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A Unique Challenge

Celestia Shumway
Provo UT USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 1, January-February 2004, pp. 14

With every baby comes a unique challenge. After the birth of my youngest, Landon, the challenge was dealing with his fussiness as I homeschooled my three older children. This was the first time I had homeschooled with a newborn.

I wondered how I would balance my desire to stay home and nurture my newborn with giving my older children a good education while allowing them to be involved with activities, such as homeschooling field trips and parties, that they enjoyed. It took a lot of focus, but, eventually, my children and I found a routine that worked for all of us.

My youngest was very fussy and, naturally, wanted to be with me almost all the time. This was when breastfeeding and using a sling came in handy-both definitely made my life much easier! Breastfeeding enabled me to nourish and comfort my fussy baby while reading to my older children or teaching them in one-on-one sessions. I didn't wait for the baby to be in a separate room sleeping to begin reading or instructing. I learned that our sessions were most productive if I began teaching the children when I started nursing the baby to sleep. I kept on reading after the baby fell asleep in my arms until he woke up again. When I had to be up and about, putting my baby in a sling kept my hands free to help my older children with their work.

Until Landon was older, it also helped a great deal to focus on the academic basics. We stopped performing a lot of hands-on science experiments and art projects that required me to explain everything step-by-step. I had my children do short lessons in reading, writing, and arithmetic every day before lunch. While I was still present to answer questions, the lessons were pretty self-explanatory and did not require constant instruction. Then, after the basics, they were free to play. My older children were also still able to enjoy other activities, such as dance class or sports, but accepted the fact that we couldn't always attend every event or outing.

On top of having a newborn and three children whom I was trying to homeschool, there were still the basic, everyday things that needed to be taken care of. I had to lower my expectations and practiced the philosophy of "select neglect." Important tasks were attended to regularly, and other things, such as mopping the kitchen floor, moved to the bottom of my priority list. I also taught my children not to be so dependent on me when it came to simple chores including loading and emptying the dishwasher, setting the table, folding clothes, and sweeping the floor. I explained that the more we shared the chores, the more time I had for doing fun activities with them. It also gave me some extra time for myself each day. Whether I used this time to go on the computer, exercise, or watch television, it gave me a break, helped me connect with other adults, and kept my mind and body renewed and refreshed.

Now that my children are ages 10, eight, five, and two, I can hardly believe how quickly that first challenging year of Landon's life went by. I'm glad that I focused on him and maintaining my milk supply by letting him nurse whenever he wanted, instead of putting him off so I could clean or do a science project. Landon is a very healthy, happy toddler. My older children also learned that, while academics and activities are important, people should always come before things.

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