Monday, February 15, 2010

How do I homeschool with multiple ages, especially little ones?

This is a question I've been asked before.  I've posted about how I homeschool multiple ages in the past, so today I'll focus on how I homeschool with a baby or toddler.

The true key to homeschooling with a baby or toddler is simply to be flexible.  There is no simple answer that will solve the difficulties in each homeschool.  Every family and every baby is unique.  What works in one home, and with one baby, may not work for others.   In our home, every day is going to look a little different.  We don't schedule our babies, and we practice attachment parenting, so having the baby in arms, and part of our school time is just a fact of life. 

In the earliest months, this is simple.  We place the baby's bassinet in the living room.  He can nap nearby while we do our schoolwork.  He's small and easy to hold while walking a student through a math problem.  He's easy to nurse while reading aloud to the other children.  Unless he is colicky, you just work around him.  You especially work quickly whenever he naps.

When they reach 2 -3 months old, they usually have a routine of their own.  You know what to expect as far as naps (even if it's only 15 minute naps every 2 hours), and can wait for those times to do complicated school projects.  We have a bouncy seat that we rely on during this time for some hands-free time.  The baby usually isn't content to be left alone very long, so you still need to work quickly.  

As the baby gets a little older (4-6 months), we start to use an exersaucer in the living room.  We alternate the baby between being in our arms, in the exersaucer, napping, or lying on the floor.  When he becomes bored with one situation, we just try another one for awhile.  This time can be more difficult to read aloud with the baby on your lap.  They might start slapping at the book.  Working during nap times is still a favorite plan.  A baby sling can make it easier to stand and help students with math, with the baby on one hip.

Then the baby starts to crawl, pull up, and cruise along the furniture around 6-9 months.  This begins the time when they are more content, because they can go places, reach things, and explore.  BUT the messes multiply.  It's a busy time, but a good one.   It can help to have an older child take a few minutes to read a board book to the baby.  Nap times are still your best friend!  But you need to figure out what time of day your baby is most content, and schedule your more difficult subjects at that time.

Some of my children have started walking at 10 months; others not until 12 months.  But this becomes the most challenging time.  Toddlers become very opinionated, and active!  They're still making messes, climbing up on things, exploring everything ... but they also tend to get upset when their plans are thwarted.  Distraction and redirection become key at this point.  When they are into something they shouldn't get into, you need to redirect them to something appropriate. 

My 1 year old likes to color, look at books, do simple peg puzzles, and play with toy cars.  I also admit that we don't mind having him watch a short movie like Baby Faith, Praise Baby, or even Baby Einstein.  It can calm him down or keep his attention when we need to finish a project.  When he makes a mess, like emptying all the peg puzzles onto the floor, taking books off the shelf, or anything else ... it's important to involve him in picking up the mess. 

Homeschooling with babies and toddlers isn't  easy.   You need to learn to juggle the needs of the baby and the older children.  Teaching the older children to work on their own as much as possible, and trying to help the baby learn to play on his own helps.  Likewise, it is important to teach the older children that each baby is a blessing, and to be patient with the baby.

There is an article by Diane Hopkins of Love To Learn store, that I like to read.  It's a reminder that the most important lessons aren't always the academic ones.  The Baby Is the Lesson is an encouragement to anyone trying to homeschool with a baby or toddler underfoot.

Hang in there!  Keep experimenting, and don't give up!  Soon enough your baby or toddler will be a preschooler, eager to join in the lessons.

To read more Blog Cruise posts by other TOS Homeschool Crew members on this topic, click on the Blog Cruise image at the top of the page.

Trusting In Him,


  1. Your method is very much like mine, which I struggled through 6 years ago and again 3-4 years ago. It is an interesting balance with many challenges, and you are right that every baby is different as are each family. However, I am so glad you put this out there. When I first started looking for suggestions 6 years ago, I came across a whole camp of moms who offered suggestions that didn't fit us. They meant well, but pushed their methods as if they were the only way. I hope that this post is a blessing to others, as I know it would have been if I had read it 6 years ago!

  2. I figured you'd have some great advice on this topic!

  3. April ~ Your ideas are what I thought I would do when my now 3 month old was born. But, he sometimes has other plans. Moving during this time didn't help, either. But, I figure the boys are learning a LOT about helping care for a baby and that is one lesson they would NOT get if they were headed off to school each day.

    Laura O @

  4. What a wonderfully uplifting article! and thank you for posting the link to the article "The Baby IS The Lesson". It was just what I needed to help me get refocused.


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