How do you homeschool while pregnant or with a new baby?
Yep, I think I’m qualified to answer that one. In the last 10 years I’ve had 9 pregnancies with 6 beautiful babies here and 3 waiting in heaven. From the time Makayla was doing preschool at home (age 3.5) I have either been pregnant, had a baby, or done both every single year. I have posted on this topic several times before (including here, here, and here). Today I’m going to offer you my ideas as of this moment. One thing I have learned is that what works changes as the children change. Hopefully some of what I say will be helpful no matter where you are at in the process.
The most important thing to know is that it’s okay to stop all formal schooling and just read quality literature aloud to the kids. I promise it’s all right. I’ve had as much as 16 weeks of morning/all day sickness followed by weeks of heartburn, sciatic nerve pain, or simply exhaustion. Then there is the newborn time where the baby won’t sleep anywhere but in mommy’s arms and his favorite time to be awake is from 2:00am to 5:00am. Of course then the rest of the children start waking up for the day shortly after 6:00am.
If we will simply read good books to our children from a variety of genres and topics they will learn an amazing amount. Let them read to you, and to one another as well. Talk about what you read. Not only that, they will be learning the really important lessons like how to serve one another when mommy doesn’t feel good, or how to love on and help with that new baby who needs everything done for them.
Now, if you insist on doing some ‘official’ schoolwork then let me share a few more tips:
1. Combine everyone as much as possible. All my children learn the same history and science topic, with age appropriate books. All my children sit at the table together for table work like math, I simply go from child to child helping as needed. The younger children get seatbelted into booster seats at the table and play with math manipulatives, playdoh, books, crayons, or anything else that will keep them content for table time. We work on scripture memorization and learning hymns all together.
2. Consider the computer. Toward the end of this last pregnancy and just after Caleb’s birth my children all spent some time with computer based learning for a few weeks. From something as simple as the free Starfall.com for phonics to a math or typing program, they got some of their learning in without any work on my part. Several of my children tried out Time4Learning for a month. Makayla also really enjoys the Download N Go unit studies, which she can do completely independent of me, and she’s even used one to teach her younger brothers and sister before as well.
3. Use educational dvds. We do not have broadcast television, but we own quite the library of DVDs. On those days when I simply couldn’t stop throwing up long enough to teach, or was half asleep on the couch holding the baby, I would turn on a DVD such as Signing Time (learning American Sign Language), the Magic School Bus (lots of science topics), etc. We’ve just added the Speekee dvds to our collection for some Spanish learning fun.
4. Focus on the essential subjects. While you may enjoy teaching Latin, Lego Robotics, and Quilting to your children this is the time to drop all the extras and decide what are the essentials for your family. For us the number one priority in our school day is our gospel studies. If we read our scriptures, work on memorization, and learn our hymns and do NOTHING else it is still a good day. After that is finished we move to the next priority subject, which may be phonics for one child and math for another. Each family will have different priority subjects, and those may change depending on what needs some focused attention at the time.
5. Invest in a baby carrier. This is essential! Wearing your baby has tons of benefits, including a calmer, happier baby and two free hands for mom. My carrier of choice is the Moby Wrap. It is comfortable and fits your baby from newborn through about 35lbs. I can still fit Oliver who is almost 2 and Daniel who is 3 in my Moby Wrap, though neither one is interested in being carried for long anymore. Moby Wraps are available online at Amazon and Target, among other places. With any baby carrier there is a learning curve. Persevere! If you have a resistant baby who fusses at being put in the wrap start with 5 minutes every morning and afternoon. Soon they will relax as they find out how wonderful it is snuggled up next to mommy. And you will be able to get so much more done once they do!
I promise you that you can indeed homeschool while in the throes of morning sickness, on bedrest, or during those sleep-deprived first weeks and months after a baby is born. It is not always easy to give ourselves permission to relax and trust that the real life lessons are just as important as the academic ones. Children are blessings and babies don’t stay little for long. Look for the joy in each moment surrounded by little fingers and toes, dirty diapers and runny noses.
Be sure to read the other responses to this question on Tuesday here.
Until then you’re welcome to leave me a comment with your ideas for how to homeschool while pregnant or with a new baby, or you can even ask me those questions that you really want to know my answers to!