The Baby IS the Lesson

One morning on my daily walk, I was fretting and stewing over what I could possibly do with my one-year-old during school time. I was feeling some despair with a new baby on its way. I couldn’t see any end to the disruption of babies in my home school for many years to come. I was praying and scheming at the same time: I could wait until the baby’s nap to teach school, I could rotate the children with baby-sitting chore away from our schoolroom, I could get a playpen . . . all solutions that didn’t feel right—babies needs their moms!

As I walked and pondered, suddenly the Lord introduced one sentence to my mind and revolutionized my mindset entirely! “The baby IS the lesson!” I thought I was trying to teach Math, but in reality I had been teaching, day by day, how an adult values the precious gift of children. My children, by watching how I deal with the frustration of a crying baby or keep a toddler happy and busy with some of his “own” pieces while we play a math game, are soaking up “the lesson”. Unfortunately, I had occasionally been teaching that the baby interrupts our lesson.

How to be a Christlike person is the most valuable lesson a child could ever learn! The lesson is learned moment by moment; watching a parent being patient, handling frustration with kindness, pressing on for the goal in spite of numerous interruptions, valuing each child’s needs regardless of inconvenience. That valuable insight–how Mother handles the baby is the real lesson–has dramatically changed how I view my home school. I am teaching foremost my values: godly character, kindness, respect for others, individuality, sacrifice and a host of other Christlike attributes. Teaching them reading, writing, math, etc. is very important to me but my perspective has been altered. “Mimic me, follow me and I will show you the way a Christlike person acts and what he values”. That is the message every parent relays to their children whether they are aware of it or not. Children try to copy everything anyway (our mannerisms, our daily activities, etc.). We must be certain that we are providing a correct pattern for them to copy, not only in our daily activities but in our attitude, our tone of voice, and our facial expression. We need to conduct our lives so that we can say “follow me”. If our children are to “buy” our values, what a tremendous responsibility we have to make sure we are living our best so the lesson is clear and well learned! What more could you ask for from your homeschool than to produce Christlike people?!

Teaching your children basically means getting your own personal life in order and striving daily to be the leader for them to follow. Of course, we fall short and they must look to Christ for the perfect being but they need to see daily how one acts, speaks, lives, solves problems. We are acting as a proxy, in a sense, for Christ. Since they can’t have his daily role model, then he has given his children parents to be an example, to point the way. Along with lesson preparations, we need to prepare ourselves by asking: is the pattern I live the way Christ would act? Can I say today that I have marked the path for my children to follow? Children learn from seeing their parent’s role model. Watching an adult make a simple mistake (such as being too punitive with a child) and go through the process of repenting is 100 times more effective than your devotional lesson on repentance. This means children must be intimately involved with you in your daily life. A few hours a day after school won’t do it.

dough-13726_640Children should be involved in the adult’s life rather than daily life rotating solely around the children. Research has shown that children who have grown up to be productive well-adjusted adults are those who have been drawn into the parent’s world; their daily activities, work, and interests; rather than having parents who centered their world on the child. When I began home schooling, I never could find the time to do the things I felt were important for my life; such as writing in my journal, corresponding with relatives, studying my scriptures, and more. Somehow, in my busy-ness of trying to teach the kids how to write in their journals, I was neglecting my own journal writing. Thankfully, we now have journal writing time in school daily, and we write letters to relatives together as a family on Sunday. Homeschool life should help parents do the daily necessities, rather than usurp the time needed for them. Home maintenance, chores, food preparation, gardening, food preservation, budgeting, clothing care (mending and sewing), planning family social relationships, caring for small children, record keeping, quilting, raising animals, etc. are all wonderful life skills that can be done together that enhance a child’s education!

The parent’s joyful task is to lead and guide the child into the real world–not set up a contrived pseudo-world to teach skills that the children would easily learn if they spent their time around adults who were striving to live good lives. What constitutes an adult trying to live a “good life”? Being a productive adult would constitute a full-time curriculum! Plant a garden, read good literature, serve the needy, be politically aware, keep a journal, vote for honest men, develop your talents, etc. The exciting part about leading a child into the real world is that they are self-motivated. The moment I sit down to play the piano, all my children want to play and want me to teach them to play something. No sooner than I begin typing on the computer, I have the whole family “needing” to type. My efforts at writing have, humorous to me, stimulated the production of “books” from my youngest children. Modeling is so much more effective than lecturing.

book-691489_1280Studies show that the biggest determining factor for a child’s success in reading in school is if they have seen a parent reading in the home on a regular basis. This is especially true for boys if the parent who reads is their father, rather than their mother. Somehow, the example says far more about the value of reading than endless hours in school reading groups.

In every area it takes instruction to teach skills to little people. Children need to master the basic academic skills (reading, writing, arithmetic), social manners, music competence, and a host of other abilities and that do take focused concentration and time from mother/teacher to accomplish. It isn’t realized just by living in a family. But shared family life practices and contributes to those skills. Having taught my little girl the numbers and the plus, minus and equal signs and how they worked, she jumped right into figuring out how many plates she needed to set the table using her new skills: (“We have 9 and the boys are gone to college so that is minus 3, so we need six”).

When we think of homeschool, sometimes we get tunnel vision, and think “academics”, “keeping up to speed” and other worrisome concerns that don’t really tell the whole story. Homeschool is the growing and nurturing of fine, upright people.

So, how we treat and value the baby really is the lesson.

Class never dismissed.


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What to Do with Baby?

Rebekah

Rebekah

Question:

This will be my first year to homeschool my 6-year-old. What can I do with my baby while I teach? The baby is one year old. I did read your Best Homeschool Secrets (thank you for the valuable tips), but I don’t have other children to help me babysit, and the baby is too young to play alone for more than 5 minutes. Besides, my baby only takes about an hour nap once a day. What did you do when your babies were young? Help!

Answer:

I just kept at the task of trying to teach while trying to help the baby be happy. With a 6-year-old, you can do lots of hands-on things, nature walks, exploring, drawing and art with different mediums—all interesting stuff for a one year old, too. Also, you can read aloud while sitting on the floor “playing” with the little one such as handing him puzzle pieces and pointing to where they go so he can put them in place, playing “pegs,” etc.

I never have used nap times for school time because I needed a break from the baby, too!

Just keep your goal in mind (for example, your day’s assignments or desired work: read aloud book, painting, playing number games, doing math, etc.—whatever you choose) and patiently work at it. It may take you all day to get done, but since it is meaningful time that you are enjoying with your children, there is no pressing need to get it all done between 9 a.m. and noon.

imageI still have a little one, and I still do have to keep her happy and occupied while I teach my other children. I read aloud to the bigger children while sitting on the floor with her puzzles or crayoning with her. I play math games with my children and give her a little stack of cards and dice to play along or let her roll for me and help move my piece. I also have a box of “schoolwork” for the baby, such as coloring books, crayons, peg puzzles, stacking pegs, lacing shapes, buttons or other little sorting things plus a spoon or tongs and a muffin tin to sort them into, a geoboard with rubber bands, board books, etc. I set up water color painting, playdough, or another fascinating hands-on activity that will keep the little one going for awhile. As baby gets a little older, there are more activities you can add: Practice for Preschoolers.

The baby can join in for singing time, pledge of allegiance, etc. I get her school box out when it is time for school and set the little one up at a “station,” and that buys me about 10 minutes or more, if I am lucky.

It can get hairy, and often does. Isn’t motherhood just about patience?! But, they grow up very quickly. So, we try to enjoy the baby, laugh at her antics, and keep plodding towards the goal of getting each day’s work done.

Little ones learn to live in the pattern of your school day, sensing when it is time to sing, read, get out the peg puzzles, etc., and it gets a little easier as time goes on. When the youngest one just gets too restless for school time anymore, I take him outside for a few minutes to swing or play in the sandbox, letting my other children continue working or come with us.

There are lessons your older child is learning by watching you love, care for, nurture, and be patient with the baby, lessons that are not learned any other way. You are tutoring your older child in kindness, unselfishness and love. That is an incredibly valuable lesson!

 

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Managing with a Baby

baby-84552_1280Question:

I am homeschooling 3 boys (11, 8, 5 years with the new baby in tow). My 8 year old is emotionally immature and gets things slower. My 5 year-old is advanced for his age, and works well in group situations. I am considering sending my 5 year-old son to the public school Kindergarten for 3 hours a day, hoping to relieve a little stress and use that time to focus on the older boys with their studies, as well as take care of the baby. One hesitation I have is, if I allow my Kindergartner to go to school now and choose to homeschool him later, will it cause confusion if he wants to continue in the public school system and not want to homeschool again? Also I wonder if it may cause my 8 year-old to feel jealous, because he has expressed an interest in going to public school sometimes?

Answer:

I sure understand your concern. It can be difficult with a baby to keep things going on an even keel. Right off, I wonder how you are doing things. Are you teaching those 3 boys together at the same time, in a unit study manner, where you read aloud or do hands-on things all on the same topic for history, science, art, etc.? That would give you the maximum benefit for the time you have. If your 5-year-old is advanced and your 8-year-old slower, they may well be able to do some of the same math and English with you instructing them together, simplifying even more. Are you limiting to a 9 AM to 12 noon school time, so you aren’t overwhelmed? Are you delegating a bit of the teaching of your 5-year-old to your 11-year-old. Big brother is a very influential person in a little boy’s life. Big brother could spend 30 minutes per school day, as part of his own leadership training, in reading to your 5-year-old or playing phonics games with him, thus giving you some time with your 8-year-old. Have you tried implementing “baby duty”, as both a way to bond your boys to the baby and train your sons, as well as give yourself some one-on-one time with each boy? Please come read on this website about how to implement these ideas:

As for your 5-year-old going to public school, I share your hesitation. Children are so very impressionable. They quickly learn, at the age of 5, a pattern and an attitude towards learning, respect or disrespect for parents, how much to depend on peer influences, etc. Public school is largely a social experience, rather than an academic experience. Many of those social interactions are not positive for a young one so tender. I believe that if can be confusing, and “addictive” to a child to be in public school, where a whole different set of standards reign. It is hard for them to come back to homeschool after being in a peer dependent social setting at school where you are told what to do and need not creatively think or take responsibility or even enjoy for your own learning.

If you are not involved in a support group where you sons can make homeschool friends, I would highly recommend it. When I hear children talk of wanting to go to public school, what I hear is, “I need to be around children my age”. If you fill that need, I believe that homeschool is the best option for educating your children. If you do not fill that need, their yearning for social interaction will make it difficult to homeschool and make the children always a bit discontented with it.

 

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Homeschool with a Baby

Homeschool with a baby? Yes, it presents about the same likelihood as taking a family vacation to Mars, teaching your dog to talk, or abolishing Santa Claus. Depending on the temperament of your baby, and the number of non-reading children who need instructions read to them during homeschool— you are in for one unique experience. This is tough stuff!

Given a choice of every Fisher Price toy ever manufactured, my darling 9-month-old Louisa won’t give them a second look. Instead she somehow wheedles her way up onto one of our laps as we sit at the school table. Before anyone can bat an eye, she has lunged into the coin box we use for math with great gusto. Nickels and dimes are flying everywhere. Then, even though we all frown and make spitting sounds so she definitely knows better, she eventually sneaks one in her fat little cheeks. Frantically, we promptly scoop up all the coins and before I can get the lid on the box, she has dumped the crayons and is grinning with bright blue crayon stuck in between her two little budding teeth. Why can’t the girl just play with baby toys while we do math?

On the other hand, having a baby around (even during homeschool) is sweetness and pure delight! What a refreshing perspective they bring to education. After all, their every move is to learn to master and manipulate and explore the world around them. They crave learning! They work at it constantly and never seem to need a recess from it. My little one is trying to learn to take her first step. Does she moan and complain about it? Of course not. She tirelessly persists day after day until she has mastered the skill. Learning is exciting! What a perfect example of the correct attitude towards education!

One homeschool lesson I have learned well: babies just don’t stay little. I know from repeated experience that this is just a very brief time and we want to cherish every delightful moment. Her learning is just as important as the rest of the children’s. Besides, it really makes math more fun!

 

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