by Maria Almli

Former MHA Board member

Are you contemplating homeschooling with a new baby in the mix this fall?

If so you are you’re not alone. September is the most popular birth month in the US. While we can rarely pinpoint the actual day, we do get about nine months of notice of the new arrival, so thankfully, we can plan ahead. Whether your baby is due any day or months from now, you can plan a successful homeschool year. Our family has navigated homeschooling with a new baby twice. The first time we had been homeschooling for about two years, with a kindergartener and second grader. While I felt I had a good grasp on homeschooling, I had no idea how to do it with a baby to care for too. But with some good advice and trial and error, we figured it out. The second time we had a fifth grader, third grader, and a three year old. While the kids were at different points academically and developmentally, the same principles saw us through. Below are some tips to help make a smooth transition.

Plan To Take a Break

Public schools do not operate everyday of the week or even every week of the year. You can plan to take a break around the birth of your baby, shifting your schedule to work for your family. There are no laws in Minnesota requiring “summer break” to happen in summer. Keep in mind that unless you’ve adopted, you body needs to recover too. Time spent resting in the beginning can lessen the chances of postpartum health issues slowing you down later. Neither do you have to come back full force all in one day. A gradual transition might mean a few more minutes each day, or adding a new subject each week until you are back to ‘full time’ homeschooling.

Read Aloud

Read aloud while holding a sleeping baby or nursing. Find books you and your child(ren) are excited about, whether they are in fiction, history, science, or another topic. Even math has good read aloud books. If your kids are already proficient readers, take turns reading aloud—it too is a skill. This is also a good time to work on learning to read. Keeping a pile of favorite alphabet books, picture books, and early readers near your most comfortable rocking chair or couch makes it easy to get started when the opportunity arrises.

Make Nap Time Count

Do your most important or hardest subject during your baby’s nap time. This was usually math at our house, but was sometimes music practice or a science experiment. It helps to know what you want to do with nap time ahead of time and have your supplies together so you can swing into action right away. You never you never know how long nap time will last!

Make use of Homeschool Classes and Resources in the Wider Community

For us this was a splurge on a Science Museum class. Art museums, nature centers, zoos, and even the library are all good places to look. Homeschool Adventures is an excellent resource for things going on in the Twin Cities. You might find a co-op class or an informal swap with homeschooling friends; for example, they teach Spanish, and you run a book club (either before baby or later in the year). Carpooling helps keep these out-of-the-house homeschool opportunities easier on your schedule. Consider family and friends too. Think about your network of caring people and what they might be excited to share with your kid(s). This may be the perfect time for a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or close friend to share a passion in quilting, astronomy, woodworking, gardening, painting, or other hobby.

Do Projects at Home

Having projects, especially ones that connect to the wider world, can invigorate your studies. Some that are easy to do at home include:

Project Feeder Watch (a citizen scientist birdwatching group run by Cornell University)

start a home weather station

get a pen pal

raise butterflies

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month: AKA November)

InCoWriMo (International Correspondaence Writing Month: AKA February)

Inktober (similar to NaNoWriMo and InCoWriMo, but with drawing, in October)

Consider Multi Media Educational Tools

This may be a great time to start Documentary Night at your house, to check out some of the great kids podcasts out there, or find apps to teach things like touch typing, US States, foreign language, or bird calls. Documentary night has become a long standing tradition at our house and has increased our family’s general knowledge considerably. We do pay attention to the ratings for documentaries, since some are not made with children in mind.

Home Economics

Before a new sibling arrives is an excellent time for older kid(s) to level up their abilities in the kitchen and around the house. I am not suggesting older siblings get mountains of new chores, but there are things that they can do to help and learn from too. Kids are especially keen to learn new skills they couldn’t do before. Cooking can be fun and rewarding. Five year olds can learn to make pb&j sandwiches. 10 year olds can learn to make scrambled eggs, salad, or even an entire dinner. Feeding pets or harvesting food from the garden are chores that children are often excited about. Laundry, while perhaps less exciting, is still an important skill. Young children can match socks and fold small things like hand towels, napkins, or diapers. Doing a load of laundry or washing dishes might also be things older kids are capable of and can take pride in doing well.

Child Development

Finally, you older child(ren) will learn form your baby. What is a newborn like? When does a baby start laughing? When do they get teeth? How does a baby learn to talk? Walk? Seeing a baby learn and grow is an education unto itself, as all parents know. Older siblings get a front row seat to early child development. And they will get a ton of practice with interpersonal skills and what it means to be a good big brother or sister. As they get older siblings will share their interests, joys, and struggles. Your kids will be learning from each other for a lifetime.