Well, actually, I have been wanting to you ask you this…it’s probably a question you get a lot and have probably answered before, but how do you do it all? 🙂 I have 3 little ones 6 and under and this year I began to think about homeschooling for the first time. I’m just not sure how I can be a good teacher and mom (all day) while still taking care of the younger ones. I know you have older daughters to help with the younger ones and you’ve mentioned your schedule, but at this point that doesn’t really work for us. My one-year-old wants my constant attention. I admire you and all you’re able to do with each of your kids. And (honestly) do you ever get overwhelmed with having everyone at home, and how do you keep your house clean and organized? Thanks!
I’m really excited to see how you do it with toddlers and babies. I was wondering if in that post you can talk about how you did it when your oldest was 5. Right now, I find it hard to read or teach sam who is 2.5 because the girls want me to hold them. I feel all i can do is sit and hold all three. Also, how do you keep yourself so busy when you are pregnant and all you want to do is lay down? or do you get like that? Right now, we are expecting number 4 and I get somewhat sick and tired. any tips to keep motivated when you just want to lay down?
I’ve been trying to think back when my oldest was five. We had four little ones at the time. I remember feeling like I wasn’t accomplishing very much. My mother-in-law wisely encouraged me to keep plugging along. She said, “Years down the road you’ll look back at this time and truly be amazed at all you were able to get done. It’s hard to see when you’re in the thick of it.” She was right!
I highly recommend reading this article The Baby IS the Lesson by Diane Hopkins. I read it during that time and it also helped to change my perspective.
Keep things simple. I can’t stress that enough! Less really is more at this age. And it’s all about developing good habits.
Start with a basic routine. Kids thrive on routines. Yes, there were many interruptions because of the baby but there was a basic routine to our day. My children love picture charts at this age to remind them what needs to be done and when. We had charts for the morning and charts for the evening. The physical act of moving a picture from the to-do side to the done side is fun for them.
Meet the needs of the littlest ones first by feeding, changing and playing with them. Then make use of a good baby sling. My babies always seem to want to be held or at least want me in eye-sight. I haven’t kept track but I’m pretty sure at least half of our homeschooling has occurred on the couch with children surrounding me while I nursed the baby. ☺ Still happens today!
Teach little ones to play independently. Some people use walkers, playpens, johnny-jump-ups, or exer-saucers. I highly recommend blanket training. You can read more about it here and here. It creates a safe place for small children to play while you work with older children.
School lessons should be kept short and simple. There is no need for fancy plans or elaborate projects. Ten to fifteen minutes is a good place to start, working your way up to thirty minutes. It’s easier though when the lessons are broken up into 15 or 20 minute segments scheduled around the baby’s feeding, blanket, or nap times.Take advantage of learning moments that happen throughout the day. Honestly, at this age, you can go with the flow. They are so naturally curious about everything. You don’t need to cover all subjects, every day. We usually only had a four-day school week with the fifth set aside as a fun day of going to the library, park, or more involved projects.
We love to sing! Find or make up your own songs that teach basic concepts. Musical Notebooks is a good product we’ve used with success.
READ. Read books constantly. Many times I think that’s all we were able to do in a day. I give the littler ones their own board books to chew on and flip through while I read to and with the older ones.
I know there is so much more I could write about handling a houseful with so many little ones. The main point I want to make though is to just enjoy them! This is a stage of motherhood you will never be in again, when all of your children at once love you unconditionally and they don’t compare you with other mothers. It is an age of wonder, of innocence, of excitement and curiosity, of messes, of exasperating moments, of fun.
Be assured that the Lord who has blessed you, entrusted you, with His precious little ones will be there to help you. One of my most favorite talks of all-time on motherhood is Because She is a Mother by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. I encourage all young mothers to read it!
In speaking of mothers generally, I especially wish to praise and encourage young mothers. The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. The young years are often those when either husband or wife—or both—may still be in school or in those earliest and leanest stages of developing the husband’s breadwinning capacities. Finances fluctuate daily between low and nonexistent. The apartment is usually decorated in one of two smart designs—Deseret Industries provincial or early Mother Hubbard. The car, if there is one, runs on smooth tires and an empty tank. But with night feedings and night teethings, often the greatest challenge of all for a young mother is simply fatigue. Through these years, mothers go longer on less sleep and give more to others with less personal renewal for themselves than any other group I know at any other time in life. It is not surprising when the shadows under their eyes sometimes vaguely resemble the state of Rhode Island. . .
Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones. Mothers, we acknowledge and esteem your faith in every footstep. Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever. . .
One young mother wrote to me recently that her anxiety tended to come on three fronts. One was that whenever she heard talks on LDS motherhood, she worried because she felt she didn’t measure up or somehow wasn’t going to be equal to the task. Secondly, she felt like the world expected her to teach her children reading, writing, interior design, Latin, calculus, and the Internet—all before the baby said something terribly ordinary, like “goo goo.” Thirdly, she often felt people were sometimes patronizing, almost always without meaning to be, because the advice she got or even the compliments she received seemed to reflect nothing of the mental investment, the spiritual and emotional exertion, the long-night, long-day, stretched-to-the-limit demands that sometimes are required in trying to be and wanting to be the mother God hopes she will be.
But one thing, she said, keeps her going: “Through the thick and the thin of this, and through the occasional tears of it all, I know deep down inside I am doing God’s work. I know that in my motherhood I am in an eternal partnership with Him. I am deeply moved that God finds His ultimate purpose and meaning in being a parent, even if some of His children make Him weep.
“It is this realization,” she says, “that I try to recall on those inevitably difficult days when all of this can be a bit overwhelming. Maybe it is precisely our inability and anxiousness that urge us to reach out to Him and enhance His ability to reach back to us. Maybe He secretly hopes we will be anxious,” she said, “and will plead for His help. Then, I believe, He can teach these children directly, through us, but with no resistance offered. I like that idea,” she concludes. “It gives me hope. If I can be right before my Father in Heaven, perhaps His guidance to our children can be unimpeded. Maybe then it can be His work and His glory in a very literal sense.”
In light of that kind of expression, it is clear that some of those Rhode Island–sized shadows come not just from diapers and carpooling but from at least a few sleepless nights spent searching the soul, seeking earnestly for the capacity to raise these children to be what God wants them to be. Moved by that kind of devotion and determination, may I say to mothers collectively, in the name of the Lord, you are magnificent. You are doing terrifically well. The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you. He knows that your giving birth to a child does not immediately propel you into the circle of the omniscient. If you and your husband will strive to love God and live the gospel yourselves; if you will plead for that guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit promised to the faithful; if you will go to the temple to both make and claim the promises of the most sacred covenants a woman or man can make in this world; if you will show others, including your children, the same caring, compassionate, forgiving heart you want heaven to show you; if you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘Because She Is a Mother’,” Ensign, May 1997, 35)
All this week I’m answering questions from my readers. Are you curious about something? Go here and ask away!