A reader recently emailed asking me to address the challenges of homeschooling a large family. What do you do when you have older children who need your help, while the younger ones need your attention too. How do you get it all done and keep your sanity!?? I wanted to take a little time here in the newsletter to share some ideas that you may want to try. Some of these ideas I have used myself, and others I have not. The key is finding what works for your family and doing it. For those of you out there with large families, I hope you will find something here that will encourage you and give you some things to try.
Combine subjects - While there are some subjects that you cannot really combine (such as language arts and math), there are subjects that you can all do together…from the little ones to the older ones. Science and history in particular lend themselves nicely to doing all together as a family. The science books can be read aloud and projects and experiments done together. Any written work can be customized for the age of each child. For history, we have enjoyed reading a lot of good living books together – from my 1st grader to my 12th grader. There are some great curriculum available that covers history with multiple ages. Most of the time there is reading that is done together, then writing and projects done at each age level. Foreign language is another subject that can be studied together as a family. Bible can also be done all together. I do our Bible time right after breakfast. I usually read through a good Bible story book (I love The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Voss), then we do our Scripture memory work. We close with prayer and then head off to do our room chores. As you can see, there are many ways that you can combine subjects! Take a look at the subjects to be covered for all your children. Are there any that could be combined and learned together?
Utilize nap times for concentrated homeschool time - Nap time in our house is our read-aloud time where we read books on history, science, and literature. It is probably the most favorite time of our day. I have read of others who use nap times for doing one-on-one homeschooling with their older children. The morning hours are used for any independent work for the older children and one-on-one time with the younger children.
Have one-on-one time with toddlers early - If your little ones are early risers, why not have some one-on-one time with them before the older kids get up. Use my ebook, Learning for the “Littles”-A Preschool Notebook, and put together a little notebook that you can work through with them as you snuggle on the couch. You will amazed what you can cover in just 10 minutes! Work through their notebook and read some books together and your “homeschool” time with them is done! Then while you are homeschooling the older children they can be free to play with their “toddler boxes” described below!
Have older children do independent subjects while you work with younger ones - Look at the subjects your older children will be studying for the year. Make note of those subjects that your child can work on mostly independently. Schedule your older children to work on those subjects while you help your younger children.
Put together “toddler boxes” for the younger group - Depending on the size of the items you want in them, you can use those plastic shoe boxes or larger ones too if needed. These boxes are only brought out during homeschool times. Here are some ideas for filling the boxes: playdough (click here for a ton of playdough recipes), legos (the large ones), puzzles, counting bears and cups for sorting, play food, stacking or building sets, crayons and coloring books, pipe cleaners to bend and create with, sewing cards, plastic animal sets, etc. Teach your toddler to only get one box out at a time and put it all away before getting another box out. Spread out a blanket on the floor and let them pick out a box!
Have middle school children help with the toddlers - If you have more than one middle school child who still need a lot of help with their school work, try to schedule your homeschool time so that you can rotate back and forth between them. One idea is to take turns having your middle school children read books or playing with the toddlers while you work with another child. This way your toddlers are kept busy so you can give undivided attention to your middleschooler for a bit. Once you are done then you rotate children.
What our days looked like last year with a 3 year old, 4 year old, 1st grader, 6th grader, and 12th grader:
8:30 – Breakfast, Bible reading, and Scripture Memory
9:00 – Bedroom and bathroom chores (make beds, pick up rooms, brush teeth, etc.)
9:30 – 12:00 – Homeschool time – 12th grader and 6th grader start independent work while I take the 1st grader, 4 year old, and 3 year old in another room to “do school” with them. I usually started with my 1st grader (doing his phonics lesson and math) while the younger two played. Once I was done with school with my 1st grader, he was free to play while I worked with the two younger ones going through their Learning for the “Littles”-A Preschool Notebook. Once I was done with the two younger ones, then I would read our science book aloud to all three (I just used the 1st grade science book from Christian Liberty Press to read aloud to them). After science then I would let them pick some books for us to read. After that I would allow them to play while I headed out to check on the older two. I would help them if needed and then begin to prepare lunch.
12:00 – 1:00 – Lunch and free time
1:00 – Nap time for the 4 year old and 3 year old (they usually take a 2 hour nap). This is our read-aloud time with the older kids. Each year I select a list of history books and literature books to read aloud to them. I make a list and keep it in the homeschool section of my Intentional Planner. We then just start to work through them, reading 1, 2, or more chapters a day. Sometimes we are enjoying the book so much we can’t stop and end up reading for over an hour! I usually rotate between history and literature books. Once we are done with one book, it gets checked off on my list and we move to the next one. This next year I will be doing My Father’s World with my 7th grader and 2nd grader, so our read-aloud time will include the books that are assigned in the curriculum, plus some extras I bought to go along with our studies. I have also used this read-aloud time to cover some other topics such as Biblical Wordview reading, or readings on health. I like to use this time sometimes to cover things that I don’t seem to get to during the year.
2:30 – After read-aloud time the kids finish up any school work that is not done, do any chores that need done, then they have free time until dinner.
6:00 – Dinner
I hope I have given you some ideas for how you can schedule your homeschool day if you have a large family. The most important thing to remember is that God has given each of these children to you and He will show you how He wants your day to look. It will be different than mine and that’s ok. In fact, this coming school year will look different for me than what I explained above…and that’s ok!
Homeschooling is not about “school”, it is about “life”…the wonderful blessed life that God has given to us to live fully for Him. As you prepare for the upcoming school year, I pray that the Lord will guide you and help you come up with a schedule that will fit your family and one that will allow you to accomplish all that He wants you to accomplish!