Tips for homeschooling a large family 

Tips for homeschooling a large family 

Homeschooling a large family can be both a blessing and a challenge. On one hand, your children will never complain about being lonely. On the other hand, homeschooling multiple children at different age and ability levels can be daunting. I homeschooled our five children, none of whom ever went to school (until university). As difficult as it seems to both raise and educate a large family, there are things you can do to make it all manageable and successful.

While some people may wonder why large families homeschool, no matter how many children you are homeschooling, there is a way to make things easier on everyone without having to compromise on a quality education. Here are some ideas on approaching how to homeschool a large family.

Tips for homeschooling multiple children

Take a one-room schoolhouse approach

Even if you have a broad range from a year 12 student to a grade 1 child, there are learning activities that can still happen in tandem. Everyone can learn biology, for example, at the same time, at different levels based on development. Likewise, everyone can learn Australian History at the same time, at different levels. There are curriculums that will allow a unit studies approach, and there are educational videos that will meet each child at their level. 

Pair up your children into teams

In a large family it isn’t unusual for there to be two or three children who are reasonably at the same level. For example, all of your high school students can learn the same material at the same time. The same goes for upper primary students and lower primary students. They can all work on their writing skills together. They can all work on their science experiments together. They can all work on arts and physical education together. Pairing similar age students together for these types of activities will bring your younger ones up to the level of the older kids and help build leadership qualities in your older children.

Have older children mentor younger children

Don’t be tempted to have your older children take on sole responsibility for your younger children, but do look for opportunities when older children can mentor the younger ones. You might want to team them up to accomplish chores, help prepare meals or clean the kitchen. You might want an older child who is gifted in maths to coach a younger sibling with their maths. You could even have your strong reader work alongside a younger child through the early reading process. When doing this, make sure you clearly define the responsibilities and rules of cooperation to avoid conflict between siblings. Most large families need to work this way, and conflict is not necessarily a given, but all parents know that it’s better to circumvent the possibility.

Spend one-on-one time with each child

The beauty of having children working together or teaming up is that you can use this freed-up time to focus on other children one-on-one, however you may still have to schedule in the time. You can use this time to review school work and subjects that are unique to the individual child and to explain new concepts. You can use this time to check on your child’s social and emotional needs. You can even use this time to just spend uninterrupted time with your child doing something recreational or perhaps completely inane.  Just be sure to give each child dedicated time that will fill their individual needs.

One word of caution here – don’t feel you must have something to fill in this time. Just being with the child, relaxing and talking is probably more important than getting that maths lesson done.

Create a schedule that will allow flexibility

Scheduling large blocks of time is easier than an hour by hour schedule when you have a large brood, especially if your kids study some subjects as groups.  You might want to do all large group subjects on Tuesday and Thursday for example. You might want a block of time every morning when everyone works on their individual maths curriculum. You may also want to schedule blocks of time when everyone is doing outside activities. Also leave blocks of unused time into the schedule to allow for surprises, appointments and flexibility.

Don’t try to teach everything yourself

Delegate some of the lessons to other people. You can do this by hiring tutors, or by joining a homeschool co-op where homeschoolers can work together. You don’t need to do this for all subjects, but we all have subjects that we would just rather not teach. Have someone else do it. Co-ops can work really well for some families, but some parents actually find them more work in preparation and accountability to others. So, think about this carefully. A co-op may work best for you for sports or art and craft, rather than for core or academic subjects.

Take advantage of nap times

If you are homeschooling with toddlers or preschoolers who are not quite ready for formal learning, or are in the early stages, this can throw a spanner into your schedule, because young children demand attention, pretty much all the time. The good news is that they take naps (hopefully). If you have a teenager who needs your help with geometry, for example, tackle it when the little ones are asleep. You may even want to save some one-on-one time with older siblings in the evening after the baby as gone to bed.

Purchase family style curriculum

There are curriculums written especially with large families in mind. 

  • Unit studies or theme studies, for example, allow you to cover all subjects via a single overarching topic for a specified period of time. This makes the lessons relevant to students of all ages, but allows them to do project work at their own level.
  • Beautiful Feet curriculum focuses on history guides allowing parents to impart a solid understanding of the subject matter. There is a suggested study sequence, but it is flexible for a large family so several children can learn the same thing at the same time.
  • Discovery Education Streaming is a secular streaming service that teaches in video format and is easy to grasp for both younger and older students. You can teach all your children about environmental science at the same time, and assign homework that is at each student’s different level.
  • Compass Classroom has many resources that suit teaching multiple children. A monthly membership would definitely be the way to go if you are homeschooling a large family.

Compass Course Subscriptions

Curriculums with a unit studies approach:

  • Wayfarers History Books (review here) is a complete curriculum blending Charlotte Mason and Classical education that takes a unit study approach. It is meant to be taught to all grade levels at once.
  • Tapestry of Grace is a unit study curriculum that covers kindergarten to year 12. It is written from a Christian worldview and takes a chronological approach to history. It integrates history, literature, fine art, geography and more into the lessons. 
  • TRISMS which stands for Time Related Integrated Studies for Mastering Skills is based on student research and is designed for grades 5-12. It covers history, social studies and language arts. It may suit parents who are shifting from traditional textbook and workbook type curriculums to unit studies.  Read Cathy Duffy’s review here.

You can find a myriad of educational videos that can meet each child at their level. Here are a few you can check out (this is not an endorsement of these channels – use your own discretion):

  • Crash Course and Crash Course Kids educational videos on YouTube give a great deal of depth and detail, but also use simple language that young children can understand. The ones produced by PBS are most suited for younger children. 
  • National Geographic Kids has engaging videos but also deliver information that will satisfy the curiosity of high school level students. 
  • It’s Ok To Be Smart has educational videos geared toward the middle grades. 
  • Biography has videos that tell about history in an engaging storytelling manner that will capture the attention of all students. And while videos are very handy, there is still no substitute for a good book and family reading time!

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