How and When to Combine Children in Your Homeschool

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How and When to Combine Children in Your Homeschool

Beginning to homeschool is rife with questions; homeschooling with multiple children even more so. While Sonlight curriculum resolves many of the problems a new homeschooler faces, it can be overwhelming to think about using a different History / Bible / Literature Package (HBL) for each child. The good news is that you don't have to! Sonlight is perfect for combining multiple children in a single program!

The trick comes with figuring out which children can work together and which level to use for them. Here is a breakdown of ways to choose the right level when combining your children and tips for doing it well.

Three Ways to Combine Children

As you might expect, there’s more than one way to combine children. Here are three of the most popular methods; feel free to put your own spin on any one of these to find what works for your family.

1. Teach to the Oldest

With this method, you pick the HBL to best suit your oldest child, making adaptations for any younger siblings or just letting them glean what they can along the way. This method usually requires you to separate children at some point or switch to a different method.

Who This Method Might Benefit: Parents who are comfortable with the concept that their younger child might not get quite as much out of a Sonlight program but can easily make it up down the road. Parents who find it easier to add in picture books or easy readers for the younger children also do well with this method.

Who Might Benefit from Another Method: Parents who would find it anxiety-producing to believe their younger child might not be getting as much out of the program. Also parents who are worried about exposing younger children to more sensitive content might prefer to wait.

2. Teach to the Middle

Some parents find this method very natural, especially if there's not a large gap in the middle of the sibling group. It involves choosing a level that's right between the two students and adjusting a little up for the older or a bit down for the younger if need be.

Who This Method Might Benefit: Parents who have two or more children close together in ability or parents who feel comfortable adjusting the program as they go.

Who Might Benefit from Another Method: Parents who would have a hard time adjusting in two different directions at once. I myself find this method particularly difficult, as I kept adding so much material for my oldest to beef it up and more material for my youngest to make sure he wasn’t being left behind, that I ended up doing more work than if I had simply chosen two separate levels.

3. Teach to the Youngest

This might be the most popular option. It involves picking a program that fits your youngest child you wish to combine, or just at the top of their comfort level, and then adding materials to challenge your older child.

Who This Method Might Benefit: Parents who find it easier to add on materials than to worry about what to drop or what to do if a child isn’t getting enough.  Many parents find it easier to read a few extra books than to try to adjust the entire program.

Who Might Benefit from Another Method: Parents who don’t feel comfortable holding their oldest child back while waiting for the younger one to be ready, or having an older child who might be at the upper end or above the upper end of the grade recommendations Sonlight lays out.  

Do I Have to Combine?

If the thought of combining doesn’t bring you peace, or you feel anxious about your children being in a level that might not be their perfect fit, you don't have to combine! Whether you choose to combine or whether you work through two or more programs at once, you’ll find other homeschoolers around the world using Sonlight just the way you do. Start with the method that sounds the most appealing to you.

Families who have children a year or two apart often find it easier to combine. Children three or more years apart are often more difficult to merge together. However, some families are able to combine children five or more years apart with a little creativity.  

The larger the age gap, the more necessary it is to let go of the ideas of grade level for each child or the need to constantly move the oldest ahead. You might find one child needs to hover in place for a year or two while waiting for a sibling to mature.

If your older child is eager to move ahead or the younger child is resistant to starting school, you may find it is more work to keep them together than to use separate levels. Keeping them together might get harder and harder as your oldest gets into higher grades but isn’t progressing in HBL levels. However, if your children are fairly close in ability, they might merge together seamlessly.

For some parents, combining their children is worth the relief they get from combining. For others, it only adds more stress.

Planning for the Future

If you have a lot of very young children, you might not know whether they will combine well in the future. Or you might make plans now, but they grow and develop in ways you can’t predict.

You don’t have to have it all planned out right now.

It’s okay to make a tentative plan now and change it as you go. In those cases, I like to remind myself to start low and go slow.

Choose the very lowest program you feel comfortable starting with and work through it as slowly as you can while you wait for the younger children to catch up. As you work through it, you’ll start to see hints that point you in the direction of future choices.

For example, if your oldest is impatient, asks for more work during the day, and seems to want to go faster, or if a younger child seems not to be interested at all or balks at doing the work, these are possible signs that those two aren’t going to combine well in the next few years.

Or, if your oldest is happy doing what’s scheduled, and your youngest is happy to listen in more often than not, that might show you that they will be fairly easy to combine.

You’re Not Locked into Your Choice for Life

When I feel myself panicking over my choices, it helps to remind myself to take a deep breath and relax. Even if this year is a total disaster, it will work out in the long run. I can adjust what I’m doing as I go and try again.

Even if it’s my child’s senior year, and they struggle with every class, it’s not over. I can simply have them redo their senior year with something else. Or I can have them go on to college after a hard year. Sonlight has a great return policy you can use as a backup plan and excellent Advisors on call to help you figure out to do next. The online support group can answer almost any question at any time of the day, and other parents,who have been where you are, are available to help.

Combining makes life easier for many families.  There really is no wrong way to combine unless it’s not working for you.  You can try combining in any way that feels most comfortable for your family, or choose not to combine at all.  No matter the way you choose, as long as it works for your family, it will be just right.

Take a look at the Sonlight catalog. It has helps for combining children along with detailed package descriptions to help you make the best choices. And as always, if you need help, contact our Advisors.

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Loving the Gift of Homeschooling No Matter How You Received It

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Loving the Gift of Homeschooling No Matter How You Received It

Have you ever received a gift so special that you kept it for as long as humanly possible? What about one you loved for a shorter period of time, then no longer had use for? How about a gift you never really liked, but valued anyway because of the reasons it was given?

Do you believe that homeschooling is a gift? It is, no matter how you received it.

The Meaningful Gift of Homeschooling

Some parents choose to homeschool from the moment their oldest child starts kindergarten until their youngest graduates from high school. It’s something they’re passionate about and deeply committed to—a lifestyle they would never willingly walk away from. The time they spend working and learning alongside their children is important to them, and they’re in it for the long haul, firmly believing the advantages far outweigh any disadvantages.

The Temporary Gift of Homeschooling

There are other families who find homeschooling serves their family well for a season, but not forever. They love having children home in their early years, then confidently and successfully send them off to a brick and mortar school as they get older, or maybe bring a child home for just one year to focus on a particular aspect of academics or deal with some personal struggles. They know homeschooling won’t always be the best option for their family, but they’re grateful for the extra time it gives them with their children or the opportunity it presents for meeting a particular need.

The Obligatory Gift of Homeschooling

Finally, there are parents who find themselves homeschooling as a side effect of other things going on in their lives. Perhaps they have a sick child whose illness or treatments causes them to miss too many days at the local school. Maybe they live in a remote international location, choosing to homeschool because they don’t want to send their kids away to boarding school. Given a choice, homeschooling would never be their preference, but they accept that it’s the best option they have at the time.

The Mixed Gift of Homeschooling

Some of us may find that we don’t land squarely in any one category.

  • We feel strongly and positively about homeschooling, but can’t continue for reasons beyond our control.
  • We homeschool solely because that’s what our life dictates, but we also happen to enjoy it.
  • We know homeschooling is a short-term commitment for our family, but it still seems to drag on longer than we want it to.

Valuing Your Gift of Homeschooling

What matters most is not our personal perspective toward the gift of homeschooling, which will vary according to our particular circumstances, but that we simply recognize it as a gift in the first place.

  • It’s a gift of flexibility—the chance to have school revolve around the rest of life instead of vice versa.
  • It’s a gift of freedom—the option to educate our children in the way that’s best for our season of life.
  • It’s a gift of time—an opportunity to learn with and about our children.

Homeschooling, like every other option for educating our children, has its pros and cons, but we’re the ones who decide if we’ll focus on the blessings or the burdens. Whether we’re homeschooling because we have to or want to, as either long-term or short-term homeschoolers, may we each appreciate the gift it is for as long as it’s part of our lives.

Using the right curriculum makes all the difference in your homeschool experience! Discover how Sonlight can help you cherish the gift of homeschooling today.

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3 Tools to Use When Your Child Gets Stuck During Homeschool

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3 Tools to Use When Your Child Gets Stuck During Homeschool

You’ve been watching your daughter stare at the same math problem for fifteen minutes. It could turn into 45 minutes, but you know better than to let it drag on that long.

You want to rail at her to get this done! Staring out the window and cleaning the tread in her sneakers with a number two pencil does not count as math! What is happening?

You’re pretty sure she understood the directions. The problem is well within her current skill level, or at least you think it is. Unless she makes the effort to solve the problem, it’s hard to know.

So you wait.

You shift, uncomfortable in your chair. You start to brainstorm how to get out of this deadlock without ruining what’s left of your homeschool day. You send up prayers that this won’t end in an argument.

Take a deep breath, friend! This scenario plays out in my house and many homeschool homes around the world everyday. Here are a few tools you can use to help your child get unstuck.

1. Change the Environment to Get Unstuck

  • Reduce the noise. Lots of our households are loud with the sounds of multiple children, pets, and other ambient noise! Help your child by removing some of those distractions, providing soothing white noise, or finding her a quiet zone to work. Noise cancelling headphones are another useful option!
  • Alter location.A clipboard is one of our most valued homeschool tools. Move the work outside or to some other appropriate place.
  • Provide incentives to retain focus. Offer a snack. Light a candle. Play classical music. Consider a timer or stopwatch (not appropriate for some anxious learners).

2. Change the Problem to Get Unstuck

  • Remove potential obstacles. If the activity requires more than one skill, take away the component that causes the lag. For example, if your child struggles with writing, consider using math magnets or tiles to demonstrate the arithmetic instead of writing problems.
  • Don’t complete the assignment. If you are confident she understands the concept, let the problem go. Don’t fall into the trap of busy work. Life always gives us a chance to review the concept if it is important enough to know.
  • Mark the problem for later review. Move on and tackle the problem again at the end of the day or first thing the next morning.
  • Save review for another day. Let your child complete all the problems with no feedback from you. Give her space to work. At the end of the week let her know which questions she missed and have her rework them with your assistance.
  • Answer it for them. Tell your child the answer. Perhaps have them explain how you got the solution.

3. Support Your Learner to Get Unstuck

  • Investigate the hold up. Encourage questions. Offer to repeat directions. Gently remind your child to refocus.
  • Develop a plan. Have the child agree to a minimum number of problems they think they can accomplish. Once this agreed upon bare minimum is reached, honor their choice to stop if they wish.
  • Provide emotional assistance. Adopt a growth mindset in your homeschool. Offer encouragement and support. Help them get started.

Listen to your child. If he or she is really struggling, then something may be truly wrong. If, despite all your efforts and your child’s efforts, focus is a continual struggle, consider speaking with an expert. Dyslexia, dysgraphia, slow processing speed, anxiety, or perfectionism may require outside assistance and a more specialized set of tools.

It can be hard to know if what you're facing is a normal struggle or something more. Our Advisors can help!

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2 Keys for Homeschooling a Delayed or Struggling Reader

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2 Keys for Homeschooling a Delayed or Struggling Reader
Micah is reading to his "friends" from one of the I Can Read It! books.

One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is that kids can learn at their own pace. Those who excel in a subject can move ahead at breakneck speed, while those who struggle can slow things down to a
manageable pace.

Each of my four children started reading at different ages and with different levels of challenge or ease. And with each child, we’ve taken advantage of the freedom homeschooling allows when teaching reading.

1. Let the Delayed Reader Set the Pace

Our oldest child started reading at the age of what I consider the early side of average. Our second hit the same milestone one year younger, unquestionably an early reader. Along came our third child, and I soon realized it was going to be a totally different scenario with her.

She was learning letters and their sounds, and she could sound out words. But reading wasn’t clicking like it had with the older children. I briefly pondered whether she may have dyslexia or poor vision. Then I recalled all my friends whose children have been late bloomers in the reading department. There was nothing wrong with them physically to keep them from progressing; they simply needed more time. Eventually they caught up to their siblings and peers so that no one would ever suspect they’d had a slow start to reading.

I chose to take full advantage of the fact my daughter didn’t have to keep up with a classroom of other students and instead followed her lead when moving forward with reading lessons. She was a slightly delayed reader, operating on her own time table. And that's okay!

After all, I’ve never met an adult whose life greatly benefited because they learned to read early at 3 or greatly suffered because they learned to read at 10.

No employer cares about when you learned to read -- only that you CAN. Don't stress over "grade levels."

I found ways to accommodate my delayed reader's need for extra time and effort:

  • We’d share the task of reading, alternating paragraphs or pages to practice reading skills without her being overwhelmed.
  • She listened to the audio version of some school books while following along in her own print copy, allowing her to become more familiar with words as she saw and heard them at the same time.
  • We stretched two HBLs over three years.

2. Get Professional Help for the Delayed Reader

My strategies worked well for quite a while. Then she developed what appeared to be a tic. Long story short, she needed glasses. Of course, the tightly wound part of me—which I have to confess is most of me—immediately regretted that I hadn’t acted on that fleeting suspicion of vision problems when she was younger. Then I took a deep breath and realized it was fine.

Yes, if we had resolved this problem much sooner, life would have been easier for both of us. But I don’t regret for one minute the gifts our family gleaned through the experience:

  • I learned to slow down.
  • Her siblings learned patience with her as she struggled with something they found easy.
  • I got to spend extra time one-on-one with her.

I’m also grateful that letting her set the reading pace kept it from becoming something to dread. Even though it was hard work for her, she always enjoyed reading.

One of the things we learned through this process is that our local school district does vision screenings for kindergarten students, a service our kids obviously miss out on. So when our fourth kid was in kindergarten, we went to our optometrist’s office for a routine exam. We’d seen no indication of vision problems, but wanted to err on the side of caution. It turns out his vision was even worse than his sister’s. He’s been wearing glasses ever since and has never struggled with reading.

Choose Your Plan of Attack

If you find that one of your kids is an academic outlier who falls on the struggling side of the spectrum, I encourage you to slow down, find new ways to approach whatever subject they find difficult, and see if a little extra time is all your delayed reader needs.

I also encourage you to seek help from outside resources if there’s a possibility of something more than just a need for more time. You may rule out physical issues first and relax into a slower pace if there’s nothing wrong, or you may slow down first and seek help only if things don’t improve over time. Either way, your child will benefit from being able to move forward at a speed that’s neither too easy nor too difficult for them.

Sonlight's Remedial Reading program yields success when tutors, classes, and hundred-dollar programs fail!
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Winners of Sonlight’s Hands-on Project Contest

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announcing the Winners of Sonlight’s Hands-on Project Contest

We put out a call to our craftiest Sonlighters for hands-on project ideas for new History Project Kits, and you answered … in droves. While we received many outstanding project ideas, we are thrilled to announce these twenty winners whose craft ideas made the final cut.

Each winner will receive a $250 cash prize! Congratulations!

Sonlight Level B

These ten crafty folks submitted ideas for the to-be-released kit that will accompany HBL B, Intro to World History Year 1 of 2. This kit is slated to be released summer 2019.

  1. Lindsay B. from Cibolo, TX
  2. Stepheny S. from Greensboro, NC
  3. Samantha K. from Bloomington, IL
  4. Erika E. from Greeneville, TN
  5. Jennifer H from Walnut Springs TX
  6. Sofia H. in Singapore
  7. Kimberly M from Maryville, TN
  8. Rebecca G. from Stafford, VA
  9. Rebekah and Nadia Z. in Cambodia
  10. Whitney N. from Raleigh, NC

Sonlight Level C

These ten craft lovers submitted ideas for the to-be-released kit that will accompany HBL C, Intro to World History Year 2 of 2. This kit is slated to be released late in the year 2019.

  1. Holly B. from Muncie, IN
  2. Sam B. from Vienna, VA
  3. David H. in Aguascalientes, Mexico
  4. Jamie M. from Greensburg, PA
  5. Tracy M. from Oklahoma
  6. Cameron R. from Hickory NC
  7. Bonnie S. from Fayetteville, NC
  8. Valerie M. from North Fairfield, OH
  9. Whitney N. from Raleigh, NC
  10. Kate P. from Norfolk, VA and her mom Susan B. from Christiansburg, VA

The winning projects were selected based on how they fit into the curriculum, how well thought out the project details were, and how easy the directions were to follow.

(The contents of each final kit are subject to change as we source materials and work to fit all the details of the multiple ideas into a cohesive product.)

New Hands-on Kits for 2019

Both new Hands-on History Project Kits will be available in 2019.

  • The History Project Kit for Level B will be available summer 2019.
  • The History Project Kit for Level C will be available toward the end of 2019.

The World Cultures History Project Kit for Level A is available now.

Be sure you are subscribed to Sonlight emails to be the first to know when new products are released. Sign up here (or adjust your preferences).

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How to Make Homeschool Routines Automatic with Action Linking

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How to Make Homeschool Routines Automatic with Action Linking

While all children are a bit disorganized and have a hard time remembering to take care of their belongings, some struggle more than others. If you have a child who never puts away pencils, who rarely remembers to place dishes in the sink, or who leaves glasses lying around despite constant reminders, you know how frustrating these children can be.

Items get lost, things get broken, books get misplaced, and chaos quickly takes over. In children with certain neurological issues such as ADHD, ADD, and executive function delays, the frustration is amplified even further.

If you have a child who often gets distracted in the process of cleaning up or who seems to never put things away, action linking may be the answer to making homeschool routines automatic.

1. Identify the Largest Issue

What’s bothering you the most? If you get frustrated because mornings seem overwhelming, pick one or two things that are most stressful. What do you wish your child would remember to do—that one thing which would make your day a little easier? What do you find yourself reminding your child to do repeatedly? Don’t try to address all the issues at once.

2. Set Goals with Your Child

Discuss with your child the things you really wish they would change, and together, come up with a few (no more than two to three) items you can work on first. Let your child have input.

Setting too many goals may cause your child to feel like they are just failing. Instead, focus on a few tasks, and slowly add more as those habits are adjusted.

3. Limit Checklists

  • Have you ever gone grocery shopping and left your list behind?
  • Ever set goals for the weekend, only to forget to do a few items?
  • Did you ever buy curriculum, meaning to add it in at some point, and suddenly remember that you haven’t added it in yet?

It’s natural to forget things, even if they're on a list.

In my house, the problem with checklists is they only work if the child remembers to check the list. I’ll talk about building and linking routines in a moment, but it’s much more helpful to build a checklist into a routine, than to have the checklist be the routine.

If you need to use checklists, that’s fine. They’re a handy tool. Just be sure to teach the child how to frequently refer back to the list and don’t use multiple checklists throughout the day.

Phone reminders and alarms are akin to checklists, but you don't have to check them. They interrupt you. However the more you rely on them, the easier they are to put off, ignore, or forget about. If you do use them and find your children still aren’t getting things done, try linking the reminder to an action.

4. Find a Routine and Link the Tasks

Some children naturally fall into a routine if you remind them enough times and show them how to do it a time or two. However, some children seem to need a lot more help to find and stick with a routine.

An easy way to help your child build routines is to take the goals you created together and add them to a task they already do. This method is called linking.

For example, if you would like your child to take out the trash every day after lunch, you can start building the habit by linking it onto the actions they already do. So you might have your child place their dishes in the sink, rinse them off, and then grab the trash. Find tasks that can be linked together to make it easier to move from one task to the next.

5. Keep Linked Supplies in Sight

I have found it helpful to have the supplies for the linked task in sight when finished with the previous task. For example, if we are doing schoolwork, I will keep the books in a stack on the table in the order we will be reading them. When we finish an assignment from one book, we place it on the finished pile, leaving the next book at the top of the reading pile—a tangible reminder of exactly what our next step is.

If you want your child to put on shoes after they put on their clothes, have the shoes in sight of where they usually get dressed. Or practice putting socks and shoes on the floor right next to them before they begin dressing. The more steps they have to accomplish before they can do the next step, the more time there is for distractions to get them off track.

5. Practice the Linking Actions of the Routine

When I was in high school, I rarely wore my glasses. It’s not that I didn’t need them; I’d forget about them. I was so used to the world being blurry, that I didn’t always notice it was still blurry.

I knew there was a problem, and I tried a few unsuccessful ways to fix it:

  1. leaving my glasses by the door (I’d forget to look, or I looked at them and thought I would put them on later but didn’t.)
  2. writing myself notes on the bathroom mirror (I got accustomed to seeing the notes and ignored them.)
  3. setting an alarm (I’d turn the alarm off, intending to do the task in a minute and then forget.)

My children exhibit these same behaviors. They intend to do something, but forget, even when it’s important. Or I’ll remind them, and they say they are going to, but they forget. It’s easy to have the intention, but follow-through is much more difficult.

With the help of my husband, we’ve developed the routine linking method where we link tasks to other tasks. Then we practice the linking tasks until it becomes so routine we can do them naturally, almost without thinking.

With the glasses example above, I started by linking my getting-ready-to-go-out-routine. I usually start out by brushing my teeth, taking a shower, and getting dressed, all the way to my shoes. I check my purse for my passport, credit card, and driver’s license, and check my work bags to make sure I have everything. Then, I do my hair and, finally, put on my glasses.

To link putting on my glasses to brushing my hair, every time I forgot to put on my glasses I forced myself to do these actions:

  1. I stopped what I was doing.
  2. I went back to my room, and picked up my brush.
  3. I brushed my hair, or went through the motions of brushing my hair.
  4. I put the brush down on the shelf next to my glasses, picked up my glasses case, opened it, and put them on.
  5. I took off my glasses, walked out of the room, and paused for the count of three.
  6. I went back into my room and repeated the routine from the beginning three or four times to help cement the actions in my motor memory banks.

Eventually, doing this series of actions enough times has helped me to always have my glasses on before I leave the house.

If I forget to put my glasses away and leave them lying around somewhere, I make myself walk through these behaviors:

  1. pick up my glasses
  2. put them away in my room
  3. walk out of my room
  4. perform my last action where I didn’t put my glasses away
  5. go straight to my room and put them away
  6. repeat three to four times

This routine helps me to remember to always put them away, regardless of what I’m doing. It’s simpler to put them away the first time than to do the same action several times.

If you want your child to rinse their dishes after eating breakfast, but they keep forgetting, simply have them sit back down to breakfast, pretend to eat, get up, pick up their dishes, and take them to the sink and rinse them. Wait for them to dry a bit, reset the table, and repeat a few times.

Eventually, the actions of standing up, plate in hand, after a meal will be ingrained in their motor memory bank, and they won’t have to think about the action. Don’t treat it as a punishment, but as a task to help improve memory.

8. Grow the Routine

Once you have built your routine so it is becoming automatic, you can reevaluate your goals and add more. If your child is consistently rinsing their dishes immediately after breakfast, you might add sweeping the floor, getting dressed, daily devotions, or any other task you would find helpful. Again, don’t try to build it too quickly or add too many tasks because that increases the risk that the routine will have missed items and make it harder to learn. Just focus on building the routine over time.

Hopefully, building your routine will help you and your children have more peaceful days and to keep better track of supplies. Your routines will grow and change with your children and help them when they move out on their own. Building a routine might not solve all of your child’s executive function issues, or help to improve their focus in other areas, but a smoother day means you have more time and energy to devote to other tasks. That extra peace might make all the difference.

Get free Instructor's Guide samples.

A Sonlight Instructor's Guide cues you step by step through your day, telling you what to do next. Learn more about Sonlight IGs and get samples here.

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8 Keys to Self-Care for Homeschool Moms in the Baby Years

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Okay, I’m going to be straight with you here. When you are homeschooling with a baby, you are in the trenches of motherhood. Your clothes are wrinkly, your eyes are carrying bags the size of a grapefruits, and you constantly get whiffs of soured milk, probably from your own shoulder—your sweet baby’s favorite place to drool and spit up.

You don’t even have time to take a shower, and that’s a basic need. How on earth will you practice self-care in this stage of life?

Admittedly, it's not easy to find margin for self-care as a homeschool mom in the baby years! But there are things you can do to take care of yourself with the same loving attention you give your precious children.

1. Give Yourself Grace

Buckets of grace.

  • You will not get everything done.
  • You will not have a spotless house.
  • You will not have gourmet (or even balanced!) dinners every night.

It’s okay. It's all okay.

Sit down with your husband and go over the list of non-negotiables. For me, I have to have a clean kitchen. It’s a must, or I won’t cook. My husband wears uniforms to work, so his non-negotiable is clean uniforms. So my priorities are making sure that we have a clean kitchen and clean uniforms. Anything else can wait, guilt-free.

2. Say No to What Adds Stress

When my girls were babies, I said no to a lot of activities outside the home including a homeschool co-op. While co-ops are fantastic, at the time, it was one thing that I didn’t have to put on my plate. So I didn’t.

Years later, I see that it was a good decision. And now that my kids are older, we can participate in co-ops and thoroughly enjoy it! Your no may look different than mine, and that’s okay.

3. Say Yes to What Fills Your Tank

Sometimes in the baby stage of life, we start throwing out too many nos. Be careful! There are some really great yeses out there too—sometimes in unexpected places.

When I had babies, I was able to attend Bible Study Fellowship one morning each week. They had a children’s department, and it was a huge blessing to be able to drop them off and go spend time with grown-ups. While it was something else on my plate, this was a great, yes because it replenished me.

I also continued serving at church during these years, in areas where I would have a teaching partner or some adult interaction. An hour at church with another adult did wonders for me.

4. Use the Conveniences You Can Afford

I get it...we are homeschoolers. Many of us are struggling on one salary. There is little extra cash laying around. What I suggest you do, though, is take the little extra and do what you can with it.

When my girls were toddling underfoot and I was busy homeschooling my first grader, we hired a housekeeper to come once a week. We have never had a lot of money, and at the time it felt ridiculous and frivolous. But it really saved my sanity during that stage. Once a week, my housekeeper helped get me caught up to make it through another week.

I think this also applies to simpler services too like grocery pick-up. Spending an extra five extra dollars saves me from spending two hours wandering aisles, telling my child, “No, we aren’t getting five packages of candy bars" and keeping babies in the shopping cart!

Um...yes, please. Take my $5!

When I was a teenager, but not yet old enough to baby-sit, I offered to be a mother’s helper. I asked a mother of preschoolers if I could come over for a day and help her with her kids. She allowed it, and I had the best day baby-sitting. I think she got quite a bit done that day, too. You may be surprised to find a young person who would be willing to do something similar for free or for very little payment.

5. Set Aside Time for Yourself

I am addicted to productivity; my hobbies even center around being productive. But in the baby stage of life, it’s important that you set up regular time to just chill. My favorite thing to do when my kids are gone for an afternoon is pick up a to-go lunch, come home, and watch my favorite Netflix show in bed. When you get a rare afternoon to yourself, don’t to clean the house from ceiling to floor. Lavish attention on yourself!

The great thing about this tip is that you don’t even have to be alone. Do something with your babies just because. Go out and blow bubbles or lay in the grass and read. Enjoy and savor the moment.

One of the still frames of my mind was on a day that I had decided to drop everything and go outside to push my kids on the swing. The dirty dishes sat in the sink, and the floor was nasty, but I still remember my son’s face perfectly, and I remember how my daughter’s curls framed her face.

The days are long, but the years are short. You’ll want those memories one day, so be sure to make them.

6. Limit Your Stuff

The sheer amount of stuff that you can accumulate when you have babies is overwhelming. I regularly found myself drowning in colorful plastic. I found that having an abundance of possessions was a source of stress for me.

It’s a good idea to limit the amount of things you have, which in turn, limits the amount of cleaning you do. Be careful not to fall into the trap of having every new baby gadget. You can get by with far less than you think, I promise!

7. Talk to Grown-Ups

FaceTime, Skype, Marco Polo, the good old fashioned phone call...these are all ways to stay connected to grown-ups. Every day, try to make it a point to reach out to a fellow grown-up:

  • commiserate about the state of your house
  • swap stories of what your kids did
  • solve the world’s problems

Create a circle of grown-ups that you can stay connected to throughout the tough years of child-rearing. It’s worth it to cultivate friendships now. If a friendship can survive raising babies, you can bet that you have a lifelong friend!

8. Prioritize Bible Study

Draw close to God. He will replenish you far more than any fizzy bath or spa day. Trust Him for all your needs, and talk to him when you feel lonely or overwhelmed. There is no one who understands tired moms better than God.

Cast your cares upon Him. He will sustain you.

There’s no getting around it...these years are just tough. There is no magic formula for getting more me time. Chances are that you won’t find a lot of alone time, so you have to maximize what you do find. You’ll need to let go of some of the Type A personality, and let a few things slide.

Find the beauty in your everyday reality, with an understanding that time slips through your fingers like water. You can’t hold onto it and you’ll never get it back, so use it wisely while you have it. You will need to remember, precious Mama, that even if your house is a mess and your hair isn’t washed, you are a good mom because you love your kids. Period.

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