Homeschooling a large family looks a bit different than people expect…
This week I had an enjoyable luncheon with a group of blogging moms. When my turn came for an introduction, I said that I write about, among other things, homeschooling a large family with 7 kids.
(There’s usually a tiny, collective gasp right about here.)
I’m not a superhero or genius, and I’ve always been nervous about being perceived as a homeschooling expert. I don’t consider myself such (which is what stops me from writing an ebook about homeschooling a large family).
But I’m sometimes perceived as such.
Last week I got an email from Kenya. A woman I don’t know, a friend of a friend, asked me for advice with homeschooling her daughter.
At the blogging luncheon, someone says she’s going to homeschool her kids next year and begins asking questions. Another says her friend recently started homeschooling and remarks, “I’m going to send her to your blog“.
The jig is up folks. I’m pulling back the curtain.
The truth about homeschooling a large family is this: the kids mostly educate themselves.
The more children you have, the more independent they must be in their learning, out of pure necessity. Once they learn how to read, they do most of their work independently.
Homeschooling is mostly on autopilot at this point.
I don’t do much “teaching” at all.
The only child I’m “teaching” at the moment is the 6 year old. I’m teaching her to read with a simple phonics-based approach, and we do math with Life of Fred. She practices writing her letters every day. Other than that, she spends most of her time running around the backyard climbing trees and creating art. I take a lesson from the Finns and don’t do much formal instruction before aged 7.
What do I do in our homeschool day?
I do read-alouds. I occasionally read Sadie’s history lesson to her, when she wants me to. I check up on the kids’ progress. I take them to the library. I buy them books and art and science materials. When they show an interest in something, I throw time and money at it.
Recent example: Sadie has decided to take up piano. I’m so happy about this! She has a beautiful singing voice and I’ve been urging her to take voice lessons, but she insists she’s too shy (to which I reply, “Phhhbbbbt!“). I’m working on her 🙂 But I ordered her an easy piano book and she’s been playing several times a day. Piano first, voice later maybe.
At the risk of sounding like a slacker, I choose curriculum that allows for independent learning.
This means no unit studies that require hours of prep work on my part, thankyouverymuch. Great for others, not for me. Saxon math, for instance, teaches so incrementally that the child hardly realizes they’re learning.
In a large homeschooling family, the kids also learn from each other. My two oldest help their younger ones with math (they surpassed my math knowledge years ago).
I teach them together whenever possible (this works well for younger kids and for certain subjects).
By limiting options and putting blinders on, I stay sane with this ‘homeschooling a large family’ gig.
I stick with tried-and-true curricula year after year. Knowing it well means I don’t have to re-learn in order to teach. I don’t shop around. I don’t investigate new approaches.
I never, ever go to homeschooling conferences – doing so would only cause me to question what I’m doing (when it’s working just fine!) and buy.all.the.things I don’t need.
I’m more like a librarian than a teacher.
(I even dress like one, haha.)
What does a librarian do? She curates good resources. She answers questions. She points the kids in the right direction. She encourages the stuck and frustrated.
I get out of the way.
Homeschooling is really hard sometimes. Your kids will have bad patches. They cycle through equilibrium and disequilibrium. They’ll balk at their schoolwork or have major attitude.
If I have a talent for anything, it’s for staying the course. I’m stubborn, in other words. I love homeschooling a large family, and I know that sometimes it won’t be easy or fun, but it’s worth it.
Are you homeschooling a large family? What have you done to be successful and not lose your mind?
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