How Can I Homeschool With Babies & Toddlers?

My first year homeschooling was with  with babies and toddlers. The picture you see here was taken on a family trip to the Australian War Memorial. It’s a few months after my fourth child was born. My oldest was 7.

A few years back, I received the below email from a mum wanting to homeschool but worried it would be too hard when homeschooling with babies and toddlers.

I’m a mother of 3 (4 in a couple of months!) girls that I am passionately wanting to homeschool. I actually began last year with my eldest daughter (now 6), but found it very difficult to fall into enough of a routine to get work done. Juggling the younger two at the same time, and trying to keep my daughter motivated among the clutter of daily life in a small house of young children I became discouraged and dilapidated. I ended up enrolling my daughter at the beginning of the year in a small private Christian school, but still don’t feel content with the decision.

I’m a very creative person with creative children and can see that the school’s system is not supporting my daughter that way. I’m feeling like the right thing to do is to try homeschooling again, but am unsure as to how I can manage it this time. It seems that the minute I provide an activity to occupy the younger children, my daughter becomes unmotivated to do her schoolwork and wants to join in with her sisters. Without age appropriate stimulus, though, it isn’t long before her behaviour breaks down and she’s teasing and provoking her younger sisters.

Part of our problem is a small living space, and school stuff has to be packed onto a shelf beside the dining table, where the formal sit-down school work takes place.

I guess I need some pointers from somebody who has juggled different aged children. I am desperate to know how to get it to work! My second eldest will be ready to start kindy next year, which may help because they can do their work together, but then I will also have a 6 month and three year old to look after as well…

Letter to me from a frazzled mum

Yes!  It Is Difficult

I have heard this similar scenario from mothers wanting to do homeschooling with babies and toddlers. And let me say outright—it is difficult! Everyone talks about all the glories of homeschool and how to actually get it done but in the early years it does take a great deal of effort to make it happen. 

But This Will Make Homeschooling With Babies And Toddlers Easier

    I have seen so many new homeschooling mothers beat themselves over the head for not doing “enough school work”. Really you do not need to more than one hour per day when they are 5 and 6. This can be simple math and learning to read. The rest of the day can be family oriented activities, reading books as a family and conversational learning.
    It is a transition to start school and I found that I needed to reduce my other commitments in order to homeschool. That may mean not attending morning Bible studies or giving up activities that are not working for all the kids. Plan to be home so that you can establish a good routine.
    Work out what you want to achieve daily in school lessons with your child and put all the resources in that box. Be realistic. If you have some writing activity and a little bit of a math game put it all there.
    When you are homeschooling with babies and toddlers interruptions happen. If you only manage sit down academic work three or four days a week, that’s OK till they are around 8 (or longer). I only did sit down lessons  three-four days per week for ten years. I left one day per week as my day off to socialize and or do some errands.
    By this I mean something that is going to work for your family. If you choose a curriculum that requires the child to be isolated and work alone you will probably find they feel lonely and won’t work. We used to use a school room and we have tried working in their room but for us the kitchen table works best. Everyone is about and we all work together. If your chosen curriculum requires you to give undivided attention to one child with no interruptions,  it’s bound to fail, for with little ones there are always distractions. I have ditched curriculum because I couldn’t ban the kids to the other room. Reading aloud (and curriculums based around homeschooling with books) are very family friendly as everyone in the family can be included. I have read many books with a boomerang pillow around my waist breastfeeding a baby.
    Train your friends and family to give you some time out in the morning.
    I slept in the afternoon for the first few years of homeschooling. When the baby went for a nap, I went for a nap also. Don’t use this time as a time to rush around and do things. All the kids were trained to have an afternoon rest time. It was not a TV time but rather a time in their rooms with books or Lego. They were not allowed out for at least half an hour. If they came out then they had to play quietly for a time. I usually was dead to the world as soon as my head hit the pillow. It was a big sanity saver for me.
    In the early days although we were on a tight budget we had a cleaner. We had a very small home and it didn’t take her long to clean the bathroom, wash the floors and do the ironing. Not having to worry about that job was one huge burden off my back. I also used the drier whenever I needed to and washed in big batches so that I had a few wash free days. Get the older kids to do chores.
    This works for a while (until the family gets too big). I would also plan for two quiches, double Beef Stroganoff, big lasagne and extra Spaghetti Bolognese. There was a book I used called Once A Month Cooking that helped me get some good recipes to make this happen.
    Help your kids form good habits. Teach them how to tidy, hang washing on the line, unpack the dishwasher, put their clothes away, clear the table, make breakfast and make lunch. The more they can do for themselves the less you have to do for them. Please, please, please take the view that this is a journey. That they will grow older and if you take the time now training in the little things, of good behaviour and good habits, the days will run smoother as time goes by.

One Final Observation

  • Mummy is the most popular person around. Everyone including daddy wants her full attention.
  • Mummy feels torn every which way.
  • The little ones work out ways to ensure mummy stays around; they cuddle, they chat, they fight, they whinge, they cling, they cry.

When Mummy gives attention to one child exclusively this often makes the other children jealous.
We often interpret this jealousy as us failing to meet our child’s need (and sometimes it may well be ) BUT often we need to teach our sweet little toddler not to be selfish and help them understand that it’s not all about them. This takes some time with immature little souls.

There were many times in my homeschooling journey when I wondered should I homeschool? But we kept going. Here’s a sneak peak into a Monday homeschooling with teens.

They Grow Up

All my children are now adults. I survived and they are all well educated. You can read my reflections on finishing the journey. 

Homeschool outcomes
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