6 helpful tips for successfully homeschooling with a newborn. Learn how to balance your day to be able to homeschool and take care of a new baby.
by Alyssa Hulme
One year ago this week I began homeschooling my children in 2nd grade, 1st grade, and PreK. I also had a two week old. Homeschooling with a brand new baby is not for the faint of heart. I spent months preparing for this time and while I was ready to cut myself plenty of slack, I was also so excited for our new normal as a family of six.
Start With Mom’s Needs
As I set out to successfully homeschool with a newborn, I first assessed my own needs. After my first two pregnancies I had postpartum depression. I also had it after two of my four miscarriages. One of these stints of depression launched me into a full two years of depression and illness. Eventually, after trying pretty much everything, I got healthy and learned how to maintain my mental health. So I am very familiar with what I need to be healthy. I need to:
- Eat healthy: for me this means a low-carb diet and organic food
- Get outside: hike, walk, bike, drive, activities, shop
- Get alone time: wake up before kids, weekly night to myself
- Get time with other adults: weekly date nights, hikes, meals with friends, gym, yoga classes, movies
- Set a routine: look forward to baby’s schedule, plan around that
- Have back ups ready for school when I need a break
Access Baby’s Needs
Next, I fit in Baby’s needs. Eat, sleep, play! As anyone with children can tell you, those first few weeks cycle rapidly through those patterns. We took a few of those nap times to do school each day. I also took advantage of the sleepy newborn stage to get out of the house for hikes and field trips when I felt up for it. For me, activity is restorative. I am an extrovert of the active variety. A month after the baby was born we were already visiting Zion’s National Park and Snow Canyon State Park in Utah. These trips moved at the pace that worked for me and included tons of education for my children. We discovered a love for American Geography that has carried us through the year, led to interest in astronomy and eventually a love for mythology, both Norse, Greek, and Roman.
Take School at a Slow Pace
We started our new school year immediately after the previous year ended to give us lots of flex in our schedule. Having weeks and weeks of buffer allowed me the freedom to just stop school when our day was off or the baby was up a lot the night before (in those first few weeks). I made a huge list of documentaries and educational shows I could pull out on an off day. I had new games, toys, projects, and Atlas Crate deliveries tucked away in my cupboards, ready to pull out when Mama needed a break.
Keep a Routine
At around six weeks baby’s naps and wake times became very predictable. That meant that I could start waking up earlier to have my alone time each day, start to pump breast milk at regular intervals, and even ask my husband to work from home on occasion and leave him with my newborn while I went out with the other kids! I took my three-year-old to a music class, had one-on-one time with each big kid, went to the gym, and even just walked around the neighborhood. For me, consistency and routine is freeing. I was also able to hire help where possible. Our sitter was able to come midday one day a week as well as every Friday. I got my errands done alone, I was able to maintain a weekly therapy appointment, and my husband and I got a consistent date night! Total Babywise win.
Knowing the routine I was working towards with realistic parameters helped me plan for the future. Using BW I knew roughly when my kid would be changing her sleep needs. I knew that by four months I would for sure be getting a lot more sleep at night. I also knew that by four months I’d have a fully sleep trained baby, independent of all sleep aids– that was such an important milestone for me to look forward to in those early days. By mid-September we were there. Starting the “real” school year with a consistent sleep routine was so amazing. Waketimes were still minute and nursing took much of them, but it was so liberating; I was equipped to care for my child’s needs with knowledge of what they were, I could prepare for them, and in that routine I was also able to plan to meet my needs and the needs of my children.
After a short period of sacrifice for all household members, I was able to slip in activities that met the needs of my extroverted older two kids, my softer middle child, and myself. Set nap times and routine also allowed me to sign up for swim lessons and pool playtime with friends, and other extracurriculars months in advance. We visited local farms, did park playdates, as many close-to-home field trips as possible, and hosted almost all of our playdates for the first six months to honor baby’s sleep needs. Because we are all together all day long, I also have to run errands with all my kids, so I decided which naps were best to shorten or skip (spoiler: it’s the latest one in the day if at all humanly possible) when we couldn’t avoid it. Eventually we found a rhythm that was far from perfect, but met everyone’s needs in turn.
I used Natalie Willes’ Baby Sleep Trainer method to establish a waketime from 4-7 each night by four months which allowed me to choose into more activities. We drove a half hour away to join a two hour drama class for my two oldest. This time allowed me some one-on-one time with my third child and time to get any shopping done without all the kids. Usually my three-year-old and I would go to Costco and snack on all the goodies and drive home with a churro. My husband works in that same town as the class, so he picked up the older kids and brought them home. I unpacked the food and got a weekly dinner delivered by Mountain Meals (Healthy food! Another way I am caring for myself in all this). As soon as my husband got home I was out for the evening. I handed over the baby with a good stock of breast milk in the freezer. I would go out with friends for dinner, out to dinner alone, to the gym, yoga class, out into nature to paint and sketch, or even just up into my bedroom with a treat and a good book. I am so grateful for the predictable routine I was able to create so I could confidently hand over the baby and my husband could just know what was next.
Add Baby Into the Mix
As time moved on, I became even more of an expert at juggling a new baby and homeschooling my kids. We started to incorporate activities for Baby into our school and used small increments of room time, playtime, sibling time, and floor time to create manageable routines. Each sibling loves to take time to read with her during the week. She’s a very willing and nonjudgmental audience. Now a year later, it’s just normal to have a tiny on scooting around and needing attention. I think our school is evolving very organically as the baby and toddler stages progress. (I’ll check back in later and let you know how the toddler years are going! This next year is actually my biggest concern of all, but I know we will figure it out.)
Enjoy the Flexibility
Along with all the routine and structure I created around sleep, I also included tons of fun and adventure for our school and family. This year we have traveled more frequently and spent more time in hotels and than ever before. Our favorite set up is an adjoining room with Baby sleeping in our master bedroom bathroom in a pack ‘n play. This has worked extremely well for us thus far. As I am writing this, we are testing out our first joint sleeping arrangement for all four kids in a RV we rented for the weekend. Everyone has been able to fall asleep together, so perhaps we are achieving a new level of sleep flexibility for travel! We are considering living for six-months in an RV while this Covid-19 thing plays out, so being able to meet everyone’s sleep needs like this is a big win for us.
Looking back now with a 12-month-old, I can say that this is the most peace-filled newborn stage I have ever experienced. I tie that directly back to being the creator of my own schedule. Homeschooling has allowed me unlimited freedom in establishing our days. As naps changed, our schedule changed. There’s been no early morning crazed drive to school, no sporadic school activities that cut into my baby’s naps- I create the experiences that serve us and leave all the rest behind. I have been able to really soak in the sweetness of the baby stage AND homeschool my kids, and that has been a beautiful blessing for our entire family.
Alyssa Hulme is a freelance writer and educational consultant. She shares her journey with family and education on Instagram @thegiftedhomeschooler.
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