Q & A: Beginning Homeschooling, Potty Training and Newborns

It’s time again for the 4 Moms to answer some reader questions.

In this post I’m answering questions about beginning homeschooling, the first few weeks with a newborn, keeping the car/van clean and potty training.
moms of many manage

Maria wondered about potty training and how to prevent the process for dragging on for years.

Bella (22 months) is currently learning to use the potty, so we’re back in the trenches for the tenth time.

Here is a bit of our potty training history.

  • All but one of our children have been potty trained by their second birthday. That one, Nicholas was trained by 25 months.
  • Potty training generally takes less than a week of focused work (usually a few days).

  • One of our children struggled with wetting when they were playing outside. I think this was more of an “I don’t want to be bothered to come in and use the potty” problem than a training problem. None of the others have had more than an occasional accident after they were trained.
  • We have three children who are bed wetters. (This is a separate problem that they’ve struggled with well past 6-7 years old.) Most of our non-bed wetters were out of diapers at night within days to weeks of being trained during the day.

Here is a step-by-step of Nick’s first day potty training with links to more potty training answers at the bottom of the post.

Jamie asked, “What do your first few weeks with a new little one look like?”

Honestly it depends on the little one. And the goal here is survival.

Most of our newborns have been easy-breezy and for the most part we’ve continued on with a fairly normal schedule.

Most of the time we’ve taken the birth week off of school work and then started back up. For me, it’s easy to just keep the school work going while taking it easy with a new baby.

However, some babies require a lot more effort. After Isabella (our 10th) was born, I wondered if things would ever get back to normal. We just took our time and it eventually fell together again, but it took a lot longer than a couple of weeks.

Just do what you can do and eventually it will all fall back into place.

Nicholas (2) and Isabella (newborn)

Rachel wondered, “What homeschooling looked like when your oldest was 5 and would have been starting Kindergarten if going to school?”

Since we knew we wanted to homeschool our kids before they even existed, we began homeschooling well before our oldest turned 5 and were really able to ease into things slowly.

We read aloud and had family worship from the time our children were born.

We began helping our children memorize Scripture (and other things) as soon as they began talking.

We taught them to read as soon as they showed an interest and ability.

By the time our oldest was 5 we had five children, so I had my hands full with a house full of little ones, but we’d already been conscientiously homeschooling for 5 years and our children already had a good basis of memorization and reading.

Homeschooling a 5 year old

What we did: Keep in mind that most or all of this was already part of our day-to-day schedule so there was not a big transition.

What we didn’t do:

  • Preschool, work sheets or busy work
  • Formal math
  • Spelling, grammar or other language arts “programs”
  • History program
  • Science program
  • Make school/learning any different from what we always do everyday.

Our schedule as we began officially homeschooling varied very little from the schedule we’d had since the birth of our 4th child.

If you didn’t start out as we did, no worries. We’ve been much slower with some of our younger children.

Beginning homeschooling is easy, simply add a time of memorizing around the breakfast table, a half hour to hour of school work during the day and quiet reading during rest time (if your child still naps, then skip this until they need less sleep).

The schedule for our current 5 and 4 year old looks like this:

  • Get up and do before breakfast chores
  • Breakfast, family worship and memorization work with the whole family
  • Table chores
  • Sometime during the morning the 5 year old reads aloud to me, does a handwriting page and, since he’s a brilliant speller, does some dictation work. This generally takes about half an hour. The 4 year old reads aloud to me (about 15 minutes).
  • Listen to the big kids read aloud, whenever that happens.
  • Play time
  • Nap time (he still sleeps)
  • Etc. until family worship in the evening

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge

Everything else is icing on the cake.

Amanda said, “How do you keep a clean car? I can’t keep up!”

The short version is that we have one of our kids assigned to clean out the van once a week.

The longer version is that a few years ago Matthew (now 12) saved up his money to purchase a guinea pig, cage, etc. but realized he would have a hard time continuing to earn enough money for food and bedding for his pet. He and his father struck a deal. We pay for food and bedding for the guinea pig as long as both cars are cleaned out and vacuumed on a weekly basis. Otherwise Matthew pays for the pigs necessities.

Matthew loves having a guinea pig and our cars stay (fairly) clean.

You may also be interested in:

Also visit the other moms of many to read their thoughts and ideas:
Smockity Frocks shares how moms of many do (or don’t do) it ALL.
Life in a Shoe talks about weaning, big family comments and more.
The Common Room shares about pop culture, cookbooks and what features she would want if she were building a house.

For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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26 Responses to Q & A: Beginning Homeschooling, Potty Training and Newborns
  1. Carrie
    May 17, 2012 | 8:46 am

    Thanks so much for sharing! We have 5 littles and I always appreciate hearing how others handle their days. Way to go on the guinea pig/car cleaning swap. Pretty sure you got the good end of that deal :).


  2. harmonyl
    May 17, 2012 | 10:16 am

    I have to admit, while your other answers were encouraging, your potty training answer was sort of depressing for me. πŸ™‚ Your story is exactly how I envisioned it to go for us. But…

    Our daughter is nearly 3 and still not potty trained. We worked on it for months – literally, about 6 months – from the time she was just over 2 years old until she was 33 months old. At that point, she was still wetting at least every 30 minutes all day long, sometimes more frequently. I called the doctor, they said, “Oh, it’s probably not a medical problem. Most children aren’t ready until they’re three anyway.”

    Either way, it was enormously discouraging to me to spend so much time and energy taking her to the potty every 30 minutes for 6 months and to see no progress after all that time. I basically just gave up (mostly because I was newly pregnant then, and had about zero energy and wanted to throw up even thinking about the potty). I haven’t even brought up potty except for poop for 2 months. And to be honest, I really don’t have any motivation to start again. :-/ Any words of wisdom?


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I have two theories about potty training. It’s possible that both are wrong because I’m just going on our experience with the 10 (Bella’s doing so well today, I’m including her in the ‘trained’ category, even though I generally wait until a week or so to make sure everything keeps going well) we’ve trained.

    One theory is that there is a small window of time (somewhere between 15 and 20-ish months) when a child is ready and WILLING to be trained. If you miss that window, it’s not a big deal, but it will just be later (perhaps much later) that the baby is WILLING to be trained again. I only say this because our little guys have trained so easily during that time period and yet, I hear many, many stories of children who are a little older (24+ months) who are either afraid or stubborn about using the potty.

    My other theory is that God gave us very easy potty trainers because He knew we would be tested enough with years of wet sheets because of the sweet bed-wetting kids that He blessed us with.

    That said, here are a couple of possibilities.

    1. She’s simply not ready (remember the whole window theory?) so just wait until she shows signs of readiness. Honestly, this is what it sounds like. It seems that potty training is pretty straight forward when kids are ready.

    2. You know she’s ready and you know that she knows what you’re asking, but is just being disobedient. If you’re certain this is the case, then perhaps it would be appropriate to handle this as you would any other disobedience.

    My suspicion is that it’s the first case and you should just wait. Eventually she will want to learn to use the potty. πŸ™‚


    Shannon Reply:

    I just wanted to add that my bright oldest child figured out that she can avoid getting her legs wet in under wear by spreading her legs when she needed to pee, thus had not motivation to potty train, I switched her to cloth pull ups and she stopped peeing as often and started showing readiness signs within 2 months of going cloth.
    For me I’ve noticed readiness does not happen until they can go closer to 2 hours dry.


    pjknee Reply:


    I just wanted to encourage you to not stress over or get down on yourself over the potty training situation. I don’t have as much experience at this as Kimberly, but I do have some. I have 7 kids age 8 and under and the 8,7,6, and 4 (almost five) year old are potty trained. My four year old boy just started staying dry through the night a couple of months ago (we didn’t make a huge deal out of his wetting, but just reminded him to try not to wet on occasion and it happened with time) and we are praising God that we no longer have all the work that goes along with a bedwetter. My three and a half year old is almost potty trained as well. We didn’t even attempt to potty train our children until they were three years old. So, don’t fret over the fact that yours is almost three and not trained yet. There’s still plenty of time and there is no commandment saying that your child needs to be trained by a certain age πŸ™‚ Of course it would be nice to not have to buy or change diapers, but God has always provided for us to purchase diapers, and we have found it takes a lot less time and stress to just change it at the younger ages than it does to invest a lot of time in potty training. When we have finally started training though, we’ve had the most success with giving our children a treat after they went. The difference in understanding between a three year old and a much younger child is a large one, and it’s much easier to explain to a three year old that they’ll get a treat or that they’ll get to wear underwear like mom and dad or whatever approach you may take, and for them to grasp that concept and desire it. They are also more capable of pulling down their own pants, wiping themselves (pee at least πŸ™‚ ), and remembering to wash their hands, so you don’t have to be as involved. I’m certainly not saying that it’s bad to start earlier, I’m just saying that it’s not necessarily necessary to do so. I’ve completely enjoyed potty training our children and don’t dread it at all because there is very little training involved. So, I hope that this encourages you that neither you nor your child are behind when it comes to potty training. I just don’t want to see you be worried or discouraged about something that’s not even wrong. It will be alright and your child will get there in time.


  3. Anna@The DIY Mom
    May 17, 2012 | 11:12 am

    I love that you started schooling your kids very informally from birth. Have done a lot of the same things and some others and generally my two little boys are begging to do school, more than I even have time for, even flashcards and worksheets because we work hard to keep it fun.


  4. Sarah C
    May 17, 2012 | 12:44 pm

    Potty training question: how did you transition from naked, to underwear, to underwear plus pants? My little guy is older, will go in the potty at home wearing his training underwear, but wets himself if I put pants on him. This is our second go around and he’s been going at home almost 3 weeks…very frustrating! Also, what about strange potties when away from home?


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    This is how we’ve handled it.

    We push them through those stages very quickly. For example, as soon as they have one or two successes of going pee on the potty, we put underwear on them (we don’t use training pants, just normal underwear). Bella did this day one. If they have NO success with underwear we’ll go back to naked for a couple of tries, but generally they get it pretty quickly.

    Then as soon as they have a couple of successes when they’re in underwear, we put clothes on them. We work in the same manner as we did with underwear.

    We haven’t had problems with strange potties away from home. Generally our kids are thrilled to get to use a new potty!

    All kids are so different, I just don’t think that there’s one thing that will work for everyone. πŸ™‚


    Sarah C Reply:

    Thanks so much! My firstborn is a girl so she just wore cute summer dresses and this was never an issue. I also have a crawling baby so pee then wet places on the floor are not good! I will try to put shorts on him and practice. Thanks! I love your blog. You are such an inspiration!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I hope he makes quick progress. It’s almost like training them all over (albeit easier), when they begin to have clothes on.


  5. Gwen
    May 17, 2012 | 1:22 pm

    1. I love your van cleaning idea.

    2. Can you potty train my kids? πŸ™‚ I’ve pt’d 7 of our 8 so far and it’s one of my least favorite mommy things… Thankfully #7 was super easy – I’m hoping #8 will beat her big sister’s record. I’m impressed you’ve pt’d nearly all of them by 2yo. Wow and wow.

    3. Homeschooling our almost 5yo looks nearly like your list except one thing — it also involves a lot of playing in the mud. Very important for a boy, I think. πŸ™‚


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Yes of course, mud playing, critter catching, fort building, brother wrestling, tree climbing and lots and lots of outside playtime is a huge part of Colby (5) and Nick’s (4) day education.


  6. MomStarr
    May 17, 2012 | 1:33 pm

    I want a video post of the potty song and dance you mentioned in the training Nicholas post. We need this to make sure our efforts at successful potty training are thorough. I am getting ready to train my 25 month old. πŸ™‚


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Scary thing is that if you ask the right child, you will get a video post of the potty song and dance.

    You may be certain that I’m not telling you which child! πŸ˜‰

    Have fun!


  7. Iris
    May 17, 2012 | 3:38 pm

    I am guessing you are doing the “unschooling” method. I really like that idea. I will just have to supply everything they need to know and in cooperate into their everyday life.

    Learning some ideas even before I am married. Never to early to start planning!



    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Iris.

    We aren’t ‘unschoolers’, neither are we using an ‘unschooling’ method. I would classify us as Charlotte Mason style homeschoolers.

    We formally teach science, history, math and language arts. We just don’t use a formal curriculum when our kids are 5 years old.

    You can read more about how we teach these subjects and the curriculum we use on the homeschooling page.


    Iris Reply:

    Oh, I thought Charlotte Mason’s style was called unschooling. I was introduced to the Charlotte Mason’s style last year and really liked it! So when I heard the word “unschooling” I thought it was talking about Charlotte Mason. Ok, thank you!

    Learn something new each day!☺


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    We have enjoyed many of CM’s ideas, especially for language arts.

    Unschooling is generally much more child-led. πŸ™‚


  8. Amanda
    May 17, 2012 | 9:07 pm

    Hello! I’ve been greatly enjoying your blog for quite some time now. I’m actually expecting a baby shortly after you (I’m due September 5), and my first little lady is right around Bella’s age (She was born August 4, 2010). I was wondering if you had some recommendations for beginning read-alouds. When did/do you usually begin trying to read aloud for any length of time to your toddlers and what would you recommend for literature for such a young age? We read to our little bean frequently, but I feel like our books are all… kind of “fluffy” I guess? I just feel like I could really use some recommendations for good books, even at such a young age. Thanks!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Amanda,

    Sorry for the delay in response.

    We began to read aloud to our children(for significant amounts of time) when our kids were infants. Mark read ‘The Hobbit’ to Amber before she was a year.

    Any quality literature is a good choice for toddlers and don’t be afraid to read things that are “far above their level”. We don’t require our toddlers to sit and listen while we read aloud for longer periods of time. They may play quietly with toys or draw pictures.

    We like books from Sonlight’s book lists as well as from Ambleside online and this list of 1000 good books. As always use discretion and pre-read books. πŸ™‚

    During the toddler years we read lots and lots of picture books over and over and over. Here is a list of some of my favorite picture books for preschoolers.

    Oh, and I love the “Among the _____ People” books for little ones. The stories are short, all about critters and creatures in nature with beautiful, simple language and full of science facts. (‘Among the Pond People’, Among the Forest People’, etc.) I’m sure there are lots more, but they simply aren’t coming.



  9. Milly
    May 19, 2012 | 1:10 am

    Thanks for such a helpful Q & A post. I thought your insight about the 15-20mths window for potty training really helpful. I think I just missed it with my eldest, but will watch for signs in my second, who is fast approaching this age.
    I had a question about your homeschooling. You said you didn’t do any preschool or busy work. Does this include things like some fine motor, gross motor, sensory activities, imaginative play? (My idea of what preschool is). What did your children’s play time or preschool years (3 & 4) look like?
    I think your example of having Bible and character as the main thing is great!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Milly,

    Of course our children work on and develop fine and gross motor skills and sensory activities as well as participate in imaginative play. πŸ™‚ It’s called running around the house, wrestling with their siblings, learning to climb up/down on stools/chairs/steps, swimming in the kiddie pool, jumping on the trampoline, wading in our backyard creek, feeding themselves with a fork/spoon, drinking from a cup, playing outside, looking at books, living life.

    I consider that being a child and living life, not ‘busy work’ or ‘preschool’. I don’t see how any child could avoid learning/experiencing those things unless they were deprived of regular free playtime.

    However, many people make it much more complicated than necessary by adopting a ‘preschool’ curriculum and planning all sorts of activities in order to accomplish what God has created our children to learn by simply being part of a family. We don’t do that. πŸ™‚


    Milly Reply:

    Thank you Kimberly, I loved your answer, and you have reminded me how I am basing my understanding from a ‘school in the home’ perspective rather than HOMEschooling perspective! I think your approach is liberating for those who are getting caught up in the “I feel mom guilt because I’m not doing a million and one creative crafts and ‘educational’ activities with my 3 year old” feeling.
    Thank you again for your blog and your example. The wisdom God has given you have as a mom of many is so valuable and I’m glad I can glean from it as a new mom. God bless!


  10. Katie
    May 21, 2012 | 9:38 pm

    After dealing with a bed wetter for two years, we finally bought a bed wetting alarm and wished I would have bought it two years earlier. He was such a heavy sleeper that he just wouldn’t wake up. It took us about a week of use before we saw a big change, and after a month he was pretty much dry at night – this was at age 5.

    I remember as a kid also being a bed wetter and didn’t stop (also around age 5) until my mom used an alarm on me. I’m now a firm believer in them πŸ˜‰

    This is the one we used, but I have a feeling anything would work for most children: http://www.amazon.com/PottyMD-W103-Wet-Stop3-Bedwetting-Alarm/dp/B0013LRVWA/ref=sr_1_1?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1337650522&sr=1-1


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thanks Katie.

    We had a friend recommend a bed wetting alarm to us around 4 years ago. I also recommend them to anyone with a bed wetter, but we’ve had limited success. All three of our bed wetters still wet the bed fairly regularly, although for two of them it’s not every single night as it used to be.

    Technically, a child 5 or younger can not be a “bed wetter” as I’m using the term (Primary Nocturnal Enuresis), as it’s very common for children to wet the bed up until that age.


  11. Katie
    May 21, 2012 | 9:46 pm

    I have five trained kids ranging from 2& 1/2 yrs to almost 9. I have never had many potty training issues and don’t fret too much about it as I put mine on the potty starting around 3 or 4 months old. Just once a day, or as I have a minute or two extra during a diaper change. This slow exposure gets them accustom to the potty, and it’s amazing how often they will just go on their own – even as an infant. (I use a child’s seat that sits on the big toilet.)

    I don’t think I could do the whole infant potty training thing, but putting them on early saves a little on diapers and I often can get them to poop in the toilet and not their diaper. It’s so nice not having to change poopy diapers, which is a big motivator.


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