him that as soon as he could learn how to not be disruptive, he would be allowed to join us for this really fun time that we were having. And it took him a while, but he finally learned that it was more fun to be a part of the family than to be apart from the family.
So something to consider is to put boundaries and to build appropriate behavior training into this time. And if your kids do not let you homeschool to find ways for them to understand that … now I am not recommending, absolutely not, that you put a child in the crib for hours and hours and hours. I'm just not. That would not be appropriate. We're talking for short, contained periods of time where the kid can quickly - or maybe not so quickly in my son's case - learn what is not appropriate behavior.
Now the fifth thing that I want to talk about is kind of adjusting the way that you see your homeschool. A beautiful article that was written years ago about how the baby is the lesson. And when a baby is first born ... when a baby comes into the home, expecting that everything is going to be the same is like expecting that your life is not going to change because you just brought a new human into your house. It's just not gonna happen.
And so if you have a new baby, it is okay to take a break. It's okay to allow yourself to do a lot less. When my baby's came into our home, I would take a couple months off. We would do educational things, including watching educational videos. We would listen to books on tape ... books on tape and then CDs on tape and now audios I. But I was too tired to read, and I was too tired to do most of the fun things that I would plan at other times in our homeschool. I just couldn't do it. And so homeschool very much looked like “What does real life look like when Mom has a baby?” Which, frankly, I think is actually a really good thing to teach kids that life has a rhythm and things change. And sometimes we do a lot, and sometimes we do a little. So adjusting your expectations for your homeschool is also a really excellent way to try to do the baby-toddler thing.
All right, so I have just given you five different ways to handle the whole baby-toddler thing. While you're trying to homeschool babies and toddlers, they are just one of many ways that were trying to balance our home and our homeschool. I get that.
So if you're interested, I've actually written a small pdf book - super quick read - on other ways to balance home and homeschool so that you're not just homeschooling and letting the house fall apart. But you're not just focusing on the house and then letting your homeschool fall apart. It's of way to successfully do both. It's totally free, and I'm going to put a link either up above or down below this video, wherever you're watching it. If you're interested in grabbing that free book, go ahead and click the link, and it is yours.
I'm ToriAnn Perkey, and I make these videos every week so that you can be a successful and confident homeschool mom.