Teaching With a Baby/Toddler

April 4, 2019, 1:00 PM · Any input or advice for teaching students while you have an infant/toddler at home with you? How do you keep your child(ren) occupied during the lesson? How many students were you able to teach per week? Thoughts?

Replies (10)

Edited: April 4, 2019, 1:48 PM · My wife and I teach university chemistry, not private violin lessons, but the strategy we used was to leave our children with a licensed day care while we went to work. I think that if my violin teacher was having to deal with a baby or young toddler throughout every lesson, I'd be looking for a different teacher, especially if there were more than one or two disturbances per lesson or if they were lengthy. If it's just an occasional thing because of something that came up (e.g., day care was closed that day), that would be easily forgiven. But when I am paying for an hour of someone else's undivided attention, then that's pretty much what I expect to get. I'm not wild about teachers who take three or four calls on their phone during lessons either.
Edited: April 4, 2019, 4:33 PM · I agree with Paul. When my children were little, I only scheduled lessons when they were either at daycare or when my husband was home to be with them. I do remember one lesson where my husband had an emergency, and I had a child playing quietly with his Thomas the tank engine set on the other side of the room where I taught.

Editing to add that my childhood violin teacher had two very young children at the time I started studying with her, and my mother watched the children while I had my lesson.

Edited: April 4, 2019, 6:40 PM · Agree with all of the above, but I sympathize with you. Childcare is absurdly expensive, probably much more than than your per hour charge for lessons.

You could look for a mother's helper- a 12 or 13 year old neighborhood kid who can watch your children while you teach. Nextdoor.com would be a great place to ask.

April 4, 2019, 10:58 PM · I'm sitting here with jaw on the floor, trying to imagine childcare that costs more than lessons do. I remember paying $10/hour for an evening sitter when our children were little; I'm sure it's gone up since then but surely not by a factor of five to ten.

A reliable mother's helper is a good idea. You can have a younger teen watch your children while you're in another room than you might want if you were actually out of the home, as long as the teen is responsible and will only disturb you if there is an emergency (a dirty diaper is not an emergency).

April 5, 2019, 1:25 AM · Essentially, you can only work when someone else is attending to your child.

Infants, even ones on well-regulated schedules, cannot be counted upon to nap at convenient times. They have to be attended to when they cry, and it's unprofessional to expect for a student to wait while you do so.

Toddlers are pretty much mischief on legs. Left to their own devices, they can entertain themselves, but they can also wreak amazing destruction when unattended. Younger toddlers need watching to keep them safe. Older toddlers need watching to keep both themselves and everything around them safe. And they are mobile, so they can come demand attention.

I agree with the mother's helper suggestion. Keep them well out of your studio area, and ensure you're only disturbed for true emergencies.

Edited: April 5, 2019, 6:33 AM · @Mary Ellen, while I agree with you about hourly wages, that's not the only factor. If you have a fairly full studio, then you need long blocks of dependable child care. A violin teacher probably can't make use of licensed facilities because those are usually 8-5 type operations, which leaves you in the lurch during optimal late-afternoon and early-evening teaching hours for school-aged children. In my neighborhood, there would not be nearly enough willing teenagers to provide 20 hours per week of "mother's helper" services. If you only teach between 3:30 and 5:00 PM, then you can use a licensed facility but usually you cannot purchase just the time interval you need -- you have to buy the whole week, and that sometimes several months in advance.* So I can see this being a difficult challenge for a young mother whose livelihood depends on private teaching. I still wouldn't tolerate the continuous presence of a baby or toddler in my lessons.

*In my area, child care is a very weird market: Both scarce and significantly under-priced.

Edited: April 5, 2019, 8:56 AM · If there is a shortage of teens who might be willing mother's helpers in the OP's neighborhood, and if she cannot schedule lessons when a spouse or partner is going to be home, then I see only two options:

1. a licensed childcare facility (and Paul is correct about needing to pay for a block of time; I had forgotten that aspect), or

2. ask the students' parents if they would be willing to watch the children during the lessons in exchange for a reduction in fees. However, this only works if the students are old enough to be practicing independently. It's not workable if the OP is teaching mostly young children.

Oh this is bringing back memories of tense conversations with my husband when he unexpectedly had to stay late at work and I had lessons scheduled. It was such a relief when my children were finally old enough to be trusted on their own in the other part of the house (my studio is behind the garage, completely separate from every other room so I couldn't even keep an attentive ear on things).

April 5, 2019, 3:27 PM · "It was such a relief when my children were finally old enough to be trusted on their own."

Yes ... and you get a huge raise (effectively) because you're not paying for day care any more. On the other hand you might be paying for music lessons! Ouch!!

Another thought about the day care is that some day care centers do offer "schooler service" which collects students directly from school and then holds them at the day care until the close of business. But they can only do this with students who are older and therefore need less attention -- not with babies or toddlers.

As your kids get older, some headaches go away, but they are only replaced by others. They become largely independent just in time for you to start losing sleep over college expenses.

April 7, 2019, 2:49 PM · Coming from a community in which it was somewhat normal for moms to teach with their kids at home ("neighborhood piano teacher" type of thing) and I had several friends who seemed to make it work--I tried and tried and thought I should be able to make it work and absolutely could not. Young kids need mom to be available. Students need teacher to be focused. Trying to do both made a good outcome for nobody.

That in order to say, my jaw's not dropping at the very idea bc I do think that's "the way it is done" in some circles. But I don't think it's a good idea if you can at all help it. Find a teenager who can watch the kids, in the house, while you teach. (I was blessed to have in-laws and a local "adopted grandma" who could help me with this. Maybe you could find a grandma-type neighbor if you don't have family local or teens you trust?) Figure out how many students you can logically handle in between feedings, meals, anything you're not able to leave to the sitter. I know it is hard when there is the pressure of having the income, but it's not worth the stress and your students will feel the difference if you try to pack to the edges beyond what you can focus on.

I did find it worked ok, if a student needed a makeup lesson on a different day, for me to schedule "one-offs" and let my kids watch a quiet show while I taught. I would not do this if I were moving the lesson--then it's my responsibility to get childcare--but if they want to move to a different day, I would accommodate that with the understanding that I don't have babysitting that day but I can make it work if you don't mind that my kids will be around, albeit occupied. I learned very quickly that that only worked for about one lesson length, or they got antsy even with a show on, but for a single makeup it accommodated everybody reasonably well.

(For reference, I taught from my home from 8 weeks after my oldest was born, up through the present when they are 6, 4, and 3. So I know the struggle. Also the struggle to keep a professional-looking teaching area in a small house when it's also your living area/toddler play area! :D I am hoping this for you, that you can/will give yourself room to "be teacher" in that time and space--for your own satisfaction and sanity as well :) Best to you!

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