Beginning homeschooling can be both challenging and exhilarating. But beginning homeschooling with an infant or toddler in tow can quickly move from exhilarating to overwhelming. I chatted with some veteran homeschool moms yesterday, and they shared with me some tips that helped them homeschool multiple children while maintaining their sanity!
Make the baby/family the lesson. School-ish, academic learning is not necessarily the highest priority at this time, and especially for an early elementary student, it is totally appropriate to focus on “core” lessons like: right and wrong, good and bad, true and false, relationships, family routines and responsibilities, accountability, and the value and love of work. (Read more about the Core phase HERE.)
Don’t expect homeschool to look like traditional school. A lot of learning can happen outside of workbooks and textbooks. Board games are a great learning tool (dice games are terrific for learning addition facts), and audio books can be enjoyed while at home or in the car (look for books on CD at the library or consider a subscription to Audible). Students can work independently in dot-to-dot books, maze books, and topic specific coloring books.
Prioritize tasks to accomplish during nap time or when dad gets home. Some days laundry might have a higher priority than handwriting practice; that’s just the nature of things. However, if there is a subject that you really feel needs to be covered one-on-one with your student, try to set aside a block of time (20-30 minutes?) during nap time or when dad is having some one-on-one time with the baby. One mom I know scheduled “night school” with her older children — structured study time a couple evenings a week after her husband got home.
It does not take 12 years of structured learning to prepare a child for career/college, so relax. I learned this mantra from a park day mom, who also happened to be a certified teacher, and I think she’s right. This is the reason that homeschool need not look like traditional school. The rush to acquire basic skills to maximize standardized test scores does not apply to independent homeschoolers, so math, grammar, and history do not need to be taught every day. Colleges have traditionally offered classes on alternating days, and many middle and high schools are turning to the same schedule. In a homeschool routine, alternating topics of study can allow time for ideas to sink in and for connections to be made between topics.
Ultimately, the most important tip for the stressed homeschool mom is RELAX. Enjoy this family time, learning to work together as a family and developing a culture of learning at home. Make frequent trips to the library and keep an ample supply of readers and read alouds available; play games and watch educational videos together, for fun AND learning; involve the older siblings in REAL work around the house, not make-work (kids know and feel the difference, believe me!). If you are using a curriculum like Five in a Row or Story of the World, pursue a very relaxed approach to it and have fun.
But don’t just take my word for it. Check out some of these links for more ideas on homeschooling with little ones around.
Quik Start Homeschool
Five In A Row Forums
Alpha Omega Publications