Home educating in a large family has its challenges, add in several children over a wide age spread and life is never dull, though it certainly is hugely rewarding.
My husband and I have ten children; they range from 25 to 5 years. They have always been educated at home, 4 are now graduated. I’d like to share five of the challenges we’ve faced and the approaches we have found that work for us.
The need to ‘wear and change many hats’ is the hardest part about educating a large family across a large age spread. One moment you are teaching a child to read, the next you’re explaining trigonometry to a teen. The rapid transition from one ‘hat’ to another is a huge challenge at times.
On a practical note, immensely helpful is being prepared for lessons to run as smoothly as possible and to be organized to keep the home fires burning. Emotionally keeping your ‘vision’ in sight, your reason for embarking on this journey encourages you as to just why you are traveling this journey. These three help you keep your sanity over the ‘long haul’ as you dash from one child to another
How do you manage to teach a large group of children with different learning styles who require different teaching methods and are all ages and stages?
Know and Accept Your Teaching Style and Your Child’s Learning Style. Accept yourself as He made you, don’t waste time trying to make yourself into someone you are not, you have unique talents and they are sufficient. Your child was created as He wanted, don’t wish your child’s learning style to be different from how it is, treasure your child for whom he uniquely is. Tailor your teaching approach to your child’s learning style where possible.
Combine your children’s learning where possible, gather together for learning where practical, this may include; read alouds, history, science, handwriting practice. With my wide ages I often group into three subgroups, teens, 8 – 12s and my under 7s, the younger group will float in and out with my middle set. Working with peers is not only practical in regards to time management and teaching energies, but it also creates a lovely synergy for the children.
Be flexible, I always remind myself there is more than one way to approach the skills and knowledge needed. Be prepared to change your approach so that learning happens, that’s the goal.
How do you ‘run’ your homeschool successfully?
Commit to and plan for success. Create a learning plan, you may not always follow your plan precisely but it increases your chance of home education success. Find an organizational system that works best for your family. Find a learning schedule that best suits your family. Write clear instructions so your children know what learning you expect from them, this also fosters independence. If your plans are failing carefully consider why, perhaps you have too much planned for each day, or too many distractions. Keep your morning times strictly for lessons, make appointments for the afternoon; say “No” with confidence to outside commitments, this is not your season. Flex your self-discipline, stay off the computer and phone during learning hours.
Accept that there will never be a ‘perfect’ year. Just when you think you’ve ‘nailed’ it, there will always be a ‘new, new’.
How do you manage the myriad homemaking responsibilities required and continue to smoothly ‘spin all your plates’.
Plan well how to run your large family home. Use lists extensively for all sorts of areas; calendar, appointments, menus, shopping, holidays, lessons planning, etc. Teach homemaking skills to all members of your household and work as a team to keep home. Keep a reasonably clean home, though this is much harder with only littles. Organization and follow-through is the key.
How do you prevent burnout?
I have learned the hard way 6 steps are essential.
Prayer – it need not be overwhelming just quick, regular chats with Our Lord. If you’re not a person of Faith, meditation or yoga might be your fit. Personal Health is another must; sleep, exercise and eating nutritiously. If life is really hard some form of a Gratitude Journal, celebrating your treasured moments or small successes is hugely beneficial. Nature – spend some time in Nature each day, even as little as five minutes. This can be a simple as hanging the washing on the clothesline, pushing a child on the swing or going for a nature walk with your children, getting back in touch with Creation. Nurture – find what nurtures your spirit, as a family and as an individual and endeavor to enjoy that daily. Reading aloud to our children meets a need deep in my spirit and has many added benefits foremost my relationship with our children. Other families’ culture is nurtured through art or outdoor pursuits or board games to name just a few. My individual nurturing is met through books; reading, collecting, etc and this needs to be a daily pursuit for my wellbeing. Creativity – Creativity encompasses many areas; gardening, home improvements, writing, clothes mending, photography, home organization, blog writing and more.
There are of course other challenges a large family with a wide age spread faces. Home education for our family though has been hugely rewarding and we are so grateful to be on this journey.