Monday, March 1

Homeschooling a Large Family

To choose to homeschool is a big decision. It is an even bigger decision to choose to homeschool a larger than typical size family with kids from all age groups.

We started out homeschooling one. Then we added three more. Then came two more kids to our school. Before long we had ten students in our school. A few years later we added two more. Then the following year we added seven more. Then we added two more again (family friends). For two years we had a total of 21-students from toddlers to seniors in high school. We are currently down to only six students from PreK to Jr in high school.

Yes, all family. It was a combination of kids (15) and grandkids (4). If you find yourself in the same situation, especially in this time of COVID and wanting to keep your kids safe or schools are closed, and homeschooling is the best or only option, let me share a few tricks with you I picked up along our 18-year journey.

First, pray. God is always with us. When we do His will, He will guide us all the way. Pray about your subjects. Who does what. If you have a high school student, write down what credits will be needed through high school for graduation then work up from there (I used our public school requirements). Will some students work better as independent learners with an online curriculum? Then go that route for that student. Look into K12 for that. Most of mine do not like full-time online courses. But all have taken computer science and have a class or two online just because computers are the wave of the future.

Second, stop saying you don’t have the patience to homeschool your own kids. You have more than you think. Yes, some days are tough and it is OK to take a day off. After all, when we homeschool we are never truly behind to have to make days up. One advantage we have over public school, we know our kids. We know what makes them tick and can nip things in the bud before they escalate, especially in our special needs kids. If we have to take a couple of days off for character building, so be it.

Third, do as much as you can together as one class. It is so much easier. We did Bible, history, science, geography, art, together (I like My Father’s World for this). Mostly oral. I would read and ask questions. We had some great discussions. The younger students picked up a great deal just by listening to the older students discuss the subject. Assignments were given per ability. It was great! That was how our mornings would go.

The afternoons was for independent studies. Math and Language Arts and individual elective choices. But even in those, because of the size of my student body, we had several students in the same level of books. So I still taught smaller groups. For the high school kids, I did expect more independent study and I was there to answer questions or assist in explaining something when the student was confused. This is good training to prepare for college studies.

I would also seek the aide of a high school student to teach a younger group. One year I had one of my high school sons teach the 1st and 2nd grade group geography. He helped them through their workbooks and also did the correcting and then report to me. Another time a daughter taught the younger kids health. Another high school kid was the P.E. instructor for the younger kids. He took them outside for runs and exercises and P.E. type games and learning. . I was able to write in on their transcripts “teacher’s aide”.

When it came to high school math, pre-algebra and up, my oldest daughter (the mother of the four grandkids) volunteered to be their teacher. So twice a week, whomever was currently driving would take those students to my daughter and she taught them outside of home for about an hour. She would give them assignments that had to be done before their next class time. Worked out great!

If you are overwhelmed in one subject, there is no shame in asking someone else to teach that subject or make that an online class. Maybe a grandparent would love to get in on teaching a subject. Maybe a grandparent would like to come play with the toddlers so you can focus on teaching. If you are teaching your middle schooler something, have someone else entertain the toddlers or rock the baby to sleep. Mark it down as child development class on the transcript.

One thing we have done is name our school. Berea Lutheran Academy. I did this to put on high school diplomas and transcripts. Or if we chose to put any kids in public school (which we did have to do for a season in life), then previous school record would show Berea Lutheran Academy.

When people outside the family made comments about the number of kids we homeschool, I would remind them that even at 21-students, my whole school was smaller than some teachers’ classrooms at 25-30 students. At 21-students, I was probably average size for a one-room schoolhouse way back when. It isn’t hard (OK keeping up with corrections might be, at least for me), but it does take some organization of some sort even if only written on paper. We don’t keep to a strict time schedule. We don’t have bells ringing every 43 minutes. Sometimes we get into some great discussions and just because we have been in class for an hour already doesn’t mean we have to stop if the discussion is good.

Give yourself permission to take a break if you need a moment. There have been lots of times where I have said class is dismissed as I put myself on the time-out step to gather myself. It happens! Even public school teachers get a break each day to take a breath.

We have done a “creation” like schedule. Six weeks of school with one week break. We take from Thanksgiving to New Year’s off where we do crafts, seasonal papers like word searches, and something new I discovered this year, Escape Rooms (they are still learning just in a different way from the regular work). We homeschool year round to keep to a routine of sorts. The kids seem to do better with shorter breaks. We take June off and back to school July 5th (we have VBS in June and a lot of my upper grade kids are volunteers as am I). We don’t have to spend the Fall months refreshing memories after a whole summer break. We press on. We sometimes are spontaneous and take a day off for a field trip. We don’t have to keep to a public school schedule of 8-3 Monday through Friday. In fact, we typically only school Monday through Thursday from 10-4 and Fridays are saved for art/crafts, field trips, or to finish assignments.

So whether you are homeschooling one or twenty, first pray every single day for your day and your students. Then find your groove, and believe me it won’t happen in a day probably not in a week either, but you will find your groove. And your groove can change from year to year and that is OK. It is all worth it. To be the one to see the ah-ha moments is liking watching them take their first steps. To hear them read a whole story or book by themselves is like watching them feed themselves their entire meal without much mess for the first time. This also includes my middle and high school students. So very much worth it!

If you are interested in reading more about what we do, check out my blog at Tumbleweed News. There I have different curricula we have used, what worked and didn’t.

God’s Blessings as you head to or continue this adventure of homeschooling your large or larger than typical family. You can do this.

~Vickie Butterfield

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Vickie is an LCMS Lutheran and has been married to a wonderful man for 42 years. They have 19 children and 18 grandchildren. This is their 18th year homeschooling with several years left to go. Vickie has written a couple of articles in The Old Schoolhouse magazine as well as their older planners. Vickie’s hobbies include reading, journaling, crocheting, gardening, and cooking.  You can find her at Tumbleweed News

1 comment:

  1. Great suggestions - especially doing as much together as you can! I only had 3 of my 5 at home, but combining classes really helped!


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