When I first considered homeschooling, I was genuinely frightened.
My husband and I had been wrestling with the idea for over a year and I had been reading “Educating the Whole Hearted Child” by Clay and Sally Clarkson with a group of close friends. What I read stirred my heart, but I had never seen it in action! I couldn’t escape an image of of a mom wearing a gingham jumper, with exceptionally polite children, who somehow already knew how to read, bake bread and tend chickens by the time they were four years old. Back then I had a shag haircut and a nose ring, and I was lucky if we made it through dinner without one of my children sticking food up their nose. Being from a family of teachers and public school administrators, a classroom was also the only form of school I could wrap my brain around. I didn’t know how to create a learning environment at home and I didn’t know how I would “fit” into my perceived ideas about this educational choice.
It was by faith that we stepped out to give homeschooling a try, and it was not easy for me; but it was fruitful and even fulfilling! It was truly what God had intended for our family puzzle, the way he chose to lead us and grow us, and we are so thankful that we obeyed him, despite our fears.
When you start out at the beginning as I did, with one child, there is certainly some trepidation, but I was comforted by the fact that my other children were still in diapers and we could breeze through quite a bit of school work during naptime. Fast forward 10 years, and now I am schooling 4 children. At once. With no naps. This is the season that was scary for me to anticipate in the beginning. Back then, I wondered if it was even possible.
If you are starting out your journey and wondering how it will all come together as your children grow, or if you are a mama who is thinking of jumping right in with several school aged children at once this year, this post is for you.
Here are 6 ways I’ve found to help pull off homeschooling with a Full House
1. Challenge your expectations.
When we first started homeschooling, I had a dedicated school room, a chalkboard, and we started every day with the pledge of allegiance. I was fighting hard to bring school home, instead of letting education become a natural part of the way our family lived life together. The reality is, that when you are teaching multiplication tables or diagramming sentences, the new baby will still need to nurse, your preschoolers will still struggle with sharing blocks and tangrams, and someone won’t make it to the potty in time. Entering into a homeschooling life with reasonable expectations about your family’s reality will help you adjust and be flexible. It will also help you to choose what kind of curriculum will work for your crew, how you want to schedule your day and what kind of outside commitments you can reasonably take on.
2. Take Time to Plan.
This might sound obvious, but when you are parenting 3, 4 or even 5 children, your time is crunched. Its hard to get a shower, let alone a planning hour each day. Homeschooling can naturally synch up with your family life, but you need to realize the extra responsibilities placed on you in this role and head into each week prepared. I try to set aside 1-3 hours each week, usually on the weekend when my husband is able to help with the kids, to plan for the week ahead. I take time to assess the previous week’s work, track where each child is at, in character issues as well as academic goals, and get all the assignment charts and printables for the coming week ready. I also glance over our curriculum, look at our calendar day by day, decide what to omit and what to add in, and spend some serious time on my knees in prayer. There is also absolutely a latte and delicious treat involved in this step!
3. Map Out How You Will Juggle.
Mentally think through where your children will be at each point during your day. I find that I can handle things much better if we move through the day subject by subject. I juggle personal instruction time with independent work for each child, and give the older children opportunities to quiz or help the younger ones. Mapping out who will be where and when can help keep you on track. Creating spaces that can naturally encourage learning is also helpful in determining where your children can be. I've found that keeping out baskets of books for discovery near a comfy chair, having pretend play spaces for the younger kids, desks and table space for the older ones and easy access to craft supplies creates natural "centers" for moving through activities during the day and engaging imagination during free time as well. You can read about one day’s worth of juggling in our home here.
4. Embrace the Differences in Your Children
My four children are all so unique. I have a gifted child who taught herself how to read, another who has struggled with phonics, one that wants to take apart anything with a gear or battery to learn how it works (and often does!), and one who prefers to be right by my side at. all. times. We are a crazy mix of personality and passions...and I think we are a lot of fun! I also thought, for far too long, that there must be some incredible curriculum that would be a perfect fit for our family... and I searched hard for it! Those of you vetran homeschoolers are chuckling right now aren’t you?
The thing is, each of your children are created by a God with a big personality, who imparted a piece of himself into each one of their hearts and souls. They have a part to play his His story, and in the story of your family, and they have been gifted with unique qualities according to their purpose! You have the awesome job of finding out how they tick, how they think and aquire information, and by faith, you get to find ways each day as you teach them, to connect with their hearts, and make new information come alive. It's kind of like being a rockstar, its a big deal. Don’t try to box them in, and don’t compare them to one another, let them amaze you with who they are.
5.Teach Your Children How to Learn
Again, obvious? The truth is, when children learn how to think and how to find out what they want and need to know, their education can thrive on self-initiation and general curiosity. The early years are hard as you lay habits, teach the three R’s (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic), and generally give them the basic tools to learn. The fruit of this labor, however, is pretty fantastic! You can also tailor your homeschool to allow your children to directly interact with the great minds of history, literature and science through the careful choosing of books and materials. They can feast on ideas, seek answers to questions (their own and those posed to them), and the new information they aquire can naturally serve as its own reward.
I realized early on that if I were standing in front of my kids lecturing on a subject, I would only be able to give them bite size pieces of information, and I would make their learning dependent on me. I am so thankful for the advice to embrace the model of learning along side my children, directing them to writings and experiments put together by those with a deep love and passion for their respective subjects, or with first hand knowledge of events in history. As we learn together, I am freed from feeling like I have to "know it all," and my children are learning how to think deeply and make connections on their own.
6. Find Points of Connection
My children now range in age from 14 to 7. My older kids take online classes this take them away from the rest of us as they attend classes and work independently. To get us on the same page, we have built in some points of connection as anchors for our day, that always bring us back together. Its important for me to share with the children that we are in community as a family and to check in with them. For us, these times naturally fall at meals. We also start every day with a Morning Meeting. We *do* still say the pledge of allegiance, we observe the weather, we recite memory work and flip through flashcards for phonics with the younger children and compete with some mental math exercises. On assigned days of the week we study poetry, art, composers and manners. We also have a nature walk together each Friday.
Instead of snack time, we instituted tea time in the afternoons. The girls each have a tea cup and my son has a “man mug.” I find putting a normal snack on a special tray is just the refreshment we all need. These points of connection help me feel like we are doing school *together* and not get so overwhelmed with everyone’s individual curriculum. It’s also a whole lot of fun!
So what are your tips for pulling off homeschooling with a full house?
Thankful to head into this new school year arm in arm,