Juggling Homeschooling with Littles and Life

We have completed our first month in our new homeschooling routine at our house and my plan has certainly seen some adjustments. I never imagined the challenges of juggling time with each child in addition to feeding, changing diapers, and keeping the little ones happy. I didn’t think morning nap periods for my infant would change so drastically within a month period. There have been moments when I have been ready to throw in the towel when a child is inattentive, experiencing frustration, or not desirous to do anything. Balancing discipline and encouragement is a challenge. I imagined it all would just be so beautiful. I might just finally get everyone quiet and seated next to me on the couch to do the next period of school only to have baby start screaming through the monitor. How do you keep everything running peacefully and still keep the house in order?

At the same time, learning alongside my children has brought the greatest joy to my soul. As I sit and guide my daughter into the world of reading, my heart rejoices that I get to take her on this journey. To watch as they delight in science experiments and drawing projects, my heart rejoices that I am privileged to take responsibility of their education. Each sweet moment as we cuddle on the couch, I rejoice because they are with me. I get to speak hourly into their life. We get to clean our house together, prepare meals side by side, and learn life skills every moment as education becomes a lifestyle rather than a program. To know that I get to speak the love of Christ into their little souls and guide them, Lord willing, to a Christ centered worldview, I feel honored.

I have searched homeschooling forums and asked many a homeschooling mom how she does it all, because although I might be a homeschooling graduate, I have no idea how my own mom did it with three little ones, let alone managing the eight of us that she had.

It takes a godly determination to do this thing. I have to keep my vision and purpose in the forefront of my mind. Why am I doing this homeschooling thing again? (To learn more about why we have chosen to homeschool, visit here.)

1. Pick your priorities and do them first thing.

The most important things in my book are math and phonics. These are also the more difficult subjects and easy for little ones to get distracted. Do these things first thing in the schedule when the students are freshest.

2. Rotate fun and harder subjects.

To keep things fresh and fun, rotate between the subjects your kids love and the ones that are more challenging. In this way, we do math and phonics, then circle time (fun period), and then workbooks (a mix of fun and challenging).

3. You don’t have to do everything EVERY day.

The greatest encouragement I found was in this simple truth: you don’t have to do every subject every day! Since math and phonics are the priority this first year, we do these subjects each day. But history and science I was trying to do every day too which was driving me crazy to get it all done while still keeping them happy in their learning. So, I scratched that. I decided to do two days of science and two days of history, and then leave Friday open for art projects, music, and science experiments. A breath of fresh air.

4. Keep baby busy in the play pen.

I have found setting up a pack n play with lots of little exploratory toys is great for keeping babies busy during school periods. You might adjust to different stations as the baby gets bigger. Playdough station, coloring station, blocks station, etc. I remember keeping my 2 year old busy in this fashion last year. 15 minute time blocks at each station. Now, I often have my 3 year old play in the pack n play with baby while I work with big sister during the first hour if baby is not napping.

5. Keep the toddlers learning alongside big siblings.

As much as possible, I keep my toddler sitting alongside us during our circle time. This is great training ground for teaching him to sit still and learn together. I require him to sit for at least the initial 30 minutes then I release him to cruise around and play.

6. Take regular short breaks.

I have divided our schedule into 2 solid hour blocks. The first hour is math and phonics (for my 5 year old alone). The second hour is circle time, which includes Bible, Character, Memory work, History or Science, and Read Alouds. My 3 year old sits in on this period. Finally, during lunch preparations, I have both of my kids at the counter doing their workbooks while I prepare lunch (Karis is doing her math, criticial thinking, and copywork books, and Titus is doing a preschool workbook series -love the frugal simplicity of Rod & Staff books). But after each 30 minute to one hour period, I give the kids a thirty minute break to get out and play. This is when I do my housecleaning task for the day, clean up the dishes, do dinner prep, and care for baby as needed. So it adjusts daily, but I will often work for 30 minutes on math, then a 15 minute break, followed by 30 minutes of phonics and reading practice, then another short break.

So in this manner, I’ve simplified the schedule drastically. I want to keep the experience fun and the learning environment enjoyable. They are still little and we have many years ahead of us.

I need to learn to enjoy the journey and remember…learning is a lifestyle. They are learning as we do household chores together, as we prepare meals together in the kitchen, as we set the table and practice our manners at meal times. Education is not limited to the class room. There is grace to adjust and flex the routine as needed. And praise God other women have gone before me!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

42 Responses to Juggling Homeschooling with Littles and Life

  1. cristina May 31, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    these are great tips! thank you! do you have a curriculum that you recommend? my oldest just turned three and i am deciding on a curriculum at the time. thank you!!

  2. Sarah December 1, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    Wow I am reading this at a great time. I have four children ages 7, 6, 3, 1, and we have one due any day now. We also home school and trying to fit everything in with all of them is getting a little overwhelming. So I thank you so much for the tips Lindsay they have helped tremendously.

  3. Chelsea October 24, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing your homeschool journey! Your posts on this (as well as a few others) were such an encouragement to me and I began homeschooling my almost four-year-old this week. Having a blast!

  4. Shonda October 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    It looks like you have things better under control than I do and I have one less child. My 3 year old does not sit and do workbooks, but will play with playdough, buttons, possibly color, puzzles for long periods. I have a 17 month old that is everywhere all the time. So we do morning time (calendar, singing, Bible) together and my 3 year old has an activity. Then during morning nap for little one I do a preschool lesson and that is it. It works for me for now.

  5. Laura October 8, 2012 at 4:42 am #

    I LOVE your thought processes……THANKS for sharing with the world!

  6. Deb Stevens October 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    This was one of the best blogs I have ever read .. and i dont even have children!!! Thanks for making it fun, interesting, practical and comfortable :)

    When the time does come my hubs has already declared he wants me to home school the children, and I have no qualms with that :) since we both agreed it’d be better if i was a stay-at-home mommy, but thanks again, this will definitely help me a lot!!

  7. JessicaD October 5, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    Hey, those are my friends yo linked to with the R&S stuff. We go to church together. :)
    Another really great series very similar to R&S ABCD is from CLE and called the ABC Readiness series. http://www.clp.org/product/set_abc_readiness_series_a_f_7_books_1774

  8. Sara October 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    So happy I found your blog. You spoke to me in more ways than one. I also have 3 littles. Probably the same age. We do things a lot alike too! God bless you!

  9. Colleen October 4, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    I enjoyed this post so much. I have a two month old, a two year old, a four year old and a six year old and have definitely been drowning in the homeschool routine, the house work, and the needs of a baby who I just want to delight in. Days are short, laundry piles are big, and the kids painted the whole schoolroom blue while I was nursing the little one. :) I am thankful for the reminder that this chaos is beauty and it is life and we are so very blessed! You are an awesome woman and mama. Thanks for sharing.

  10. erin October 3, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    yes, great post! i love hearing ideas and inspirations for homeschooling. maybe sometime you could talk about the visional side of homeschooling? we have a 3 year old and a 6 month old. i know my heart is leaning WAY over toward homeschooling them and i’m also one of those that wasn’t homeschooled myself, so i definately soak this stuff up:)

  11. Jennifer Cooper October 3, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    I am unable to read this post due to the light grey text on the dark wood grain. It’s just too hard.

  12. Jill October 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    Thank you for this post. I have a 6 year old, 4 year old and 2 year old. I would love to know your schedule for a week. What time do you start? How long do you spend on each subject? We’ve been doing school for about six weeks, but we are still struggling with a schedule. I have trouble getting my daughter to focus and when we take breaks its really hard to get her focused back on school. I rarely have a day when I feel like school went well.

  13. Dasha October 3, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    If you have a Mac, you can view the post itself in the reader (the blue button at the end of the address bar), that will make it appear on white background. however you cannot read the comments that way.

  14. Juliette October 3, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    I see a big white ‘stripe’ up the middle so it’s gray words on white with brown on either side of the white. Maybe it’s something in your computer’s settings?

  15. amy October 3, 2012 at 7:10 am #

    I loved this post because I am where you are at. I have a 5, 4, 3, and 18 month old. Homeschooling goes from crazy and frustrating one day to exciting and productive the next day. I agree that the best thing to do is just relax and realize you don’t have to do everything everyday. I made the mistake of spending a ton of money on BJU kindergarten program for the two oldest because a friend gave me her teacher guides. Although it’s a great program, it’s too much in some areas and not enough in others. It’s way too many workbook pages. We only do about half of them. I wish I would have just stuck with the Rod and staff affordable books (which I also have and will use for the little one when they get older) and supplemented with stuff off the internet. Live and learn! Anyway, we make Bible time our priority which everyone is required to participate. I don’t make the 3 year old participate in other subjects, but he wants to! Thanks for your post! It was very encouraging!!

  16. Emily October 3, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    We have almost 4 kids now. We’ve been hs’ing from almost the beginning and there have been days where I want to throw in the towel. Almost every pregnancy I tell my husband I can’t possibly do this anymore and beg him to let me put the kids in the local christian school. And he calmly and lovingly puts up w/my rantings and reminds me of our goals and reasons for hs’ing and waits out the hormones till I’m reminded again of how wonderful hs’ing is and has been. :-) Our kids are dd 8, dd 5 1/2, ds 2 and ds due in 5 weeks! And I honestly don’t know how families with kids really close in age do it. I’ve been blessed in that my oldest pretty much does all her schooling by herself, and our second we only do about 3-4 days a week and it only takes about an hour (during nap time) to complete her schooling. And by the time the two boys are ready to start schooling, both the girls will be (hopefully) completely independent in their schooling. So I applaud you and am in awe of you for being able to do all that you do w/your kids so close in age. And also remember, that at this age, most of their learning for science, and ss is done in the kitchen, and by reading books. And just watching their world around them. :-)

  17. Dasha October 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    Thank you so much for posting this. I have DS6, DD-almost4 and DS-almost3. my oldest went to a public school for his K-class, but this year I decided to homeschool. this post is very inspiring and encouraging, because I do find myself trying to balance getting things done and not loosing the sight of the “whys” behind our decision to homeschool. With my 4 and 3 year olds’ microscopic attention span we can only do so much of formal schooling and my oldest does not want to do any work, but play with his siblings, when they play in the same room. What suggestions do you have for encouraging him to do workbooks, because very often he nags and whines that he doesn’t want to do it? I can’t just spank him into doing it (I want him to like it), but I am also getting weary of constant battling with him about it. Thanks!

  18. Juliette October 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Somehow, I’ve become a homeschooling vet (my oldest is almost 15!) and the best thing that I have read over the years is the following post:
    http://www.homeschooling.net/blog/homeschooling/the-baby-is-the-lesson/

    Hope this helps those with little ones and more on the way!

  19. Theresa October 2, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    Lindsay, your recent posts have been ever-so encouraging. Sometimes I think it would be fun to sit and have tea with you :) . Reading this (very good!) post about your start to homeschooling made me smile as I realized some quirky things we have in common. I also am a homeschool graduate, one of eight children, have three children of my own now, ages almost-5, 2.5, and 7 months. Our youngest is Titus and if he’d been a girl the name would likely have been Karis. We’ve begun pre-K with our oldest this year and are so enjoying it, but the baby in the monitor thing…well, we have that too! Our pack-n-play is also set up in the living room as a helpful tool. :) May our God encourage you as you press on!

  20. Jenni/Life from the Roof October 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    It sounds like you are doing really well! I’m only doing an hour a day at this point (just reading, handwriting, and math), but I guess I would say my husband is also doing some at bedtime when he does memory work with them. I mentioned your post on how your kids learned Psalm 23, and he, a former Bible teacher, was enthusiastic about it, so he started saying it out loud at bedtime. We were both floored when not just our 5 year-old, but also our 3 year-old, started to say it verbatim in a few weeks. Now he’s reading poems from William Bennet’s Virtues for Children, and they’re memorizing those poems too.

  21. Sarah October 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    Hi Lindsay,
    I am very excited to read this, but the text is coming up grey on a brown background, and I can’t see it. I’ve tried reading it through Facebook too, and I get the same thing. Can’t wait until I can see it, because your posts always inspire me, and I am just starting my homeschool journey with 3 pre-k kiddos and I am very nervous and intimidated by the process (being a former high school teacher, I am never sure how to work with littles and I lose my patience so quickly!)

  22. Tara October 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    I like how you’ve set up your schedule! I only have a 2.5 year old, but this gives me a lot of inspiration and ideas for the future. :) Thanks!

  23. Vivian October 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    This was the way we went when I homeschooled the kids (mine are now all in their twenties)
    I was able to engage my youngest ones, not quite school age, by working in theme weeks. We would do a week all based around a letter of the alphabet, color, holiday, etc. Then we would read books, do crafts, make foods, etc all around the theme. I also found that as I was reading my older child’s material out loud my younger ones were learning.
    As a side note… I enjoyed this blog very much but I have to highlight everything in order to read it. The font is coming across as to dark on the brown back ground.
    I look forward to future reading with you.

  24. Jacqueline October 2, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Wow! I’m impressed! How do you find time to write this blog? Lol.
    My husband and I have one child so far and I am so excited to home school. I was homeschooled for a few years as a teen, unfortunately it didn’t work out for the long term. I do believe that homeschooling is the best way to go for our children (especially in this day and age) so I’m going to do it, with Gods help. Your article has brought a very realistic perspective to my dreams. I am looking forward to learning from all your experiences as we start our own journey. Love everything about your blog! I am slowly incorporating more of your natural suggestions into my home. I even started soaking my oats today! Oh and made homemade deoderant yesterday, works great so far! Thanks for all you do! God bless you are your beautiful family!

  25. Christine October 2, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    This brought back such warm, happy memories! We homeschooled our daughter through 7th grade, and it was such a blessing! She’s now a lovely young woman, Northwestern University honors graduate, and gifted artist. I’m grateful to God for His help and leading during that time.

  26. Holly October 2, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I have a 4, 2, and 1 y/o and often wonder about juggling it all during homeschooling. We start next year, and this has been helpful to read.

  27. sabrina October 2, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    I too started homeschooling our oldest kindergarten this year. I also have a 2 year old and 4 month old. Its nice to know that my days are normal with all of the struggles, ( and blessings!) with 3 young children. You are an encouragement!

  28. Sara October 2, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    We do many things the same way! I always try to do math and phonics first, and rotate history and science days. My preschoolers listen in on things they find interesting as well as join in on Bible time. I still haven’t figured out how to keep the toddlers out of trouble every minute. Usually they stay nearby, but earlier this week one disappeared and came back with mascara on her chin…
    I also love the Rod & Staff workbooks. I didn’t use them for my oldest because he is not a workbook learner…too much busy work and cutting for a lefty. My artistic daughter loved all the cutting and gluing though and I am about to order another set for #3.
    My oldest are slightly older than yours and I’m planning to order the Tapestry of Grace curriculum to start working through. I’ve been looking for something that I can use as a group and then give different assignments for each grade level. I think it’s going to work really well for us.

  29. Amanda October 2, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    Lindsay,

    Any suggestions or resources for engaging in learning/activities with my 2 yr. old right now. I have a 2 yr. old boy and a 6 mo. boy. We’re not ready for “school” yet, but I’d love to help him engage and learn to explore and play. Any help or ideas would be great! Thanks!

    • Lindsay October 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      We love the Brain Quests packs for the younger ones. We have most of the sets and my toddler loves them. Also, you might check out Timberdoodle.com. They have a wonderful array of learning activities for the little ones. Another fun resource that I used when my son was two last year is this post on fun toddler learning activities: http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2011/09/simple-toddler-learning-activities.html

  30. Sabrina October 2, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Hi! Is it my computer or is this hard to read? I see a very dark red background with black writing. Have to hit “select all” to highlight the page in order to read the words.

  31. Brynna October 2, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Thanks so much for this post. I’m not even a mom yet, but I hope to experience homeschooling someday, whatever that may look like for our family. I’m a naturally anxious person, but reading your honesty in these struggles was more encouraging to me than any post that claims it’s all a breeze. I’m more excited than ever to spend this precious time with my own kiddos!

  32. Becca October 2, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    I have to ask: What curriculum/curriculi do you use for your 5-year-old? I have a 5-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy, like you, but also a 21-month-old (my children are all about 1 1/2 years apart), and, I just found out, another one on the way! I have to say, I am very impressed by your organization! What I do is similar, but I don’t spend as much time on math, and we don’t do science and history at all! (Officially speaking, though we have many scientific and historical conversations throughout the week as questions come up… my daughter is very inquisitive.) I have based my style of homeschooling on the book The Well-Trained Mind (by Susan Wise Bauer), which doesn’t use too much official curriculum for kindergarten. This is why I hadn’t worried too much about it, but now that I keep hearing about others doing science projects and things with their 3- and 5-year-olds, I keep wondering if I should be doing something different!
    Anyway, it sounds like you’re doing an amazing job and I salute you. I, too, was homeschooled, and like you, I have no idea how my mom did it all. This is quite a humbling learning experience for me!

    • Sara October 2, 2012 at 11:29 am #

      The Rod & Staff books are great if your 5 yr old isn’t quite reading yet. Otherwise, I suggest finding a math program and reading together (we choose non-fiction library books about animals and pioneers, etc. as well as storybooks). I do some science and history with my 5 yr old, but only because she sits in on the lessons for her older brother. I sounds like you are doing well. Don’t worry too much about what other people are doing or you will always be looking for something better. There are so many great options, but you have to find what works for your family and stick with it. I’m sure you are doing better than you think you are :)

    • Lindsay October 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

      You can see what materials we are using this year here: http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2012/06/kindergarten-at-our-home.html

    • Lindsay October 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      We are following many of the guidelines from Well Trained Mind as well. This year we are just focusing on learning to read and write and doing a lot of memory work. I wouldn’t feel pressured that you have to do tons of different things. Just have fun with it! I personally thrive on more structure and routine, so that is why I chose a more specific kindergarten plan. I love Sonight materials because it is all living book based and allows for us all to have fun sitting together and learning through books, nothing too formal.

    • Jenni/Life from the Roof October 2, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

      I’m exactly the same as you, but with two boys ages 5 and 3 (and a 1.5 year-old little brother who I’m not homeschooling at all!). I have a hard time multi-tasking and doing reading lessons with my oldest when the other two are awake, so I am currently doing 1 hr in the afternoon with my oldest. He has a lot of attention issues, but thrives during this time and gets much more done with 45 minutes of complete attention from me than he would with his brothers running around or doing activities around him. It’s a really special time for the two of us. We’re only doing reading (Alpha-Phonics), handwriting, and math manipulatives/working with the 100′s chart. Science and history haven’t happened yet, but I’m not sweating it.

  33. Jess October 2, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Wonderful insight: My biggest thing is wondering how to keep younger children entertained while focusing on our oldest.

  34. Leanne October 2, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    Thank you! I needed to read this!

  35. Noel McNeil October 2, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    This is great! I am only a year away from starting to homeschool my oldest and have been wondering how I am going to juggle the other two while trying to teach. I didn’t grow up homeschooled so I am a newbie! Thanks for a glimpse into your day…it gives me great encouragement. ;)

  36. Sarah Partain October 2, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    Thank you for this post. We had a very frustrating morning of homeschooling, with all of the above problems.
    We decided to homeschool our oldest son last January and this fall started Classical Conversations, which we love. We are also doing math, writing and reading every day. I haven’t gotten into a good rhythm yet bc it seems that every day is different. Our 7 mo old baby boy and 2 yr old daughter make things interesting and my 6 year old son always has a ton of energy! We got through it though, and hopefully, he learned something!!:)

  37. Karina October 2, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    Sounds like you are on a great track, and being led by the Spirit as you juggle these little ones and all of these tasks! I really love how you have thought through methodically what works for your family. I think it is also fantastic to remember flexibility is key (something I am still working on)
    Blessings to your family on this important and exciting journey!