Babies bring joy, delight, and fun to a family, but they also bring change and adjustments. I’ve shared about our homeschool daily rhythm in the past, but things have changed quite a bit since Huck joined our family in August. I try to balance giving him the attention that he needs while also maintaining the homeschooling routine that we were thriving in before he arrived. I am hesitant to share what I have been doing to make it all manageable because I am fully aware that every baby, mama, and home culture is different. What works for me may not work for you. I have decided to share, nonetheless, in case something that has helped us will give you new ideas try in your own home.
Before I share my tips and rhythm, I’ll describe our current family dynamics, so you can have an idea of our unique challenges and draw from the tips that are applicable to you. My baby is 9 months old and takes 2-3 naps around the same times each day (this took months of work and we are finally there just recently). He is pulling up and crawling and attempting to eat every tiny object he can get his hands on. Part of our routine includes me sitting down to breastfeed him 4-5 times a day.
My older son is 6 and we are somewhere between kindergarten and 1st grade in his work. He is very easily distracted and needs my full attention for at least a portion of school time or I lose him completely. My daughter is 4 and only attends Morning Time, and then she is free to play independently or stay near us and do crafts at the table. My husband works full-time out of the home from about 7:30am-5pm each weekday. I don’t have a maid or chef, so keeping my home in order while feeding all of these people must also be a part of my routine or things go downhill quickly.
Here are a few tips that have worked for us:
Schedule your day around baby’s naps
I work really hard to get my babies on a consistent nap routine after those newborn months. Once you have established a nap rhythm for your baby, you can schedule the rest of your daily tasks around it. Even if you don’t have a time set for naps, you can still plan to save certain tasks for the time slot when baby is napping. In an ideal world, we would be able to squeeze all of our schooling in while the baby is asleep. Since that isn’t always possible, I look at our schedule and decide which parts of school are the top priority to be distraction-free. For us, that is Morning Time and our handwriting lesson.
Have everything prepared before you put the baby down for their nap so you can utilize every minute of undistracted time with your older child. For us that means 15 minutes before his nap I have the kids clean up any messes in the main area of the house, clear the table where we do school, and get their snack and water. As soon as I lay the baby down I can jump right in to our lessons. You can see how this plays out in my detailed schedule below.
Plan to be home more
This has been key to maintain peace in this season of our lives. Before Huck arrived I counted on mornings for chores and school and afternoons for adventuring, errands, or playdates. Now, I have to spread out school activities and household tasks throughout the entire day, depending on when the baby is content or napping. I find that I lose control of my home and our schooling gets pushed to the back burner on the weeks that I plan too many outside activities. For now, since my son is so young, I am not too concerned with checking all the academic boxes each day. Play and being outside take priority at this age, but I can imagine as we enter more formal schooling that making the choice to stay home more will be the key to peaceful and productive days.
Train your older children to help
As much as I try to do our structured activities when the baby is napping, it doesn’t always pan out that way. If I am working with my son and the baby is awake, my four year-old knows how to keep him entertained and safe. While always in my eyes’ sight and a few steps away, I can count on her to occupy him for a short time while I wrap up a lesson. We teach our children that as a family, we all have a responsibility to help and serve one another. Sometimes that looks like getting a diaper for mama or watching out that the baby doesn’t eat something too small that was dropped on the floor. I try not to count on this for too long or too often as they are still so young and easily distracted from their task, but it can usually buy me a few minutes.
It has been trial and error for sure, and while no two days are the same, we have arrived (for now) in a rhythm that is working for us! Here is what a day typically looks like when we stay home:
Our Daily Rhythm
I wake up, enjoy some coffee and silence and spend time reading, praying, and preparing my heart for the day. The kids start waking up between 6:30-7 and I snuggle them and change and nurse the baby.
I make breakfast and pack my husband’s lunch. He is usually walking out the door around 7:30. During this time the kids and baby are playing in the living room which I can see from the kitchen. While everyone eats, I spend this time starting laundry, doing dishes, preparing any last minute things for school activities, and getting myself ready for the day. When the kids are done eating, they clear the table and play until I tell them it’s time for “quick tidy.” Sometimes I can do these things while the baby is in the highchair and other times I tote him around with me.
I call the kids together for “quick tidy” which simply means they need to get dressed and clean up the main living area and table from any messes they made during the morning. Then they get themselves a snack and water and go to the table for Morning Time. I keep homemade trail mix in the bottom of the cupboard and bowls and cups within their reach. This is always their morning time snack because it has lots of small pieces and keeps little hands busy while I read! Having the same snack every morning also eliminates requests and whining for something else. While they are getting set up for Morning Time I put the baby down for his nap.
Baby is napping! Sometimes we can fit all of our school activities in this time block and other days we only get through Morning Time and one other area before the baby wakes up. If you aren’t familiar with Morning Time, it is simply a time that everyone gathers to begin the day. For us it currently includes reading and discussing our devotional, practicing finding scriptures in the Bible and reading it, praying , singing a song or hymn, practicing our memory verse, reading some poetry, and reading a few picture books aloud. I also use this time to have my son practice his reading aloud to us. If we have finished all of that and the baby is still sleeping I will go ahead with handwriting lessons with my son. We are currently using Handwriting Without Tears and love it.
Once the baby is awake I change and feed him and the kids are off to play. They usually go play outside during this time until I call them in for lunch. We may take a picnic outside and continue playtime out there until it’s time for baby to take his second nap. Sometimes they spend this time inside playing or drawing and crafting at the table and I will work on some chores. Around 1:45pm I call them together to clean up any messes they’ve made during playtime or take a bath if messy, muddy play happened. If my daughter is still engrossed in play I will let her continue and only call my son in.
My son and I pick up where we left off in the morning, doing Handwriting lessons, our math lesson for the day, and any nature study or art project I have planned. This is also the time we have Read Aloud Tea time on some days, which is simply what it sounds like! A snack, some tea or juice, and I read our current chapter book aloud. My younger daughter can be as involved in all of this as she would like to be, but isn’t required to.
Baby wakes up and I feed, change, and play with him. The kids play outside again or free play inside until I allow them to watch a show around 4:30pm while I prepare dinner. They are currently enjoying Vooks, where they can watch animated books read aloud to them. I try to straighten up the house in this time as well.
My husband comes home and we all eat dinner together. If the baby had short naps throughout the day, he may nap again for 30-45 minutes during this time.
I usually take an evening walk with the entire family or just the baby after dinner. Then I come home and put the baby down at 7 or 7:30pm. Then I clean up from dinner and my husband puts the two older children to bed by 7:30 as well.
Rest! I spend the last two hours of my day showering, reading, spending time with my husband, blogging, or anything else I want. Before going to sleep I try to set myself up for success for the next day by tidying up the main living area and setting out anything I need for dinner prep and school activities.
Ideally, we would do all of our school in one time block each day, preferably mornings, but with a baby in tow I have to work with what undistracted time I have! I hope seeing our day detailed out is helpful to you. Now that I finally have a good routine going I am certain things will change because babies like to keep us on our toes! The goodness and sweetness of a new baby far certainly outweigh the challenges.