Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Homeschooling Day-to-Day: What do I do with babies and toddlers? PART 1

by Melody Lyons

One of the most frequent questions I hear regarding the nuts and bolts of the homeschooling day is “What do I do with my baby and toddler while I’m trying to teach the older children?” Let’s face it, homeschooling mamas are the ultimate multi-taskers. Did you know that I can teach Latin, correct a spelling test, supervise a sewing project, cook dinner, write an article, chase a new crawler and help a toddler go to the bathroom all at the same time? Actually, I can’t do anything of the sort. And that, my friends, seems to be the problem; we are under the illusion that such management brilliance is actually possible.

I thought about detailing here some of the many and varied methods for scheduling infants and distracting toddlers so that the home educating mother can proceed with focused, quiet and well-planned teaching perfection. I thought about it… for about three minutes. I know all the suggestions and I’ve even used some of them. The reality, however, is that I have been only periodically successful because life messy and unpredictable. 

My solution? It’s a good one but can be hard to swallow, particularly for the “type A” personalities among us (you know who you are); but perhaps it can bring someone out there a little bit of peace.

Mothering our children or managing them
As homeschooling mothers, we are charged with the challenging task of managing our homes. This requires a good measure of discipline and planning as well as a tremendous amount of flexibility. Our vocation is a complicated thing and along with being a spiritual reality is also, practically speaking, our job.  Those of us with multiple children find that the day-to-day operations require all of our time and talents. We have an image in our minds of the perfect day and apply ourselves to making it a reality.

Enter the small, developing human beings in our lives. Messy. Testing. Unpredictable. Noisy. Needy. So needy.

This is where we each need to take a step back and examine the way we approach these little needy people. If we are finding ourselves frequently referring to our youngest children as “problems” in our homeschool, then perhaps we are spending too much time trying to manage our children instead of mothering them. There is a certain amount of management necessary within a family but caution is in order when we begin to manage relationships instead of engaging in them.

*Do you find yourself frequently brushing aside your little ones in order to tend to more “important” things or projects?
*Do you often become irritated when a little one approaches you with a need?
*Do  you use television, videos or video games to babysit the littles more than you would like to but feel that you have to in order to “get stuff done”?
*Have you allowed a spirit of resentment toward your children to creep into your heart because their needs are interfering with your plans?

These are questions that we must frequently address and honestly answer for the sake of our children. I find that these attitudes and actions sneak up on me over time when I am not paying attention. Almost anyone can set up a schedule and check off tasks. As homeschooling mothers, we are charged with a much, much greater responsibility.

How can I teach in all this chaos?
If there is actual chaos in your home, then you do need a basic plan and a hearty helping of discipline. But is it really chaos that you are experiencing or just the colorful, messy, noisy beauty of healthy family life? Are you upset because there is actual damage to the learning going on in your home or are you unhappy with the loss of the image of your “dream” school?

If you are homeschooling, then you do have an obligation to educate your children. It is my experience that this learning will happen whether or not there are babies crying, dishes in the sink or toddlers throwing tantrums. Life is not neat and tidy and it is certainly never easy. They will learn in spite of that… and they may learn more of the important things in life because of it.

If you send your children to a local institutional school, your children will be faced with many distractions such as disruptive classmates, fire drills, bells, difficult teachers, hot weather, bullies, assemblies, announcements, etc. Your homeschooled student would not necessarily be less distracted from learning in a school environment… it is really our preferences as home educating moms that are the issue here.

To be continued....

*For a peek into my homeschool and the educational approach that keeps me sane and my children learning, visit me at Blossoming Joy.

Melody is a Catholic mama joyfully seeking truth, sanctity and a clean kitchen amidst the hustle and bustle of her full house. A happy wife and homeschooling mother of six, she is devoted to her vocation while finding bits of time for a few happy distractions. How does a Catholic homeschooling mother manage faith, family, education, creative pursuits, fitness and fellowship? The calendar is set. The reality is flexible. The days are colorful. The dishes are piling. The children are blossoming. The Lord is merciful. Blessed be the Lord! You can share in Melody’s journey of hope and joy at her blog, Blossoming Joy: A Journal of Home Education, Christian Womanhood and the Pursuit of Sanctity.

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