Normally on a Tuesday, you'd expect to be reading of the adventures of our smallest Tot, Greased Lightning. But, I'll be taking a bit of a detour today to introduce the newest homeschooler of The Unlikely Homeschool.
I'm blessed to announce that The Newbie arrived safe and sound on Good Friday. Weighing in at a HEALTHY 9 lbs. 1 oz., he did not earn the prize for the biggest of our baby bunch, but was a robust second.
Obviously, this latest change in our family dynamics also poses a bit of a change in our homeschooling endeavors. But, as The Newbie is now our third baby to arrive since Sweetie Pea started kindergarten, I have learned a few tricks to maintain our school day while not surrendering my precious time as mommy to the littlest of our Littles.
1. Accept help when it is offered.
Now is certainly NOT the time to play the "super mom" card. Accept the fact that during this season of life, it is IMPOSSIBLE to "do it all." I have been fortunate over the years to have the helping hands of my in-laws and a few faithful friends who have stepped in to babysit, make a meal, fold a load of laundry, assist in morning routines, and much more. The key is to ACCEPT the offers when they are donated.
2. Wear your baby.
Let's face it. It is impossible to be in two places at once. Although I would like nothing more than to sit in my rocking chair with The Newbie ALL DAY LONG, it is just not feasible when spelling tests, math games, dirty dishes, and mounds of laundry are calling. The investment in a good baby carrier or wrap can help ensure quality snuggling time with baby AND a completed "to do" list.
3. Introduce new chores.
Ideally this is better done in the weeks prior to the arrival of baby, but can be done in the days after, as well. If you homeschool, you have older children. Take advantage of the extra hands and the NECESSITY of needing help by teaching a few new life skills. Knowing that The Newbie was on his way, I took some time to teach Sweetie Pea and Super Boy how to load and unload our new dishwasher (We hadn't had one in three years, so it was a new concept to all of us.) Blonde Warrior learned how to put away the clean silverware and pick out his clothes/get himself dressed including shoes. And Greased Lightning began helping to set the table by setting out all the napkins for each place setting. He is also working on helping the older boys sort the dirty laundry into appropriate color piles, but that is a work in progress. So now, all these "to dos" along with the chores they were already doing this year are "to dones"...only NOT by me.
4. Take advantage of feeding times during your school day.
When I know that I will be spending a few hours every day in a stationary spot feeding baby, I focus a good portion of our school day on "living literature." Now is a good time to read some great historical biographies, begin introducing selections from the poetry book that has been collecting dust on the school shelf, or even spend some extra time in Bible memory or collective devotions. Since Sweetie Pea is pretty self-sufficient on the computer, I often assign her the task of downloading a particular youtube video or educational documentary that reinforces our current science topic. We can all gather round on the couch and watch it together. School does not necessarily have to happen at the table or desk. A new baby can provide a natural distraction from the "norm" in order to do some of the extracurricular activities you've been meaning to get around to. We get as much "school" done during feeding times as we can, so that non-feeding time can be devoted to the lengthy list of house chores and non-literature based school work.
5. Downsize commitments.
This has probably been my hardest lesson to learn as I am a "Martha" by nature. But, a baby is a built-in "pass" on many unnecessary activities. Someone else can make the Sunday School treats, serve on the volunteer committee, organize the annual neighborhood get-together. Only YOU can be the mommy of your little ones. Don't be afraid to say "no" knowing that the baby-stage is such a short season of life. All those other things will still be there in a few months or even a few years.
6. When all else fails, do the bare minimum.
I live in a state that does not require a day-to-day reporting/attendance of the school year. So...worst case scenario...if I am feeling completely overwhelmed, I can choose to take a few days of "teacher in-service" to get caught up on sleep, laundry, or baby holding. I realize, however, that not everyone has that advantage. You might be living in a state that requires a daily recording of "time spent" in your school day/year. If so, I would encourage you to do just the bare minimum of what is required. Now is not the time to complete a three-dimensional art project, build a working robot in science, or attend the fantastic field trip being offered by your area co-op. Do JUST WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO...and nothing more.
7. Surrender the guilt.
It is easy to develop a level of guilt during this time knowing that you can not hold your baby as much as you would like AND be the "teacher of the year" at the same time. Be willing to give yourself a break, knowing that with God's help, you are doing the very best you can at the tasks you've been given. In the end, surrender this guilt to God and allow Him to cover your anxiety in a cloak of peace. Enjoy this very special and VERY short stage of life embracing both the blessings and battles it brings to your days.
These are just a handful of thoughts that have helped me through the busyness of the last three babies. Do you wear both the baby-momma and the teacher hat?
What have you found to be helpful as you juggle both roles?