Tuesday 21 June 2016

Homeschool Schedule with a New Baby

A question which I often see raised by home schooling families is how to manage homeschooling with a baby or toddler or both. Two months ago we added to our family by adopting a seven month old girl. She is at that age of crawling everywhere, curious about everything and very much adored by her big brothers. I thought some reflections on how this has affected our daily routine might be useful.

1) For my boys, some degree of schedule is very important; we have found on days when there is no clear structure, things just do not go so smoothly, and they can end up getting over excited and over wrought. So continuing with things as 'normal' as possible has been important. I also find it important - I struggle on days that seem unfocussed and out of control, and having even a basic structure to pin things on is helpful. (But having said that, we also wish to retain the flexibility and spontaneity that home education offers)

2) One of the biggest challenges I have found in parenting is how you can think you have hit upon a perfect routine or schedule, only for some variable or other to change requiring a change in pace. Having a baby might be a fairly significant life event, but in some respects it is just like any other major change

3) We need to take care not to narrow our view on what constitutes 'an education'; there may be times when we do less structured work, but are in fact benefiting immensely through the education which life events provide

4) Where does 'education' start and stop? We do not like the idea of having to isolate the younger children from 'educational' activities, and try to include them as much as possible from as soon as possible, so that there is a very natural progression. We believe that involves teaching them to listen well, to sit and concentrate for appropriate periods of time and to recognise that there is a time for quiet and a time for play.

What does our typical day look like? I've blogged about this before, but not for some time and I find it interesting to see how the daily routine has evolved.

07:00: Breakfast (a variation on porridge). I have often been up a while before this, getting things straightened out for the day. Even when I am tired and would much prefer to stay in bed, I find having things in order before the children comes down makes the morning run far more smoothly. Ideally I have also had a couple of cups of coffee and some time for quiet Bible study and prayer before the busy time begins

08:00: Move out into the backyard. Here, we sit on lovely garden furniture in a walled area which drips with orange and pink bourgainvalea and where several types of lizards scuttle about. In the mornings it is still relatively cool out there. We start with Bible, family prayers and sometimes songs, memory verses and then move into read alouds. We keep the baby with us during this time, as I really want her to learn to listen well, and she is at the age where language will be developing. Also, joining our family a little later, it is important she comes to clearly recognise our voices. Perhaps the biggest challenge here has been keeping my boys focussed when they are fascinated by their baby sister and frequently distracted by what she is doing (crawling into a new corner, pulling herself up to stand, chasing a gecko, whatever that might be).

09:00: Baby goes to bed for 2 hours. The boys move to the table and do their language arts, maths, written parts of science and any drawings/ letter writing etc that needs to be done. The four year old is just getting started with these things, and so we give him short tasks but don't mind if he gets down after a while just to play

11:00: Baby gets up. We move into the front garden where the boys have free play. Sometimes we are joined by the homeschooled children from next door.

12:00: Lunch (almost always toast or sandwiches, unless I plan to be out until bedtime, in which case I'll give a 'proper' meal and have the toast or sandwiches out and about for dinner), followed by other bits of reading

13:00: Baby goes back to bed for about two hours. Boys have an hour of 'quiet time' - they have to choose two or three books and sit and read these quietly. Until recently they still had a nap, and ideally the four year old still would, but this is a kind of compromise. It is working really well. It gives my husband or I a clear block of time to respond to work-related queries (we both do a fair bit of work from home) and it also teaches the boys to do something quiet, focussed and independent.

14:00: We might be going out now, for homeschool sports, to meet a friend, to choir or to another activity. But if not, it's a great time for games and toys that are not baby-safe, like lego

15:00: Get baby up, and likely head off for a walk or to play outdoors. The boys might do Rosetta Stone Spanish, and it can be a good time for practical experiments or completing other tasks which were not done in the morning.

17:00: Dinner - varies day to day

18:00: Reading, then Bible reading and bed

19:00: Ideally all children asleep by now!

19:30-22:00: Parents often working. We are aware of the need to make ourselves a schedule there too, ensuring a free evening together on a regular basis.

In general, our day does tend to follow this pattern and I feel we have got a lovely balance with the new comer. But I don't want to imply that it is always easy. Lately I've been really quite tired, and a little less generally enthusiastic about many things. My husband reminds me of the need to recognise the life events we have been through and give myself some grace rather than feeling guilty about all the things I would like to do but never quite get around to (especially in the evenings when the children are asleep). I find being reasonably well prepared and having clear goals and structure for each day is an immense help when I feel so tired and muzzy headed that it is difficult to think creatively and energetically; there may be other times when ideas and opportunities arise so frequently that it is necessary to step off the schedule for a while and simply embrace living. I appreciate that some of that is driven by my personality, and that another family with a new child might respond differently.


  1. We find that a regular pattern to our lives helps too although it has been a long time since we had a baby in the mix! Our recent disruptions have been around taking an older child to exams which has led to extra nature walks and read alouds in unusual places.
    When my youngest was a toddler, someone told me to start the reading with something for him and then go onto books for the older children. This worked well and meant that sometimes he would pay some attention to the older read alouds too.

  2. Thanks Sarah - yes, we do that same thing, starting with the books for the youngest to grab his attention, and that way he tends to stay with us for the rest. I'm often encouraged to see them 'playing' as characters from stories we have read, or to hear their vocabulary clearly influenced by a recent read.