Ah, yes...homeschool and babies mixed together. Fun times! It definitely makes things a bit more challenging, and, for us, it draws out the school day. Sometimes we don’t finish up until 5:30pm or so. That is one of the beauties of home schooling though – you get to determine what, when, where, how much, and even “if”. I don’t know how easily you adapt to new circumstances, but you might want to prepare yourself for some changes in your school routine and possibly in your ideas of what home schooling should look like. Personally, I’m not a very good adapter (Hubby has helped me SO much in this area), so it helps me to know about the possibility of changes to come so that I can consider them and prepare myself to handle them well. You might be one of those (wonderful) people who can go with the flow, handle come what may, etc. If so, it’s me who needs the tips from you! Okay...here are some of the things that we do, things that we don’t do, and some of the things that I’ve learned (am still learning):
1. Have some subjects that John Isaac can work on independently. Keep them in reserve for the time of day that you know Caroline is needy/clingy/fussy/etc. Examples of this are: assigned reading (2 chapters or so in whatever book you have him reading through), certain Math skills (add./sub./mult./div. tables on charts, or review worksheets), art project, copywork (we do Bible passages), work on Scripture memory – basically anything that he can work on alone.) Sometimes I can do this with the whole Math lesson. If the lesson isn’t introducing anything new or complex that needs my instruction, I will simply write out a 1-2-3 list on a white board of what things need to be done in Math that day: 1. Times tables 3-8; 2. Speed Drill #92; 3. Worksheet #92. I have their workbooks set out so that there is no need for “where’s my such-and-such” questions.)
2. Do some of your subjects/lessons on baby’s level. Read your History lessons/books on the couch so that she can climb up next to you. Or on the floor so that she can have her toys strews about and be part of what you are doing. You can interact with her here and there as you read. Have John Isaac read certain passages of books aloud and take that time to give a little extra attention to Caroline. I let my baby sit on my lap or lay on my legs as I read. She is just happy to be where I am.
3. Be flexible and willing to postpone certain things if it just isn’t working. There have been times when we’ve been halfway through a chapter in a read-aloud, in the middle of a lesson, or doing Math flashcards and I’ve had to say, “Okay, guys, we’re just going to take a break here and I’ll call you when it’s time to start up again”. (Big cheers when this happens during Math J). There is nothing more frustrating than trying to read or teach over a baby’s fussing, calling, etc.
4. Having said that though... my baby is having to learn to “be quiet” when Mommy is reading or talking to the big kids. She is learning the words “wait” and “patient”, and she is learning to sometimes do her own activity while we are working on something. She is learning (slowly) that the world doesn’t revolve around her. There is a balance (between tips #3 and 4), and you have to determine what is best for you guys.
5. I don’t try to squeeze school between 9:00 and 12:00 (or whatever time frame). If I try to go from subject to subject without stopping to play with Caroline or snuggle with her, it just doesn’t work. Like I mentioned above, sometimes we don’t finish school until 5:30 or so. And we generally start around 9:00 or 9:30. There are some huge breaks in there. It has turned out to be really healthy for all of us. Of course, we live in a very different culture here in Africa. The US is very time-oriented and having a loose schedule like that might not work. But just keep in mind that it’s “okay” to have a spelling test at 4:30pm. Against such things there is no law :)
6. Something that I’m learning: Baby’s naptime isn’t necessarily the best time to “cram” with school. “Quick! She’s sleeping! Everybody to their desk! Get your pencil out!!!” Sometimes I need that quiet time to just relax, take a little nap myself, read, write an e-mail to my mom (therapy :), talk with Hubby (if he’s around). And really, the big kids sometimes need some play/craft time when Baby isn’t poking her nose in. She is so interested in everything and she wants to get involved in whatever they are doing. Very sweet, and yes, the kids need to learn to include her. But my son also needs some time to create with his Legos without having to worry about Baby sneaking off with his latest masterpiece. Or my daughter needs to be able to spread her paints on the floor and relax and be creative (not have to keep her paints up on the table!). So, sometimes naptime is also “break-time” for the rest of us.
Okay, hopefully that will give you some ideas. Baby just brought me a hymnal and dropped it in my lap and said, “Songs”, so I think that it’s time to sing!
PS – Oh, I almost forgot the thing that I don’t do: I’ve read about (and it’s been suggested to me) putting your baby in their playpen/pack & play for alone time (in their room). They say, start at 10 minutes or so, then slowly work up to an hour, or whatever. Some might find this an ideal time to get home schooling done. I just have never felt comfortable with doing that. It seems more like a punishment to me and it doesn’t seem natural. Members of a family are meant to interact and be together, in all of life. School and learning are a natural part of life (and of home schooling families) and it seems almost cruel to exclude little ones from being part of it. Okay, enough said!
What other tips have worked for your family?