Help! We’re having a baby! How do I homeschool the toddler/older child(ren)?

Candice, dito ko na ia-address ‘yung concerns mo ha, so it can hopefully bless others as well. I was working on a blog post but it got too convoluted. I figured having a specific audience will help me get my thoughts out better :P

How to homeschool an older child (or children) when you also have a toddler and a new baby: Set priorities.

#1 Priority. The Baby. Which therefore means, YOU, the mom. You need to be getting sleep (with the understanding that moms don’t get a lot, but get as much as you can). Things that can help:

- Is dad going to be able to take off work? If he is, take advantage of that, and GET SLEEP. Cleaning the house, etc. can wait. Dad will need sleep too. Napping with baby on his chest? Awesome. That’s why all our kids are close to dad. :)
- If laundry needs doing, one load a day. Have older child help with sorting/folding. Good activity to do when baby’s napping.

#2 Priority. Food. Before baby is born, prepare freezer meals, at least a couple of weeks’ worth, so that all dad or older child(ren) will have to do is heat up food. Don’t stress it though. If you have to resort to freezer-to-microwave meals from the store, or Chinese, or fast food, or pizza delivery, okey lang. You’re not going to keel over and die from fast food (not right away anyway ;) ).

#3 Priority. Homeschooling. I put this here kasi I know that’s your biggest worry, but I wanted to illustrate na it really should be last after the above are taken care of. Because homeschooling is LIFE. Our children will learn far more from LIVING life with a new baby than from any other formal lesson they’ll have about reading or math or science.

- Children will learn that sometimes you just need to go with the flow. A baby, esp. the first few weeks of life, dictates the schedule. Build the rest of your day around the baby. When the baby naps, go nap with the older kids too. At the very least cuddle on the couch and read favorite books. Or older child reads to toddler. Work out things so you all have DOWN TIME or QUIET TIME once or twice a day. Put on some classical music or an audiobook for the older child to listen to. THIS WILL BE YOUR LITERATURE AND MUSIC LESSON.

- There will be many areas of concern, but I want to address the 3 basics — food, clothing, shelter. Past the first couple of weeks, when life starts to normalize a bit more, get older child to help you cook. Simple meals lang, or assembly type food items. THIS WILL BE YOUR READING, MATH AND SCIENCE LESSON. Learning to follow a recipe is an important life skill and it will carry on to other skills. :) Loading a dishwasher is also a lesson in Math/Geometry. Math worksheets (Singapore Math make them really colorful and fun) are great if you just want to make sure she’s practicing her computation skills.

- Sorting clothes can be a lesson for the toddler. MATH SKILL ITO. Sort clothes into piles (Dad, Mom, Ate, Me, Baby), Ate or mom folds.

- Turn cleaning into a game. Sing songs like “Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share”, etc. Or set a timer. “Let’s see how much clutter we can put away in five minutes!! Go!”

- Live the liturgical year. Morning prayer, grace at meals, night prayer. Read a saint’s bio a day, talk about that saint’s life, what he/she did to become a saint. There’s your RELIGION LESSON.

- Encourage your older child to keep a journal. This will take care of WRITING AND NARRATION SKILLS. If a child is not particularly fond of HANDwriting, require only a few sentences (depending on age and maturity). The rest can be done via computer, either the child keyboarding herself/himself, or record audio/video narrations.

- STOP worrying about the AMOUNT of learning that’s going on, or covering a certain number of chapters per week. Much of learning isn’t measurable anyway. Just make sure you surround them with TRUE, GOOD, BEAUTIFUL. Strew good books around, on a variety of subjects. The child will pick up those books because THEY’RE ACCESSIBLE. Hang fine artwork around the house, kahit postcards lang. OR, set up your screensaver to rotate artwork. You can do Matisse for a week, Monet for the next, etc.

- Get out as much as you can, every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day. You’ll need fresh air and sun kasi, and exercise. While you’re out, take note of things like the sky, trees around you, rocks, etc. RELIGION AND SCIENCE LESSON right there. If/when you can go out to a park or a nature trail, take a field guide or two with you, so you can identify trees, leaves, birds, etc.

- Grocery shopping = MATH LESSON. Also HEALTH — Why do we buy this item vs. that. Why this vegetable/fruit is good for you. Where do we get protein and why do we need it? etc.

- If you can, WEAR BABY. This will do wonders in keeping him/her happy and you being able to do stuff around the house and making yourself available to the other kids.

- The baby becomes the lesson :) Borrow children’s books from the library on human development. One book I would recommend — Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman. (I can list more recommendations if you like.) Great time to talk about biology. TOB! ;)

- Let older child help out as much as he/she can. This will help dissipate any feelings of envy and give her a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

- Do make sure that when Dad’s home and taking care of baby, that toddler and older child get LOTS of hug time, better kung individually. What we’ve also done in the past is sometimes have Mom, older child and baby in the family bed, and dad and toddler in another bed. (These are just suggestions; I will not further address co-sleeping because every family is different naman.)

What’s most daunting, I think for most moms with toddlers, is keeping the toddler occupied. Rotate toys/manipulatives to keep them interesting. Duplo, wooden blocks, pattern blocks, large puzzles, playdough (make these before baby comes), finger paints (outside so you don’t have to worry about cleanup), etc. If summer, a sandbox + diff. size cups, and water box outside will keep toddler occupied for hours. Even just a plastic container with a lid will do, you don’t have to get a real sandbox. Also, GOOD VIDEOS (i.e., Veggie Tales or educational ones) — don’t worry about having to resort to these if you need your nap. It’s not going to be forever. :)

Educational videos for the older child/children too ARE OKAY. There are so many available, you won’t run out! So it’s not ideal. So what. You’re also teaching FLEXIBILITY.

More than anything, just RELAX. When our kids see us taking life one day at a time, not majoring in the minors, not stressing over the petty things, THAT’S a valuable lesson. It teaches them how to trust and live in God’s grace and His perfect time. You can do this, Sis :)

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