Homeschooling. With a toddler. Need I say more? As homeschool families everywhere start back to school, there seems to be an echo across the Internet. “We had a great first day back, but the toddler …” The echoes are reverberating in my soul, and I haven’t even started back to school yet.
Over the summer, we’ve kept a very loose routine because, as I am sure you know, when you’re a mom, there is no such thing as a day “off”. If you don’t provide some form of structure, you end up spending mom energy on household and relationship disasters instead. So we’ve kept our Bible time and some independent math and Latin practice. And even this amount of schedule has just about stretched my big kids + preschoolers + toddler mama-ringmaster capacity.
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If you search the Internet, you can find tons of fantastic posts about strategies for keeping toddlers busy while you homeschool. I really liked this one. And if your toddler is the kind who would just eat the busy bag, try this one. I’m not going to spend time on strategies for the toddlers. I want to talk about strategies for you.
First of all, you need to admit that this challenge is a huge consumer of limited energy resources. When toddler crises arise (which they will and do) it causes an adrenaline spike … and crash. Running around after a little person with boundless energy takes its toll. I know, maybe this isn’t new news. Maybe you’re saying, “Well yeah, I wouldn’t have clicked through to this post if I wasn’t already feeling exhausted about the whole toddler thing.”
So you know it’s exhausting. But do you make accommodations for the exhaustion? We comprehend the biological stretch of being pregnant and morning sick. We understand that a nursing baby and night feedings take a physical toll. But do you give yourself actual credit for the toddler energy-expenditure? I know everyone is different, but in my years on this rodeo circuit, homeschooling with a toddler trumps homeschooling pregnant or nursing hands-down.
If you bought a new vehicle and had a monthly payment, you wouldn’t treat your budget as if it was the same as before and plan for just as much spending. You’d have to set limits in other areas so as not to go into the red. Homeschooling with a toddler is no different. Your energy is a limited, finite quantity. You cannot just will or motivate yourself into having more of it.
Toddler is Temporary
On several occasions, I’ve talked to mothers who have one little one. They want to know how to best time the arrival of a second sibling. Sure, there are some things to take into consideration (that would be another blog post in and of itself) and of course, there is the whole issue of not always being able to control the timing as we imagined we could. But what I always share (and what is relevant to this conversation) is that in the life of a toddler, nine or ten months is an eternity. There is no way to look at your little person today and forecast exactly where he or she will be at the moment in the future when they become a big brother or sister.
How does this apply to homeschooling? It’s August. You’re planning for a school year. Your toddler will be a completely different person in May. How will they change? Will it get easier or harder? Or both in different ways? There really is no way to predict. Moral of the story? Plan for right now. Plan how you will love and provide for your toddler and your other children today. Tomorrow. This week. This month.
Maybe your plan doesn’t include all of the “essentials”. Maybe this system doesn’t seem sustainable. Don’t worry – it doesn’t have t be. In the land of toddlerhood, even the best schedule has a shelf-life of about three months (tops). After that, everything has changed enough that it needs to be reworked completely. Can your family survive three months without [memorizing Bible verses, doing science experiments, going to the park, insert your own …]? Of course they can. And what about after that? Backburner that question for three months and take it up again when it’s relevant and when you have the real-time data on toddler development.
This is Not a Personal Failure
I am definitely not writing this post from the top of Success Mountain. Last night as hubby and I climbed into bed, I was in tears. Perhaps over how much I was dreading the school year. Maybe more so over the guilt I felt about the dread. So this morning, I decided to process all of the raw emotion the way I process best: writing. The above paragraphs? Those were written for me. (Yeah, ask my kids. I talk to myself all.the.time.)
“I want to see the picture!” Do your little ones do this when you try to take their picture? True confession, y’all…I’m feeling super overwhelmed about this school year. And the little guy in the picture is pretty much why. Homeschooling with a nursing baby is challenging and exhausting. Homeachooling with a ninja toddler? 😩 No more morning nap, shorter afternoon nap, and all kinds of shenanigans in between. Just not feeling that back-to-school enthusiasm flowing! Do you think I could wait and start school, say, when he’s five? 😂
The richest man in the world still has limited funds and has to make choices about what to spend them on. And the most energetic mom still has a finite amount of energy. Having personal limitations isn’t a character flaw. But refusing to admit that you have them, or to plan accordingly, might be one. Could you, should you, might you [nutrition, exercise, new schedule, insert your own … ]? Sure, maybe. But right now, today, you have this body. This energy level. This toddler. Just do today. And know, right now, right down to those tired bones, that you are not alone.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:33-34
What helps you to mentally face the challenges and exhaustion of homeschooling with toddlers? Your words of encouragement might be just what another mom needs to hear today!