Recently, I had a rare moment in which my older kids were working diligently on their respective schoolwork without any badgering from me (!), my 2-year old and 4-year old were happily lost in a game of make-believe, and the baby was immersed in a toy for more than 7.5 seconds. It was one of those moments where I thought,”Whoa. I’M DOING THIS!!!” It was a truly spectacular feeling, and I’m happy to report that those days are happening more and more often. Rest assured, we still have spectacularly awful days. But I am here to tell you that THERE IS A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE BABY TUNNEL. To be fair, this year has been very difficult for reasons other than having a wee pwecious newborn (hello, moving 2,000 miles away from home), but I am emerging from the fog of survival to talk about homeschooling with littles, specifically newborns and toddlers. I am well aware that I am not the first mom to write about this, but hey, I had 5 kids in 6.5 years, so I’m qualified to contribute to this field. Deal with it.
First, let us discuss survival. When you are trying to teach Billy to read with a baby on your AHEM and there are other small, wild, lovable creatures roaming about, you need to remember one extremely important thing: Survival. Thriving will come soon enough, but right now, please hear me out on this, because I was way, way, wayyyy too hard on myself in those early years. Resist the urge to buy some huge, very expensive curriculum-in-a-box for your preschooler, especially if you are pregnant/nursing/dealing with other little ones. Seriously, all you need for those early years is lots of good books (the library is your friend!), a fun project or two per week (at the most), and tons of time outdoors. Say it with me: The outdoors is your friend…the outdoors is your friend…AND IT’S WORTH THE STRUGGLE. Are you going to flawlessly execute a highly detailed nature walk with a newborn snuggled against you in a baby carrier and your 2 and 4 year old trying to run into the street? No. No, you are not. But all they need at that age is a little walk around the neighborhood. Pick up some treasures. An acorn! A nifty rock! A stick! A pinecone! The possibilities are endless. Be okay with doing less. This was really hard for me in the beginning. I do not know how to not work insanely hard at something, so putting forth the effort of packing up half of the universe in order to enjoy the great outdoors for a few scant moments was extremely frustrating at first. But…I slowly began to relax a bit more, and I realized that that’s just how things were going to be for a while. And that’s OKAY, friends. If you are enormously pregnant, just play in the backyard, if possible. We were so blessed to have a fenced-in backyard, and during those very painful, final days of pregnancy, I would haul my large self to the backyard, plop down on the patio steps, and watch my babies play, chat with them, show delight in their little discoveries, and maybe do a little snack outside (think small bowl of pretzels and sippy cup of water- nothing fancy whatsoever). The key is to simplify and be okay with that.
Now let’s discuss schooling while nursing. Since this is obviously a non-negotiable, here are some ways you can manage:
-When it’s time to nurse, make sure your other children are safely contained. Baby gates up? Basement door closed? Doors locked? (my boys are insane. Don’t judge.) Once you’ve made sure the environment is safe (at least, as safe as it can be), then you can…
-Bring out some toys for the littles. You can change things up for variety, but don’t kill yourself over toy rotation. I am also The Worst at toy rotation. Then…
-Grab your books and get comfy on the couch with your school-age children and READ READ READ until the toddler breaks something you didn’t even know existed in your household. Seriously, though. Some of my most precious memories of those early years are reading to my boys on the couch while I was nursing the latest newborn. It really is an amazing time for bonding, too. The boys would stroke the baby’s sweet, fuzzy head and give little kisses while I would read. If you are trying to teach a child to read, take a few minutes while the baby sleeps to do some simple letter worksheets, but don’t feel like you need to go crazy. It’s the reading of good books that’s the really important thing at this time. The mechanics are important, but don’t underestimate the importance of developing a deep love for reading and books at this age. I want my kids to fully understand how books can be a lifelong companion. If they have a deep, true love of learning, they will be undaunted as they navigate their way through life, learning new things every step of the way.
Remember, dear mommas, there are so many ways to can be kind to yourself during this wonderfully exhausting time. Keep it simple. Use your crockpot. If all else fails, order a pizza. Do not feel for a second that you have to do it all, because you most certainly do not, especially in this challenging season of your life. And potty training while homeschooling? Hire someone else to do it. JUST KIDDING. Kind of. That’s a separate blog post for another day. Take heart! This season with littles can be brutal, but I promise you one million times over that it really does get easier, and you will miss the tiny newborn days when they are gone. You really will. In the meantime, gird your loins, get some rest, and make the best of your time with the littles.