Welcoming a New Family Member
- Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Over the years, my husband and I have accepted the role of unofficial greeters in our area for families new to homeschooling. Because we lead an annual "Home School 101" workshop and are present online, new families find us, migrate to us, and ask us lots of questions.
From one new mom, I was recently asked a common question that hit home for me in a fresh way. We have just welcomed our sixth child, so when a new-to-homeschooling mother asked, "How do I homeschool my 5-year-old with a newborn alongside?" I had to pause and answer the question for our family too.
Her question prompted me to pray for wisdom, do a lot of thinking, and ask my five kids (ages 6 to 15) what we should do to keep up formal learning now that the baby is here. Time for a balancing act!
Perhaps, rather than expecting an infant, you are preparing to move an elderly parent into your home. Or perhaps you are about to adopt a child or welcome an exchange student. In all these situations, how do you keep schooling? Even adding a four-footed family member, like a puppy or a farm animal, can be a challenge to continued homeschooling efforts.
As I tried to answer my friend's question and apply the answers to our own recent family growth situation, the Lord put some answers on my heart. First of all, I told my friend to give herself lots of grace! God knew He'd be giving her and her husband this baby at this exact time in their lives. He also knew their daughter would be 5 when her new baby brother arrived. God isn't surprised by their fatigue, their challenges, and their new stresses as they add the baby to their family and routine. I suggested that she take it easy, let her body heal, and focus on getting the baby to sleep well. Only gradually would I suggest she add more schoolwork back to her routine.
With a spring due date, our family's plan was to take an extended spring break. But homeschooling, by definition, is flexible! We don't have to follow the traditional school calendar. So take your break whenever life demands it. Your children may be setting aside their math and reading for a while, but they'll be learning all kinds of other life skills.
The first days and weeks of adding a newborn, or any new family member for that matter, are a new season of life. Like springtime, this season is full of change, beauty, and sometimes challenges. But remember that it's only a season. My friend will create a new routine, including bookwork with her older daughter, soon enough—but I don't want her to miss the beauty of her present situation with her infant son.
I also suggested she set baby-step goals right now. The baby won't allow her lots of time, but she may find ten minutes here or there to get things done. Sometimes that will be a shower for her, another time it might be one load of laundry, and another ten-minute chunk might be reading with her daughter. It's unrealistic to try to do school in one long stretch the way she did pre-baby.
Gradually, my friend will move toward getting the baby on a good schedule—eating, awake time, and sleeping—so she'll know when to anticipate one-on-one time with her older daughter. I told my new-to-homeschooling friend about my favorite Christian resource for early child training: Babywise by the Ezzos. While I don't agree with all their advice completely, overall their wisdom is wonderful and a major reason I'm able to have a large family, still do schooling, and juggle as many balls as I have the past 15 years since my oldest child was born.
When she does gradually get back to some formal learning, I suggested that my friend decide what's most important to her and prioritize her daughter's learning. If concentrating on her daughter's reading is most important, and math next, then rate reading #1 and math #2. When they have a few spare minutes, they can tackle priority #1 together. At the end of the day, if her daughter only gets one bit of schoolwork done, at least she's done what's most important! If she also manages to get to #2 later in the day, great! Although it might be just ten minutes of reading and another ten minutes of math, at least they are doing what's most important for their family.
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