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?
You might also enjoy:
Amen to Saxon math. I hand over the student text and the answer key and that’s all I do for math for my 5 oldest kids. They come to me when they can’t figure out how to make their answer match the answer key.
I love homeschool conferences . . . but you’re probably right that they make me question myself too much. There’s just such a happy energy at a conference that fills me for the future.
@Anne – hmm, that’s a great point. I’m sure they are helpful for motivation!
I really like this! My husband was homeschooled and he’s one of 6, so his mom did a lot of the same things you do! It’s great to here how you can make this work without going crazy! 😉
Homeschooling isn’t that common where I from and it’s interesting to read about it. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for commenting on my blog. I was on board that we sounded a lot alike until I saw you wrote a book about habits and then I laughed and laughed. A couple of my kids on-line schooled for awhile, but they had already lost the fire for learning so it didn’t go too well. It was awesome to have them home though. I think much of the same can be said about raising a large family. Mine younger few are home for a snow day and I have done exactly one thing for any of them so far. They made their own breakfasts and what-not while I worked. I linked another post you might enjoy.
That is basically what Mom did for us. Our parents checked our work, Dad (chemical engineer) was called in on occasion to help with hard math, Mom read aloud plus we used programs that focused on reading a lot (Five in a Row, Beautiful Feet history guides). My brother and a sister did end up going to public school (she graduated homeschool early and he finished all his school and chores before 12 so both had too much time and wanted to try sports); it worked well for my brother (he’s our only true extrovert) but my sister hated it. The rest of us either finished with homeschool and ended up in college or are still in homeschool and not likely to change (the younger girls got involved in a homeschool sports program).
Amy Terry says
I homeschool our two 1st grade daughters and
3rd grade son. I feel your struggle & agree they become more ideprndeht earlier.
I love this post! Sometimes I wonder if I am not doing enough for them… or if what I do isn’t normal lol?? I really feel like letting them learn on their own in some ways is better than having a teacher show them. My oldest (5th grade) does 95% of her work on her own. She asks me when she needs to. My 2nd grader needs more of my attention, so she gets it. I also pick curricula that allows for this style of learning (like Teaching Textbooks 😉 ). My husband works from home, so he is always here to help out too.
I think that’s just a normal feeling of motherhood, period Rebekah 🙂
Awesome, thanks for sharing your story LiviaRose!
Sarah Prince says
I never thought homeschooling could become automatic. I’ve always thought it would consume every minute of your day because your kids are home. But I’m glad that it has been successful for you!
Laura Vanderkam says
I’ve long been fascinated by homeschooling – I wrote my senior thesis on it in college. I had always wondered what people did with their toddlers while they were teaching older kids! I can barely help with homework while my little guy is around.
I only homeschool 4 – not a large family – but this sounds a whole lot like our homeschooling style as well.
Danielle Huddleston says
So true. I went from 2 to 5 kids in a matter of a few months and am quickly finding out that my two oldest have to learn independently for the most part!
Wow, that’s a huge change!
THANK YOU for this post! I am a homeschool mom of 6 and am constantly questioning myself. I have two in middle school, twin kindergarteners, a 3 year old, and a 1 year old. I homeschool a lot along the same lines as you and a definite yes to Saxon math. This was just the encouragement I needed as we are finally wrapping up our year.
Thank you for writing this! We have eight kids and everything you said is pretty much what we do too. They teach themselves, yes!! And surprisingly, this works very well. Yes, here to Saxon as well.There are tricky spots when everyone is learning a new concept at the same time, but overall, we make it work. The kids do all their independent work in the morning and I am available to facilitate and guide. Then, in the afternoon, when little ones are napping, I read aloud to the kids. THIS is our favorite part of the day!! And we have been doing it for so long that I’m not sure what the kids will do when they graduate and realize that the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily cozy up on the couch for a read after lunch break, ha! It really encouraged to hear you say that your greatest talent is staying the course. Its mine too. I question myself so much, but my husband will ask, “Do you like the product?” If I step back and think about it, I do! I like the way our kids are turning out. They are smart, kind, have great friendships, have close relationships with us and their siblings. I like being with them and they like being homeschooled. If we like the product, why change what we are doing? Homeschooling a large family is a unique kind of challenge, but it can be done and done well.
Thanks for your comment Sheri!
I have 12 and you are so right on in this post! I love the comparison to librarian rather than teacher, that is great! Thanks for this post.