Homeschooling with Baby in Tow (and our updated Daily Rhythm)

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.

Processed with VSCO with s2 presetBefore 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:

Processed with VSCO with a2 presetSchedule 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.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetPlan 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.

Processed with VSCO with  presetTrain 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

5:30-7am

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.

7-8:45am

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.

8:45-9am

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.

9-10/ 10:30am

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.

10:30- 2pm

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.

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset2-3:30pm

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.

3:30-5pm

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.

5-6pm

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.

6-7:30pm

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.

7:30-9:30pm

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.

Our Homeschool Preschool Daily Rhythm (updated)

Recently, I took a step back from schooling and took some time to read, pray about, and discover more of what I believe is important in these early years. Out of my discoveries I felt the need to shift some of our routines, taking things out and adding new things into our daily rhythm. I derived most of these changes from things I learned studying Charlotte Mason’s philosophies. In a nutshell, I felt we needed more margin in our days for outdoor time, a heavier emphasis on habit training, and more spiritual truth being taught in a natural way. I was thrilled to walk away from all of this research to find that the current curriculum I have been using, The Peaceful Preschool, lines up very well with the direction I hope to continue to go in home educating.

I am a huge believer that every family dynamic is unique and that each family has to discover what works for their household as a whole. A family’s rhythm with infants or older children will look different than a family with only preschoolers in the house. I also have experienced that nothing is set in stone. There is always room for shifting as your family’s needs and interests change. So I share our current daily rhythm only as a starting point to get you thinking about what would work best in your home. I am strongly passionate about giving children structure, as well as room to explore and play with no strings attached. We say “no” a lot and have zero regrets about that.

I wanted to share with you our entire weekday schedule, not just the school part because I want you to see it in light of the big picture. This is our Monday-Friday schedule, as weekends usually start the same with breakfast and morning chores and then take on a life of their own with outings and family time.

Here is a look into our daily rhythm. Scroll down to read each section in more detail.

7 – 8:30am Morning Routine

8:30 – 9am Morning Chores

9 – 9:45am Together Time

9:45 – 11am Table Time

11am – 1pm Outing / Outdoor Play

1 – 3:30pm Lunch / Rest Time

3:30 – 5pm Free Play / Poetry Tea Time

5 – 7:30pm Dinner / Nighttime Routine

7:30pm Children’s Bed Time

Now I will go into detail about each segment of our day.

MORNING ROUTINE

I am usually up by 6am to have some time in silence with my coffee and Bible before the day gets crazy. Between 7-7:30am the children are usually awake and hungry! They immediately jump in to help me make breakfast. When they are finished eating they clear their dishes and are free to play until I call them back for Morning Chores. During this time I start a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher and load it from breakfast, and get dressed.

MORNING CHORES

On our big chalkboard in the main area of the house, I write a short list of chores for the morning that we will all do together. “Get Dressed” is the only one that is always there. I add in different ones each day according to what needs to be done or a skill I want them to learn. Some other examples are wash windows, feed the pet fish, and sort laundry. All of these chores are done together at this point. We check off each chore and celebrate as they are accomplished.

TOGETHER TIME

If you are familiar with Charlotte Mason, you have probably heard of having a “Morning Basket”. This is that morning basket time for us. We gather in the living room on the floor or outside on the porch if the weather is lovely. We start with prayer, inviting God to come into our day and to open our minds to learn and understand. We thank Him for anything that comes to mind and pray for any needs going on around us. Then we sing a few songs from our music class, some nursery rhymes, or bible songs. Usually these include hand and body motions, visuals, and/or instruments and rhythm sticks. Next I read or review the Bible story for the week and we practice our memory verse with sign language. Then I read 3-5 books from our preschool curriculum or from Read Aloud Revival’s monthly booklist.

TABLE TIME

We all move from the living room to the dining room table, and the kids eat a snack while I gather supplies for our table activities. These activities are from The Peaceful Preschool and ones I have found on my own on Pinterest that correlate with the season or our current bible lesson. It usually includes a handicraft project or sensory activity. These activities are all set up as invitations with nothing formally instructed.

OUTING / OUTDOOR PLAY

This is the part of our day that we make mudpies, take a hike on a trail, or have a picnic. Often we have playdates with friends at our home or meet up at a playground. One day a week during this time we attend a family-style music class and another day every week we attend storytime at our local library.

LUNCH / REST TIME

We often pack a picnic lunch for our morning adventure or eat outside if it is a nice day. Around 1:30pm Titus and Josie go into their rooms for Rest Time. They rarely nap, but they play in their rooms until around 3:30pm. My son (4.5 years old) is allowed to keep his light on and listen to music or audiobooks. My daughter (3 years old) has the light off and ends up napping a couple times a week. During this time, I clean up from the morning, do additional household chores, and rest.

FREE PLAY / POETRY TEA TIME

Once or twice a week I set up tea time at the dining room table when they come out from resting. We have some treats and tea (or coffee or juice) and I read from a poetry book for 15-20 minutes. Other days this gets scratched and they head outside to the backyard as soon as they come out of their rooms. We have a trampoline, slide, swings, and a pots-and-pans drum circle. Usually you can find them playing with sticks, mud, and rocks. Sometimes they want to stay inside and play or do arts and crafts. We don’t have a lot of toys, but I’ve listed some of our favorite toys for open-ended play. We also have basic arts and crafts supplies out for them to use anytime they would like.

DINNER / NIGHTTIME ROUTINE

I usually bring the kids in around 5 and allow them to watch a show while I prep dinner. They currently like TumbleLeaf on Amazon Prime. After dinner, my husband usually bathes them while I clean up and then we all play or read books together in the living room. Sometimes I have them help straighten up their bedrooms if they got messy during rest time. They go to bed around 7 or 7:30, depending on how worn out they are and if they napped or not.

Our days are both full and calm. It took a lot of trial and error to get to this place, and my hope for you is that you can glean from this to create the rhythm that suits your family’s unique needs and desires!

Our Daily Rhythm

I am a huge believer that every family dynamic is unique and that each family has to discover what works for their household as a whole. A family’s rhythm with infants or older children will look different than a family with only preschoolers in the house. I also have experienced that nothing is set in stone. There is always room for shifting as your family’s needs and interests change. So I share our current daily rhythm only as a starting point to get you thinking about what would work best in your home.

I am strongly passionate about giving children structure, as well as room to explore and play with no strings attached. We say “no” a lot and have zero regrets about that. Fridays are reserved for Auditory Verbal Therapy and time at my mom’s house or a field trip that relates to what we are learning. We guard our dinner times and weekend mornings for family togetherness. Sundays are reserved for worship and extended family meals and playtime with cousins. I am equally passionate about giving myself rest by creating margins in our routine for nature, reading, and sipping coffee.

I wanted to share with you our entire school day schedule, not just the school part because I want you to see it in light of the big picture, in hopes of helping you discover what works best for your family.

Here is a look into our school day rhythm. Scroll down to read each section in more detail.

7:00-8:30am Morning Routine

8:30-9:30am Together Time

9:30-10:30am Preschool Activities

10:30-12:30pm Snack, Intentional Play

12:30-3:00pm Lunch/ Rest Time

3:00-5:30pm Free Play

5:30-7:30pm Dinner/ Night Time Routine

7:30pm Children’s Bed Time

Now I will go into detail about each segment of our day.

MORNING ROUTINE

My husband and I are awake an hour or two before the children wake up. We spend that time reading, journaling, praying, preparing for the day, working out, or just sitting and sipping coffee. At 7:00 I begin to make breakfast as the children come out of their rooms. They look at books, color, play in our sensory space, or work with the trays on our Tray Shelf. We get dressed, eat breakfast together, and send my husband off to work. I clean up breakfast and set up for our school time while the children go back to their playing until I call us together for Together Time.

TOGETHER TIME

This is my favorite part of our day. Titus and Josie grab their floor mats from our homeschool shelf and unroll them onto the living room rug to sit on. This gives them a reminder of personal space boundaries and keeps them from getting in front of each other while I am reading a story or leading them in a song. We start with prayer, inviting God to come into our day and to open our minds to learn and understand. We thank Him for anything that comes to mind and pray for any needs going on around us. The children usually take turns praying aloud after I do. It’s often a jumbled mix of sweet words repeating some line I prayed, but it is a priority and habit I want to instill in them. Then we sing a few songs that correlate with our theme. Usually our songs include hand/ body motions, visuals, and/or instruments and rhythm sticks. If I have a felt board activity or story, I will do it then and let them take turns retelling it after me. At this point we often move to the cozy reading chair, and we read our books for the day. If they want to continue reading other books that are not part of the weekly theme, we do that as well. We transition to our other activities by pulling out some of the Trays for the week and working with them on the living room floor. We wrap this time up based on their interest and involvement.

PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES

Sometimes one of the children is still engaged with books, Tot Trays, and Felt Board activities and the other is ready for something else. I usually follow their lead and invite them onto the next planned activities when they are ready. Sometimes that means I am bouncing back and forth between them. These activities include Arts and Crafts, Sensory Play, Letter Recognition & Formation, and Basic Math Skills. We typically do these activities at the kitchen table, but sometimes they require movement, cooking, or adventuring which causes us to take our lesson elsewhere. I do not force any activity on them, but I do encourage them to try each thing at least one time. My son is often resistant to anything he has never tried before, so having learning invitations available to him all throughout the day and following his lead is the key to success.

SNACK/ INTENTIONAL PLAY

The children typically will have their snack outside on the patio and listen to some audiobooks while I clean up from schooling. From then until Rest Time, I try to schedule things ahead of time that foster relationship and exploration. Sometimes that means we all go outside and make mudpies. Other days we walk a trail or have a picnic. Often we have playdates with friends, at our home or meet up at a park. One day a week my sister-in-law and niece come over and we all bake a treat together that correlates with what we are learning. Another day each week we go to the library to get the next unit’s books and attend Preschool Storytime.

LUNCH/ REST TIME

We often pack a picnic lunch for our morning adventure or eat outside if it is a nice day. Around 1:00 both of my children go into their rooms for Rest Time. They don’t always sleep, but they play quietly in their rooms until around 3:00. They usually ask to take books in their room or for me to get down some blocks or puzzles from their closets. During this time, I do household chores, lesson planning, and dinner prep.

FREE PLAY

This time is typically spent outside in our backyard. We have a trampoline, slide, swings, and a playhouse. But usually you can find them playing with sticks, mud, and rocks. Sometimes they want to stay inside and continue exploring something we did that morning in school time, so sometimes afternoons are filled with more painting or sensory play. We have basic arts and crafts supplies out for them to use anytime they would like. They also often ask for me to read to them again or sing some of the songs from the morning. Around 5:00 I typically allow them to watch a show while I prep dinner.

DINNER / NIGHTTIME ROUTINE

After dinner, my husband usually bathes them while I clean up and then we play or read books together in the living room until their bedtime around 7 or 7:30, depending on how worn out they are or if they napped or not.

Our days are both full and calm. It took a lot of trial and error to get to this place, and my hope for you is that you can glean from this to create the rhythm that suits your family’s unique needs and desires.