Homeschooling with Babies and Toddlers (with Stephanie Sims)

Stephanie Sims homeschool conversations homeschooling babies toddlers encouragement

Are you a mama homeschooling in the midst of pregnancy, babies, and toddlers? Do you look around and wonder how to homeschool with all those littles in the mix? My friend Stephanie Sims is right there in the thick of things with you! She has five children 8-years-old and younger, and she brings both practical tips and encouragement in today’s chat. It’s a conversation you will want to share with your friends for sure!

Be sure to check out all the other interviews in our Homeschool Conversations series!

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Stephanie Sims homeschool conversations homeschooling babies toddlers

Who is Stephanie Sims?

Stephanie is a wife and mother of five children. She is a first generation American who grew up in Eastern PA. In her free time, she enjoys reading by candlelight, strolling through bookstores, trying new restaurants, and the occasional (okay frequent) Target run. She is a co-host of the Motherhood from Scratch podcast. Stephanie and her family live in Kentucky.

Watch my interview with Stephanie Sims

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Amy Sloan: Hello, everyone. Today, I am joined by Stephanie Sims and I’m so excited to share her with you all. I have really enjoyed following her and getting to know her on Instagram over the past year or so. I just am really excited for an excuse to chat with her in person.

Stephanie is a wife and mother of five children. She’s a first generation American who grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania, and in her free time she enjoys reading by candlelight, strolling through bookstores, trying new restaurants, and the occasional (ok, frequent) Target run. She’s also the co-host of the Motherhood from Scratch podcast. You can head over there and subscribe after you finish listening to this episode. Stephanie and her family currently live in Kentucky. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. I’m excited to chat with you.

Stephanie Sims: I’m excited too. This is truly an honor. Thank you.

Getting started homeschooling

Amy: Well, let’s just start by you telling us a little bit about yourself and your family and how you came to start homeschooling?

Stephanie: Sure, so we are a family of seven, five kids and my husband, we’ve been married almost 10 years, 10 years in September. We have an 8-year-old, a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old, a 20-month-old, and a 3-month-old, so we are busy, and it’s messy here.

[laughter]

Amy: Yes, but lots of blessings there.

Stephanie: Yes, of course. Oh, my gosh. Couldn’t imagine life without them, without this fullness and craziness, we love it.

Amy: Well, how did you guys first hear about homeschooling or decide to start homeschooling your kiddos?

Stephanie: My oldest was in preschool for a little over a year, and when she turned a little over three, something just changed in her. We wanted to homeschool from the beginning. We talked about it. That’s what we wanted to do, but we put her in preschool. I was working and I was in school at the time. It just worked better that way I guess, but once she turned about three, we’re like, “We don’t like this anymore.”

We didn’t know what to do. Was that the time to homeschool? Because we know preschool, that’s what you do with a three- and four-year-old, we thought we would maybe start homeschooling when she turned five or something like that, not preschool, but my husband was like, “You know what? We’re moving to a new state. We’re moving to Texas,” a little after that, “so just keep her home with you. Just homeschool, just start now.” I’m like, “New state, new people, homeschool, you know what? Okay.”

When we got down there, at our church they also had like school things, a homeschool co-op, they were so supportive of it. It just made sense and we had that support in that community. We just felt like, “Okay, this was God, and we’re going to go with it,” and we’ve been homeschooling ever since.

Stephanie Sims homeschool conversations homeschooling babies toddlers

Growth over the years of homeschooling

Amy: Wow. Well, over those years, as you jumped in, that is a whole lot of transitions all at one time like, “Let’s move states and let’s start homeschooling,” but the Lord really laid that on your heart and it was working for your family. Since then over time, how have you found that your thoughts about homeschooling or your approach to education has changed or grown over the years?

Stephanie: Over the years, even through the craziness of having to change diapers in between a lesson, and because I only know homeschooling with babies and little ones, that’s all I know. Every year, pretty much we’ve had one every other year. This is all I know, even through that, I get more rooted in the fact I know God wants me to do this. Even through the mess, even through the hard days, I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

Through that, with that conviction, it allows me freedom I guess to adjust when things aren’t working. If a curriculum isn’t working, I’m up till three o’clock in the morning anyway, so let’s look up what else we could use. I’m constantly researching, just doing different things to help our experience. If I’ve learned anything over almost six years is adjust. There’s been a lot of adjusting over the years.

When you’re homeschooling littles, I’m sure it’s the same thing as when they’re in their teen years and stuff like that. Just being willing to adjust and move, because their brains they’re adjusting, there’s so many different things, they’re absorbing so much and stuff and you’re still learning how they are and how they learn, and so adjust, and I’m a lot more willing to do that than I was let’s just say like three years ago.

how homeschool preschool

Amy: I love that perspective, and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on because you have been homeschooling this whole time with babies and littles and toddlers and you’re still right in the thick of it too. You don’t have that rosy glow of like looking back, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad.” Like you’re there and you know the mess and the joy. I love hearing that from you too.

It’s not like, “Oh, it’s messy, it’s terrible. It’s horrible.” It’s like, “It’s really messy and it’s really hard and we have to adjust, but it’s also worth it.” My littlest guy is six now. He’s about to turn seven maybe by the time actually this podcast airs, and it’s been a long time since I’ve had those diapers and crazy potty accidents in the middle, but they’re always at the worst times. Those things never happen within a homeschool schedule. I think it’s encouraging for other moms to just be reminded that that’s normal, like that’s okay.

Stephanie: It is. Just this morning, our number four, the almost two-year old, he put his pacifier in the toilet when I was trying to get into a group of a math lesson and I just hear, “Mommy, there’s a pacifier in the toilet.” Gosh, so yes. Had to take a break and get back to it, and something that with having five now and having a little tiny baby is, you know how a lot of times we see on social media, school should take maybe an hour now because you’re not in public school or two hours? That has not been the case for me. The more kids I have, the longer the day actually is because there’s interruptions, which is fine. It’s going to happen.

There’s toddlers, there’s five-year old, there’s things going on and my husband works from home. Sometimes he might need me. The day has gone for maybe one or two hours to four or five. We have to take breaks because they can’t sit down for five hours. I have to let them go bounce around and go outside and snacks, the constant snacks.

Amy: Oh, so many snacks.

Stephanie: So many snacks. Our school day right now almost looks like a full school day.

Amy: Yes, and probably the actual like sitting down, “doing the work” part Is probably just an hour, two hours, but it’s having to be broken up in those little bits and pieces through the day and having that expectation, I guess, set to reality as opposed to like Instagram, [laughs] is always helpful.

Stephanie: Yes.

Favorite Parts of Homeschooling

Amy: Well, what have been some of your favorite parts of homeschooling?

Stephanie: My favorite part of homeschooling I think is seeing the light bulbs go off. I love when they’re just they’re going through it. They’re trying, but then it just clicks and you see it in their face and they’re so proud of themselves. I get to see that. Nobody has to tell me she read her first word today or he wrote his first– I get to see that. I’m grateful. I’m so grateful. I think it’s my favorite part. I taught my oldest to read, I’m working on my second. By God’s grace, He is enabling me to do this. I love that, and I get to do that three more times.

Amy: Yes. Oh, I’m teaching my little guy how to read right now and he just, for the longest time we were like agonizingly slow, sounding out every single individual letter sound and you’re just like, “Just please get to the end of this word, put the sounds together. I know you can do it.” Then over a period of a few weeks, all of a sudden things are starting to click and now I’m sitting there and just seeing that moment is one of the most precious parts of parenting, I love that. I love that we get to be there right along with them.

Stephanie: Yes.

The Challenges of Homeschooling with Littles

Amy: Well, we’ve hinted at this a little bit. We’re going to transition to talking about some of the challenges of homeschooling, in particular, with these many littles. You are a mom of many. You’re homeschooling older kids. You’ve got the babies and the toddlers. You’ve been pregnant multiple times while homeschooling. I would love to just hear from you what encouragement would you want to give to a mom in a similar situation? If you have any tips or strategies, practical ideas for homeschooling in the midst of those challenges or just a camaraderie-like perspective to share?

Stephanie: Okay, by nature I am an idealist. I think that there is just– I have what I want this to look like in my head. I want to do that. Now, with that, with multiple littles, with like I said, the diaper changes, the messes, the ketchup on the wall because just the things, grace is with you.

Now, God gave you these kids, God knew that you were going to get pregnant while homeschooling your 12 year old, your 10 year old, your 7 year old, whatever it is, He’s there. He’s there. He sees the mess. He sees the tears. Sometimes there is tears in the closet with chocolate, sometimes there is. He sees that and He’s there and He’s not looking down on you.

For these days, He made toddlers to be who they are. He made your child to be who they are. He made your strong-willed child and all of these different characteristics that your children have and He’s there and He wants to help you.

It’s more about faithfulness, I believe, than striving to be like this perfect person that you can show online, you didn’t show on Instagram or whatever, like He’s looking in your home and He’s looking at your faithfulness. He’s looking at how much you do want to help them, like how much you do want to serve your family, and you’re doing the best that you can.

I don’t know how we got to this place where after like two months even, three months, four months after having a child, you’re expected to be back out adventuring how you used to, or making meals exactly how you used to and just doing all the things like a mom of only teens or something or an empty nester would be, that’s how it looks like in my opinion on social media. No, but you’re still healing and you need to give yourself grace in time for that.

Bed-schooling is a thing. Lay down, your kids understand, tell them what’s going on. You don’t have to do it around the table, you can go outside if that’s helpful to you. If you’re still nauseated and all these different things that come with pregnancy or just having a newborn, do school on the couch, like it’s fine. Your kids are still learning. Something I’m doing right now, like I said, I have a 3 month old and a 20 month old, so doing experiments right now for science, no, no, I can’t, I can’t right now.

We’ll do the science lesson and a lot of the time, I’ll put on other kids doing it on YouTube. They get it. That’s my reality right now, and you’re going to feel like that mom guilt of I should be doing this and I should, and if you can, do it, but if you can’t, don’t hold yourself to this unrealistic thing or just something you can’t do in this season of life. Don’t fight the season of life that you’re in.

This is new for me and once I truly understood where I am in my parenting journey, I think things going to get easier, it got better for me, because none of this is easy, it just got better. I am in the trenches, like you said, of 5 kids under the age of 10 with learning differences, diets, that I can’t just feed them anything. They have specific diets. We do occupational therapy for a couple of them. There’s a lot going on.

I would do myself such a disservice to try to compare myself to other somebody I knew at church or somebody online, because my life doesn’t look like this. You have to just accept where you are, and it might not be like that next year, might not be that six months from now, it’s going to be different. Your kids are going to be bigger. You might not have the therapies anymore or as frequent or whatever. You just have to roll with it.

Amy: I love everything you just said. I’ve over here getting goosebumps, but there were two things that really stuck out to me. One, here at the end when you just said to be content and present in the season of life you’re in, to be okay with it, that is such a powerful reminder and I think that’s applicable for moms who are in the trenches with littles, for me as a mom with teens heading out to graduation and thinking about what comes next with them.

Wherever we are, it’s easy to either look at a past version of ourselves, or this idealized version of ourselves or our friends down the street and be really grumpy. I get really grumpy or irritable because my today is not looking like I thought it was going to look, instead of remembering this is the day God made, right? Let us rejoice and be glad in this day, instead of wishing it were some other day.

Stephanie: Yes, you’re not who you were at the beginning of your parenting journey. You might have more than one or whatever, you might have experienced loss and these things, you’re not that same person anymore. As you grow and you change and you learn. You just have to just accept where you are, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s not that you don’t want to be better anything, It’s just if you fight it, at least that’s how it’s been for me, the more I’m trying to be like, there was a time where I could do all this in two hours and I used to be able to get dressed and do my homework and do all this kind of stuff all this before ten o’clock in the morning, and now, getting up, getting dressed, making breakfast for people start, like there’s– it’s a different season of life and I can’t compare myself to who I was 10 years ago.

Amy: Yes, definitely. I can’t even stay up late like I used to. I’m like, ready for bed at 8:30.

Stephanie: Oh, my gosh. Nine o’clock. I’m like, “Why am I still awake?”

Amy: Oh, yes, I start turning into a pumpkin. The other thing I really loved that you said, it was near the beginning, you were talking about this idea of two, three months postpartum, you’re supposed to be back with your regular routine. Like somehow you didn’t just have a baby and you said sort of an offhand comment, like you need time to heal, Mom. Mom needs time to heal, and I think that’s something that we don’t hear a lot about is just the physical toll of this wonderful gift, and it’s not saying we don’t want to be pregnant, we don’t want to have babies, and we don’t want to have these blessings, but there is a reality, a physical reality in our body over time with our hormones.

One of the best decisions I made a couple years ago was actually going to pelvic floor physical therapy, which is almost as awkward as it sounds, but it was transformative and I was like, “Why have I waited this long to do it?” and I kept thinking like, “I shouldn’t need to help, I should just be able to get over it or something,” and I couldn’t, and it was getting worse, some of the symptoms I was having, and it was such a good choice.

I’ll just put that out there, like be very vulnerable. If any mom is just thinking like, “This doesn’t feel normal,” or, “This isn’t right,” it’s okay to get help to for those physical things. It makes you a better mom, and you’re not peeing your pants or pooping your pants. These are things we don’t want to have to do.

Stephanie: That’s a reality. I know like online and stuff, we don’t want to tell too much of our families and disclose too much, but there I think there’s a way to be authentic without airing everything out. I think there is, you can be an honest person without going into all these each and everything your kid is going through, but people can still get the point. I think sometimes we like trying to be private, we try, I don’t know, the other direction and we’re just like, “Everything is fine. Everything is great.” I didn’t just have a baby a week ago and my stomach hurts and I have cramps. No, like no. Please, no. We know. We’ve had children. We know how this goes and we want to support. I think more people want to support than want to judge. I think we just need to be more real, I guess, not air out everything about your family, but just that realness.

Amy: Yes, it’s definitely a balancing act, for sure. It takes a lot of wisdom. Sometimes I’ll be like, “Ah, that was probably too much. Next time I won’t share quite as much,” or the flip side, “Maybe I should have shared and it would help someone.” Well, we’ve talked a little bit about mothering with littles and pregnancy and babies and homeschooling and you gave some great suggestions, couch schooling, I love, we should make that a thing, hashtag, but what about for mom herself?

Stephanie Sims homeschool conversations homeschooling babies toddlers

How can Mom continue to pursue her relationship with Christ in the midst of a busy homeschool life?

How can mom continue to pursue her relationship with Christ while she’s also has the responsibilities of homeschooling and has the physical realities of maybe being pregnant or nursing?

Stephanie: Like quiet time with coffee, and candles, and all that kind of stuff in the morning. Right now, in this season of life that I’m in, that cannot happen.

Amy: When you started, I thought you’re about to say like, “The real thing that you need to do is have your quiet time with coffee and candles,” and I was like, “No, no, no, ma’am.”

Stephanie: No, so what helps me sometimes when I’m doing dishes or I have to run to the mailbox or whatever, I’ll have the Bible in my headphones. I’m listening. I still get the word, but it’s not this cute setup. No. Now at nighttime, I have more time to do that. Sometimes there is the candle and there is a hot cup of tea after everybody is down, but the morning stuff? No.

You know how people say a lot of times like slow mornings and stuff on Instagram? I don’t know what that is. I’ve never experienced that. I’m looking at a lot of people’s pages who are further down the line than me or have more kids than me and I’m trying to find the hack, the secret in how you do it. I don’t know.

Amy: I think the hack is your kids just have to get a little older.

Stephanie: Maybe that’s what it is, but where I am right now, no.

Amy: That’s Just not there.

Stephanie: No. Nighttime is better for me because I read them anyways. I’ll read some scripture and then read a fiction book or whatever. I can get more done then.

Amy: I love that. I love using an audio Bible and remembering it doesn’t have to look a certain way. You’re still pursuing your relationship with God. You’re still investing in His word. Now it’s tricky because I have my little guy who’s six. He’s not tiny, but he’s still my little guy and my oldest is almost 17. It’s like I have people who get up early and people who stay up way late. I’m just like, I just need some time in there somewhere where there’s no one around, but again, that’s this season, right? Got to be content with my season.

Stephanie: Exactly. Well, I think from what I’m seeing from talking to moms with older ones, like you and stuff, it changes. I might not be up all night anymore, but who knows? There’s still challenges even when you have teens. If I’m not changing diapers anymore, doesn’t mean there’s not anything else that could come up. I think with moms of littles, like who have mostly littles, we’re just like waiting for that day where everything just make sense. I mean, does it come?

Amy: No. That’s actually a really good point, right? Because it’s so easy just be like, “Oh, well this season is hard, but if I can just get through this season, I’ll get to the next one, then it’ll be easier.” Then, of course, there’s a different challenge there and you’re like, “Okay, I’m just going to grit my teeth and get through this season, just waiting for that next one.” Then you miss out on the beauty of where you are where God has you in that moment.

This side of heaven, of course, every subsequent season has its own challenge. Genesis 3 happened. That’s just reality, but we can lose out on the beauty of right now if we’re always just like, “Oh, let’s just get through this season, get to the next one.” I will say though it is nice being able to go to the grocery store by myself, leave everybody at home.

Stephanie: Oh, One day.

Amy: One day. [laughs] I miss my babies. I miss my babies.

What Stephanie is reading lately

Well, Stephanie, here at the end, I want to ask you the two questions I’m asking everyone this podcast season and the first is just, what are you reading lately? This can be, doesn’t even have to be a book. I know you’re like just have a newborn and everything. It could just be whatever that you have been reading or experiencing lately.

Stephanie: Okay. I decided to go more fiction. I just need some feel-good reads, just some happy and calm. Right now, I’m reading The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe. I’m halfway done. I’ve been reading it for maybe a month and I’m halfway because I don’t have the time like I used to, but it’s so good. It’s just a nice book. I’m not learning anything. Like it’s not scary. I’m not crying. It’s just a book, and I’m enjoying that.

Amy: It sounds really cozy.

Stephanie: Yes. It’s sweet.

I am also making my way through Mama Bear Apologetics. I haven’t been reading it every day or anything, but I’m slowly making my way through that one. That’s a good one to learn from. I can’t just read through it because there’s a lot to pull out. There’s a lot to chew on.

Amy: A local friend of mine was recommending that, and of course, I see their stuff online but haven’t checked out the book myself. I’ve added it to my very, very long list of books to buy that I can’t buy any of them right now. Budget realities.

Stephanie: Right. Yes, me too.

Stephanie’s tip for helping the homeschool day run smoothly

Amy: Well, the final question is what would be your best tip for helping the homeschool day run smoothly?

Stephanie: Smoothly? If you can’t get school done when you want to, do it when you can. If it’s not in the morning and the baby sleep in the afternoon or something, do it then. If it’s not the afternoon, if you have some time before or after dinner, get it done then. Adjust your schedule if you need to, like you might not be able to get all six subjects done. I know different states have different regulations and stuff, but especially if you’re in a state that’s not that bad, you have 24 hours a day. If you’re not sleeping, use them.

Amy: That is a great piece of advice. I really love that. Stephanie, this has been so much fun to chat with you. Thank you for taking time out of your very full, full busy day to chat with us. Where can people find you all around the internet?

Find Stephanie Sims online

Stephanie: My Instagram is TheSevenSims. I have a Facebook page. It’s just my name and we, my friend, and my friend Jessica and I have a podcast. I have a podcast and I can’t talk. It’s called Motherhood from Scratch, and that’s our handle. We’re on there too.

Amy: Great. I will have links to your podcast and Instagram channels and all that in the show notes for this episode over humilityanddoxology.com. Thanks, Stephanie.

Stephanie: Thank you, Amy. This is so fun.

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

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