Our Family

Our Family

Monday, August 13, 2012

Homeschooling A Crowd

I guess you could consider having seven children Large Family Homeschooling.  So when that came up as this week's Blog Cruise topic I decided to get a blog post written on the subject.  This year my children are 15,10,8,7,5,3, and 17 months.  Our house can be crazy sometimes, but it sure is never boring!!

I really don't think it is more difficult to homeschool 7 children than it is to homeschool 1 or 2.  The truth is (and it may surprise you unless you know me in real life) I am terrible at being organized or sticking to a schedule.  People think because I have so many children that organization must be one of my strengths (that and patience which I really am not great at either)   I do think that routine is important and it does help to keep us organized.  Instead of scheduling every hour of the day, our day is broken up into blocks of time.  We have a block of time for: breakfast and morning chores, morning schoolwork, lunch and recess, afternoon schoolwork, media time, productive free time, evening chores, free time, and bed.  Using blocks of time helps the children by being on a routine but still gives us some freedom and flexibility.

Since I am not great at organization, I tend to rely on curriculum that is.  I like to use curriculum that has a suggested schedule to follow so I don't have to come up with one myself.  It doesn't mean I will always stick to the exact recommendations, but I can at least use it as a guideline.  I also think that it helps my High School daughter to be able to stay on track.

Something else that really helps me is homeschooling 4 days a week.  I really need that extra day to not have to focus on school.  Instead we can have some fun (like our Art class and going to picnic in the park when possible) and take care of grocery shopping and other errands.  We also try to get some cleaning done that we don't have time for during the school week.

I do not homeschool preschool.  My younger children are in the room listening in with the others and participate as interested.  I do spend time specifically with my preschoolers  every afternoon reading, and then coloring, counting, playing, doing fun educational things with them.  It is not a long period of time (about 30 min during the older children's media time) that we just enjoy doing things on their level.  I also do not require my Kindergartener to complete every subject.  He too listens in and participates when he wants to.  He does do some writing and reading everyday.

The biggest thing that I think helps a homeschool family with many children be successful is to work together when you can.  This can be challenging when there is a big age span (there are 5 years between my oldest and second children) but when it is doable it makes life much easier.  There are many different types of curriculum made especially for homeschool families and multi level learning.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to do every single subject  for each one of their age levels! We do history as a group using Mystery of History.  We read the lessons, do memory cards, timeline, and mapping altogether.  Chelsea does the activity part on her own since they are more in depth for high school, and I do activities with the rest of the children.  We do Bible as a group using Apologia's Who Am I?  I do Science with the boys together.  I am using All About Reading with Alex and Anthony.  What we can do together, we do together.

The second big thing is that as they get older, allow them to teach themselves.  I spend very little time "teaching" my 10th grader.  I am always available when she has a problem, or would like to discuss some things that she is learning.  But, the majority of her education  is her responsibility.  She decides (with guidance of course) what she would like to study for the year.  We seek out affordable curriculum that allows for self directed learning (like Math U See, Apologia, Classical Academic Press etc..)  She even grades her own Math quizzes and tests.  I look over her work and evaluate her papers.  The rest is up to her.  I believe the skills she is learning now by directing her own learning will better prepare her for college and life.  Even my boys are responsible to complete what work they can on their own.  My 4th grader does his Latin, Math and Writing all on his own unless there are any new concepts that I need to sit down and teach.   

We usually spend about 2-3 hours on schoolwork 4 days a week.  The younger children spend a little less and my high schooler spends a little more.  Math, writing, reading/literature, language, Bible are completed daily.  Science and history are completed 2 days a week.  We are flexible in that area because we need to change what we are working on quite often due to reviews.  Morning schoolwork begins with subjects that we can work on together and afternoons are for independent work.

Cost is one of those things that people wonder about, especially when you are homeschooling several children.  A large portion of my homeschool money goes to math which does seem to cost more as they get older and the math is more advanced.  If you stick to the same program for all of the children, you should get to a point where you have all of the teacher materials and you only have to buy new workbooks.  Most of the curriculum we use does not require a lot of expensive extras and we will share supplies.  Instead of each child working on their own notebooking journals for science, the boys will work on one together.  I spread out the cost of science experiments, hands on history projects ,and art supplies throughout the year.  I buy curriculum used and trade books with other homeschool families.  I am highly blessed to be able to review a lot of different homeschooling curriculum.  You do not have to spend a fortune to provide a quality education for your children.  I have spent the most money so far this year homeschooling 5 children.  I spent $600 on books and $100 on supplies.  I still have some things that I want to buy that I don't necessarily "need" and if possible will be purchasing those next month. Usually I am able to buy everything I need from selling curriculum and various other items on Ebay once a year.  I set aside a small amount of money every month to use for extra supplies, fieldtrips, or other things that come up during the year. 

Some of my other "secrets" to homeschooling a crowd can also be true when only homeschooling one or two children.  I have to limit outside distractions.  I do not answer the phone (or texts) during our school times.  I also do not use the internet or if I have to I go straight to the site I need.  Those distractions can get our day behind and then I never get caught up.  I also have learned to be able to teach with noise and distractions.  When you have children there is going to be noise!  We try to keep them busy with quiet things while I am reading but there will be times when there is background noise and I just have had to get used to it.  I try to make sure that the baby is fed, changed, and has a sippy cup and snacks nearby so I don't have to stop what I am doing to go get her something.  Limiting outside responsibilities also can have a huge impact on your homeschool.  The more you have to prepare for leaving and be out of the house can effect your ability to get your daily tasks accomplished.  I also have learned that I have to forgive myself.  There are going to be days where I forget to evaluate a paper or realize I haven't looked at Nick's Math all week.  Some weeks are like that and it will be OK.

What about time for myself and my husband?  I am a BIG believer in early bedtimes.  At the end of the day I need some peace and quiet and time to spend with my husband without 7 sets of listening ears.  Everyone in our house goes to bed at 8:00.  The children are not required to go right to sleep.  They can listen to audio books, play quietly or read but they have to be in their beds by 8:00.  Friday nights are movie nights and after pizza and movie with the children, Art and I get to  watch a movie together.  We just recently have started going out on "date nights" once a month at a local inexpensive restaurant.  

Homeschooling to me is not something to be looked on as just another chore that mom has to complete (like folding socks.)  I enjoy having the opportunity to teach my children.  I enjoy the blessing of being home with them and watching them learn and grow.  I love being able to learn alongside them.  Not everyday is easy but I will never regret the decision to homeschool.  It is one of the most important things I will ever do with my life.

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