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Many homeschoolers have more than one child, so most of them will run into the issue of juggling babies, toddlers, and teaching at some point. During the 2020-2021 school year, I had a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and a baby.
First, relax. Consider how old your homeschooled children are. When we were in the season of a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby, my oldest child was 4 years old. If we hadn’t gotten to everything I had planned for his K4 year, it would’ve been okay, because he would’ve had a lot of time to cover things again. If he had been in high school, I would’ve been far more concerned with keeping him perfectly On Schedule.
If you anticipate adding to your family several times during your homeschooling years, you may want to consider year-round homeschooling. Then you can take your “summer break” whenever the addition of a new baby requires it.
Two of my three children had colic, so I was mentally prepared to take 3 months off school for colic. Then my third child was…happy. So be prepared to flex. You never know what might happen!
Second, take advantage of the natural flow of your day. Try to build routines, even if they are composed of small things. A toddler can learn to put his dirty clothes in the laundry hamper, with appropriate training and reminders. A preschooler can learn to put his dirty dish by the sink after a meal. Teaching basic life skills will pay great dividends later.
Most babies and toddlers are happier at certain times of day than they are at others. Embrace the natural rhythm. If everyone in your home loses their mind at 4:00 pm every day, plan to focus only on parenting at that time. Do not try to be “productive” during a time that is consistently wild. You will only frustrate yourself and your children.
Third, don’t sweat the small stuff. There will be spills. Things will break. There will be days when all you do is put out metaphorical fires. (Hopefully there will be no literal fires). Babies will go through teething, and toddlers will need to be potty trained. All of those things are normal and expected for a household with small children. You are not failing. Let me emphasize this again: you are not failing.
Fourth, consider nap schooling. Depending on your family dynamics, you may find it impossible to do any sort of teaching with the littles underfoot. There is nothing wrong with waiting until the afternoon and doing school with your older child while the younger children are sleeping. In fact, doing so may prevent some gray hairs.
Fifth, try to read aloud during meals. I wake up before my boys and have some time with just the baby each morning. I take care of feeding the baby and myself then. Later, while my boys eat breakfast, I read aloud to them. During a meal, they are sitting in one place and their mouths are occupied, which makes them a captive audience for listening to the Bible or another read aloud.
Sixth, have fun! Even though our school year was chaotic at times, we also had fun and made memories. Our first year of homeschooling will always have a cherished place in my heart.