Homeschooling takes place in the intimate domain of the home and family, and any changes in the family naturally also change the school. One big change many home educating families go through is the addition of a new baby.
Infants demand Mom’s attention almost exclusively, and many parents feel stretched thin trying to keep up with the baby and help the older children with their studies. However, because everyone is together in the home, caring for a newborn is happily compatible with home education.
Breastfeeding is a natural fit for many homeschooling families, so here are 5 tips for integrating feeding the baby with teaching the children.
- Put a comfortable chair near your school area. Or, move the lessons to the couch or rocker. Home schoolers don’t have to be tied to a desk, so take advantage of the situation to try out a change of scenery. You won’t be very effective if you are crouched on a bar stool trying to feed the baby while your second grader demands help with her spelling words.
- Have supplies at the ready. Your children still need your presence as they do their schoolwork. Too often, when teacher’s away, the kids will play! It’s distracting if Mom is always jumping up to find a burp cloth, grab a new onesie for the little one, or running to the nursery for a blanket. Instead, get a hand basket or tote bag with a handle, and put all of your necessary breastfeeding supplies inside. Carry it with you from room to room and you’ll have everything nearby.
- Make room for baby. If your children do their schoolwork at the kitchen table, make sure there is a comfortable spot for the baby to rest in there, too. Wear your baby in a sling, find a spot for the swing, get a travel bassinet, or even tuck her infant car seat in the corner. That way, after nursing you can put a content or sleeping baby down and seamlessly move to teaching multiplication – while still keeping a close eye on your newborn.
- Hold off on field trips. Many homeschoolers also car school, teaching and learning on the road as the family drives from activity to co-op to club. The weeks following the birth of a new baby, however, should be a time of rest. Some women are sensitive about breastfeeding in public, although it is legal in most states to breastfeed anywhere. Moms may be worried about offending other families or don’t think they can keep up with the kids on the playground while feeding a child at the breast. Take it easy, stay home, and spend the time nurturing close family relationships while establishing your milk supply and getting to know your new baby.
- Make a list of activities that can be done while holding a needy baby. Newborns are notoriously unpredictable, so that means Mom will have to be prepared. Have your list ready for those days when you just can’t put the baby down. Days like this might be perfect opportunities to set out photos of famous architecture and a bin of blocks, or to have a silent reading day with everyone curled up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn. Perhaps you can keep a few educational videos in reserve so the children can watch a special on the building of the pyramids while you tend to your littlest one. Creating a contingency plan ahead of time will keep you in control of your school and ensure that the older children’s education is not neglected.
Enjoy your baby, and enjoy your children’s education. It’s not mutually exclusive, and your students can only benefit from seeing how everyone in the family’s needs are met as you learn together.