All large families are different, but there’s one thing we tend to have in common. We expand our family, and we do it often! It occurred to me the other day that 2014 was the only full calendar year that I wasn’t pregnant at all since 2009, and I was nursing that year. So I’ve been pregnant or nursing almost constantly for eight years. Thankfully, that’s given me plenty of practice managing real life with having babies, and it’s brought forth these tips on homeschooling while expanding your family!
Homeschooling While Expanding Your Family
So when I talk about expanding your family, I include pregnancy, the newborn stage, and the dreaded mobile stage. Your homeschool will look very different depending on each stage that you’re in, but through it all you are going to have to have some grace for yourself and your (growing) family!
Homeschooling During Pregnancy
Some women coast through pregnancy without a care in the world besides painting the nursery. I’m not one of those women. I have preemies. I have been put on bed rest. I deal with tons of morning sickness, extreme anemia, plus all the normal pregnancy aches and pains.
Our homeschool motto during pregnancy is “survive”. This year I’m pregnant with Sweet C (our fifth) and the first two months I lived on the couch. I had extreme morning sickness and had an unbelievable migraine all day every day. Mr. C did a lot of independent schooling while I checked over his work from the couch. Almost all questions were directed to dad. And really, we skipped more than a few days because I just couldn’t sum up the energy to get school work together.
Later in pregnancy when you get your swing of energy, you can power through extra school work so that you have extra time in the third trimester when just getting out of bed seems to take too much energy. My third trimesters get a bit chaotic what with the preemies and the general “I’ve been pregnant forever and ever” feeling, so we try to take it easy in the third trimester as well.
One of the best things we ever did when homeschooling and pregnant is to work our school year around pregnancy. If we know I’ll be having a baby in the school year, we tend to start as early as possible in August to stock up some extra days we can take off. We have also homeschooled further into July one year because we knew my pregnancy would throw us off track.
Homeschooling With a Newborn
Before I even begin this session, let me just say that all newborns are completely different. Cap’n M was super content to just hang out in a wrap and snuggle while I got everything done. He napped almost all day and still slept all night. Miss S? Not so much. She hated carriers. She wanted her swing or to be held. She had to be held upright so that she could see the world. Who knows how Sweet C will be, so I’ll give my best tips but please know that when you have a newborn you’re just doing everything you can!
Okay, with all that said, my first advice is to not rush back into schooling before you have to. Some states have stricter regulations regarding hours and days complete in a school year, which is one of the reasons we stock-pile extra time during pregnancy, but if at all possible schedule a significant break when you have a baby. You need time to recover and find a “new normal” with your family.
After a few weeks when your days start to fall into a sort of rhythm, start slowly adding homeschooling back in. I’d approach this just like you approach the start of a brand new school year. Start with simple activities and take your time working up to your full homeschool schedule.
Feel free to change up your typical homeschool routine to fit your newborn’s schedule. Maybe you get lessons done mid-morning while the baby snoozes in the swing, even if it means your kids get tv time before starting school. Maybe you wait for some school stuff until evening when your husband gets home and can take the baby. Whatever works in this season is fair game!
Homeschooling When Baby Gets Mobile
Once your baby is mobile, homeschooling becomes a whole ‘nother ball game. Newborns can be put in a baby swing or a carrier, and they nap a ton. Mobile babies? They get into everything. You can’t just lay them down because before you know it they’ve rolled off their blanket and are eating something that might have been food at one point…
So how do you homeschool with a mobile baby? Some moms swear by playpens. You know exactly where the baby is, and they have a bit of freedom to move around and play with their toys. Other moms luck out with a baby that still enjoys snuggling in a wrap. We had awesome luck with a bouncer like this one. (Yes, I know it’s controversial to put your babies in things, but sometimes mama’s gotta do what mama’s gotta do!)
One simple way to balance schooling and a mobile baby is to have each kid take a “shift” entertaining the baby. Of course, you’re still there, but one kiddo is in charge of making sure the baby doesn’t get anything they’re not supposed to.
You can also set your baby up with activities once they’re old enough to sit up. Sitting in their high chair with a few toys can make them feel “included” in lessons enough to not completely derail your homeschool day!
When all else fails? Homeschool during nap time. Or once your husband’s home to help!
Having Patience With Yourself and Your Family
One of the most important things to keep in mind is to have patience with yourself and with your family. Adding a new baby to a family is a big change for everyone involved, and it’s a time full of adjusting. One of your kids is being bumped from their “baby” status. Your husband is adjusting to another new baby taking even more of your time. Your older kids take on a little more responsibility to help out. You’re feeding a baby what seems like every ten minutes and your body just went through a marathon.
What does all of that add up to? Patience. Your kids will have tantrums and meltdowns. You’ll struggle to find time for a parent date night. You’ll get asked annoying questions about breastfeeding, and you will struggle to keep your patience. Understand that this is just a season and make the best of it. If you’re anything like me, it’s a season you’ll return to just about every other year, so learn simple ways to make it easier and embrace the chaos!
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