When it comes to homeschooling, few things feel as intimidating as bringing a newborn into the mix. After all, you’re finally in a good rhythm addressing the various needs of each age in your home when – boom! – someone throws you a baby bomb to effectively blast all perceived control into pieces.
I’m writing from the trenches, having just experienced the blast myself. Currently, my 3-month old is sleeping soundly in a bassinet beside my keyboard, and I know I’m not alone in wondering how the heck to address such a monumental shift in the household.
Recently, the most frequently asked question within our membership forums has been this: How do I homeschool with a newborn? And while I’m hesitant to publish platitudes and timelines, I can absolutely offer my own experience as a rough roadmap for anyone in need.
Here’s what worked for us as we welcomed a third child into the mix:
PHASE ONE: PREPPING
To be fair, this is a phase we’re not all granted. Whether your baby is welcomed quickly and unexpectedly via adoption, or your pregnancy requires bedrest and/or complications, the ideal prepping phase doesn’t happen with everyone. But whenever possible, attempt to use the time in which you’re feeling healthy nesting your whole house, not just the nursery.
Many times, our tendency is to nest for the baby. We launder onesies, hang curtains, and upgrade to the video monitor so everything will feel seamless, cozy, and ideal when the baby arrives. And yet, in the grand scheme of things, a new baby is far more adaptable to his/her environment than children who have spent years growing accustomed to life in your home. If possible, focus the bulk of your preparations on them.
Consider rearranging kitchen cabinets so tiny hands can reach their own available snacks/dishes/utensils. Set up an area of the home for quiet play with crafts, books, and activities for littles ones to safely occupy themselves while you’re attending to the baby. Reach out to friends/family to schedule a few special post-baby outings for the kids. Practice training your children in any applicable independent skills, i.e. shoe-tying, lunch-making, dish-washing, etc.
By using this preparatory time to instill independent rhythms for your older children, you’ll all be able to more comfortably navigate the growing and changing expectations for each family member.
PHASE TWO: PAUSING
Once your new baby arrives, hit pause on everything you can. Your new baseline is simple: keep everyone in your home fed, safe, and loved. These are not the days to tackle elaborate craft projects or kitchen science projects in an attempt to prove to your older children that a new baby won’t change the energy of the home. A new baby will absolutely change the energy of your home! And that’s 100% okay.
This phase could last anywhere from a week to a month to a year, depending on the needs of your baby and yourself. (If you’ve just given birth, I’d recommend giving yourself at least 2-4 weeks for your hormones to adjust!) Grant yourself grace, and be honest about your needs. Babies grow quickly and change often. There will be days that flow seamlessly, and days that… don’t. Resist the temptation to make “bouncing back” any part of your postpartum pressure, and instead, let yourself transition slowly and steadily as you regain your footing and settle into each other.
Remember: learning will happen with or without your knowledge and/or input. Let the littles play. There’s absolutely no need to rush the process.
PHASE THREE: PEPPERING
Once you’re feeling a bit more settled as a family, begin to “pepper” in more intentional learning moments that involve the baby. Can your 3-year-old hold open a book for you to read aloud while you nurse? Can your 4-year-old memorize a lullaby or poem to whisper to the baby before bedtime? Can your 5-year-old count how many diapers the baby uses on average and keep track of when it’s time to restock? Can your 6-year-old make a checklist of everything to include in the diaper bag and pack for upcoming outings? Can your 7-year-old push the stroller on your next nature walk?
Learning is everywhere. By peppering in a few rhythms that incorporate the new baby, two things will happen: (1) the older children will begin to witness how a growing family can take care of each other’s needs, and (2) you’ll see daily proof that learning can exist within the confines of a new routine.
PHASE FOUR: PERSISTING
Soon enough, your baby will begin to fall into a more predictable rhythm. You’ll have learned your baby’s signs and signals. You’ll be better able to anticipate naps or diaper changes at certain times, and you’ll know you can count on at least a few uninterrupted hours of sleep for yourself.
Now’s the time to persist! You’re likely beginning to move beyond survival mode and you’re ready to make the most of your time with the entire family. Begin incorporating a few old pre-baby rhythms your crew loved most, like poetry over pancakes or exploring in the woods. Can you leave the baby behind with your partner or caretaker for an afternoon at the museum or another beloved outing?
As your baby grows, you’ll find the time, focus, and energy to pour into your kids’ educations individually again. You’ll find the time to research a new STEAM project your daughter might love, or to dive into new authors to recommend for your son’s next read-aloud. You’ll find the focus for a marathon LEGO build during the baby’s nap. And you’ll find the energy to pack up the whole family for a trip to a new-to-you state park.
PHASE FIVE: PREVAILING
Once you’ve had enough distance from those early newborn days, you’ll discover something eye-opening. What you thought was the goal (getting back to a pre-baby rhythm) wasn’t the goal at all. Your children will have changed, grown, learned. You will have, too.
Instead, you’ll find that you’ve accomplished a new goal: creating an entirely different rhythm to suit the whole family. Maybe you’ll find you prefer read-alouds at bedtime in the dark, quiet hours after the baby is tucked in and sound asleep. Maybe you’ll shift afternoon nature walks to an early morning stroller ride. Maybe you’ll have rearranged rooms and routines so much that your pre-baby family is unrecognizable, and maybe you’ll all be a bit better for it.
This is the prevailing phase. You’ve done it. You’ve not only successfully homeschooled with a newborn, but you’ve simultaneously ushered your children into a new, beautiful season of life.
Whatever phase you’re transitioning through today, remember the advice we often give to our kids: learning takes time, patience, and resilience. May we grant ourselves each, and then some.
Lastly: many, many congratulations from our own home to yours.