Tips for Homeschooling a Large Family

It’s the question everyone wants to ask when they find out we homeschool.

How?

Or more precisely:

How do you homeschool so many?

It’s not that they wonder what curriculum I am using.  They don’t even really care about the intricacies of my daily schedule.  What they are really trying to figure out is how I manage that sort of crowd control.

So, here is my quick list of how I homeschool a houseful and how you can do it too (even if your houseful looks different from mine!):

• Combine, Combine, Combine

The obvious thought is that any children close in age could be combined into the same grade level, but think past that.  My oldest two are nearly 3 years apart, but they do history together, writing together, and just about any project we do they work on together.  In addition, there are some subjects that the entire household can do together in some capacity.  When we do A Child’s Geography: Explore the Holy Land, everyone sits around the table together, everyone has a map, everyone listens to the best of their ability, and the projects are engaging and wonderful for all ages!

And don’t worry that certain projects may seem childish to your teenager because every teenager likes to have some sort of responsibility laid on their shoulders with a goodly amount of leeway to lead the project on their own, which brings me to…

• Let olders lead the youngers

I am a firm believer in allowing older children to have chances to prove their level of responsibility. One great way to do this is within the context of the homeschool day.  In fact, rarely do I have to ask my big kids to lead a project with their siblings because they are always asking me if they can work with them on something.  I sit back and let them try their hand at it, only jumping in if I think the way they are teaching something might be problematic.  It is amazing to watch!

•Teach in ascending order

I’ve written before about how important it is to teach the younger children first.  In a large family it is easy to always teach to the oldest children and accidentally leave the younger ones to play.  This simply is not acceptable.  So, give your older children some independent work to do and dig in with the littles, working your way through the teacher intensive subjects ascending in order by age.

• Save the teacher intensive subjects for naptime

The second my baby goes down for his morning nap, I head downstairs to hit my school day full force.  This is the time for those subjects that require a lot of me.  Subjects better done without baby in tow.  I am able to finish those harder subjects during that time frame and spend baby’s waking hours doing “family school” – activities that easily include the entire family.  Of course, there are days when baby’s naptime doesn’t coincide well with school hours and that is when I…

• Have an older child play with a younger child for a while

There is no rule that says each of your children must be doing schoolwork at the exact same time.  When my 6 year old is finished working with me, she often goes to play with the toddler (just about the time he has ceased to be interested in his Toddler Box!)  Sometimes I will have my 10 year old put off her piano practice until after lunch so she can hold a baby who woke up earlier than expected.  You can even schedule in something like this so there is no guess work.  For instance, instead of your oldest child going straight into schoolwork, you could have him play with the baby and toddler for an hour while you work intensively with your beginning readers.  This is perfectly acceptable and a lesson in adapting to circumstances.

• Outsource

While I am not terribly fond of that word, I am fully aware that I am incapable of teaching every single subject and some subjects are better left to a DVD, an online class, a tutor, or a homeschool coop.  Just be certain your child actually NEEDS the class you are signing them up for and be certain of WHO is teaching the class and HOW they will be teaching it.  Even short snippets of time can equal major influences in your child’s life.  Academics should never trump convictions.

• Recognize your family’s individuality, your weaknesses, God’s will, and your utter dependence on the Almighty to direct your path

Ultimately, this is not about you and YOUR ability to homeschool a crowd.  You will never win that race.  I don’t homeschool because I am uber-patient.  I don’t homeschool because I am super-mom.  And I definitely don’t homeschool because I am good at it.

I homeschool because God called me to this.

I homeschool a large family because these are the children He has given me.

God leads this homeschool and we follow obediently and wholeheartedly.

In turn, He gives me a measure of patience, beautiful children who make me feel super, and enough light on the path in front of me to do a good job.

14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Tips for Homeschooling a Large Family

  1. Nice post. You are really gifted in encouraging hs families.
    I love this: “There is no rule that says that each of your children must be doing schoolwork at the exact same time” I have often thought they should be and trying to keep them all focused at the same time is overwhelming.

    I also appreciate your statement: “acedemics should never trump convictions” So true!

  2. Thank you for this encouraging post we’re getting the books out today after a few weeks break and I do sometimes find it overwhelming with 5 9 and under (and another on the way)

  3. I’m making some changes in my homeschooling this year, and to be honest feeling a little uncertain about it. This post gave me the encouragement I need to keep doing what I know is better for the child and our family even if it is a little unconventional. Thank you!!

  4. These are such great points! I really appreciate what you said about teaching in ascending order. My kids are all still “littles”, so I’ve tended to always let school revolve around my 7 year old (the oldest). My 2 year old (now almost 3) didn’t do well with that for most of last year, but it took me forever to figure out that I should give him some “school” first, and then let him play. Oh well, live and learn, right?

  5. What a great post! We just started honmeschooling after a disaterous public school experience. ( He learned the 3 Rs all right – Rudeness, Rowdy behavior and cuRse words)I printed this out to put on our classroom wall. It has blessed my way of thinking – thank you!

  6. Thanks for sharing and giving us a glimpse into your homeschool life.

    I don’t homeschool because it’s easy, I do it because I feel it is the right thing for our family.

  7. very timely as I’m starting to prepare a “schedule” for our schooling next week. This definitely gave me some much needed wisdom. And I”m definitely taking to heart the teach the little ones first… mine got left out last year and I feel like she would have already been further along in schooling had I made time for it…. so 1st it will be!! And the younger ones seem more ready to do work earlier in the AM!!

    I also love that you included the older ones helping! I know some frown on making older ones help with younger… but I do think it teaches them responsibility, patience and helping! And it’s even better when they enjoy it;) My oldest has taught soo much to her younger siblings!

    And Amen to not being able to do it all!! Calling out for wisdom to the LOrd is a constant for me!!

  8. You speak from a wealth of experience. Thanks for sharing. My situation is radically different, of course, but I still love to read about managing a home (of which homeschool is a part).