“Mom, Mom. Mommmmmm!!! SHE’S TAKING MY HOMEWORK!!”
The all too familiar screams come piercing through the house and I get there just in time to disrupt a worksheet tug-of-war between my 1st grader and my 1 year old. I wipe the tears, smooth out the paper, and place the baby back in her favorite spot – my left hip.
I’ve learned just how much I can do with a baby on my left hip. My 3rd child settles into the spot worn into by two sisters before her so that now sometimes I hardly notice she’s there. And when you’re homeschooling two kids with a baby that gets into literally everything, sometimes that hip is just where she needs to be.
I’d love to be able to share with you my Pinterest board of no-fail ideas to keep baby busy during school, but I just don’t have one of those. Oh yes, I’ve put in the time digging through pins looking for something – anything – that could squeeze in any opportunity for multi-tasking. Truth is, a baby has a teeny tiny attention span, so often those amazing baby activities take more time to set up than they’re actually useful for.
My multi-tasking strategies of late look more like managed risk moments. Baby got a hold of the telephone again. Ok, the risk of her calling 911 is very low. The phone may be busy for awhile. But baby-with-telephone scenario buys me a good 45 seconds to 3 minutes, and I can help my 6 year old with at least 3 math problems during that amount of time.
What’s that crash? Oh, she’s into the pots and pans drawer. What a mess. That buys me 5 minutes at least! Sure, I’ll have to clean it up later, but my preschooler is really wanting help drawing her “M”s, and that’s a golden moment I don’t want to miss.
Crayons all over the floor! She just might draw on the walls again. But my first born is drawing her own conclusions and processing her own revelations through the Scripture she’s copying and that honest and true moment is worth my baby’s artwork over all the walls.
Sure, sometimes I’m on it. My cape is flowing in the wind of the air conditioner and I’m cleaning up a mess, instructing a math lesson, and encouraging my preschooler’s spontaneous creativity all at the same time, baby on hip, swaying to some worship music. I take 2.5 seconds to close my eyes, breathe in deeply that oh so fleeting moment of success, and celebrate that win. Because in 10.5 seconds after this moment, it’s all going to get out of control and we’ll be a hot mess again.
These days my “Practical Approach To Homeschooling With A Baby In The House” is not so refined and earth shattering. It consists mostly of teaching my kids how to hide from the baby. We find creative spots where she can’t go and use clipboards. Here are my first grader’s favorite places to do her schoolwork:
- On the top bunk of her bunk bed, with the ladder hidden away in the closet
- On mom’s bed with the door locked
- In the garage, hoping baby won’t look there
- In the office, protected by the baby gate
- In the car, in the carseat, while driving
Homeschooling with a baby in the house is not for the faint of heart. My cute little school desks are pushed against the wall collecting dust because they’re under 3 ½ feet – the arm-span of my 1 year old. My sweet girls can’t do their homework there uninterrupted because to my baby, pencils are a snack almost as irresistible as the sound of tearing handwriting worksheets.
When other parents learn that I’m homeschooling my kids, they often ask me how I do it all. My most common response is, “I don’t.” At least, I’m not doing everything they think I am all the time. The fact is, sometimes I wonder how they do it. Getting dressed early, making lunches, getting the kids ready for school, packing their backpacks, driving everyone where they need to go and getting to work on time. Yes, I may be in the middle of the craziest crazy there is, trying to homeschool these three silly girls, but at least I can stay in my pajamas all day if I really want to.
And that, some days, is my only win.