Monday, 27 July 2015

Homeschooling with Many

Welcome to the fourth post in the series Home educating in different circumstances. The first three posts were

Today, Caroline  who blogs at the Joyful Keeper is writing about Homeschooling with Many.

Life in our house is interesting.

“Why?”, you may ask.

Well. We have 8 children, and two adults. That’s ten of us, in our house.

Not only that (and this is the one that makes people gasp louder, when they are told…), but we HOMESCHOOL!

That elicits many a response, when people find out, but it usually involves words like “wow”, “are you crazy”, “you must be patient”, “how do you do it?”

 Let me respond to those things.

Well, I guess it is a bit “wow”, but for us, it’s just normal life. We have always home educated our children, so they don’t know any different, and I don’t know any different. It’s more “normal” to us, than “wow”.

“Are you crazy?”  
The jury is slightly out on that count. But, that’s got less to do with our educational choices, and more to do with my general personality.  Are we crazy to choose home education? Obviously, I don’t think so. It was a prayed-over, well-thought-out, seeking-to-honour-God decision, that we firmly believe is right for our family.  If it’s crazy to want to do what you feel is best for your family, whilst following convictions laid upon your heart by the Lord, then, we are crazy. Happy to stick my hand up and be counted on that score.

“You must be patient”
Hmmmmmmm. Ask the children to answer that, or certainly my husband. I am NOT the most patient person, and simply making the choice to home educate doesn’t magically mean you are! I am LEARNING to be more patient, but I guess everyone is! We should all live and learn. It TESTS my patience, but many things in life do that. And, according to the Bible, patience being tested leads to more godly attributes, so it’s all good!

“How do you do it?”
Now, I think this is the part that Sarah wanted me to handle. I need to clarify something, first of all. What we do for our large family is NOT what will work for every large family. The same applies to ANY size of family. Don’t try and copy others just BECAUSE.  Look at your own situation, and work out what is best for you. It might be the same as us, it may be totally different. It doesn’t matter.  
Let me give you a run down of who we are, and our own situation. I have 8 children aged from 13 down to 1 (it will be 14 and 2 by the end of the year). We have always home educated, and they never went to school at all. As I said, they, and I, don’t know any different than the way life is now.
We started our home ed journey as really enthusiastic parents of a pre-schooler, who were DESPERATE to get started! There’s this excited passion that parents have when they begin their journey like we did, and it usually involves a “keen bean” element, that has you desperate to jump in full force, from as early on as possible. I look back at myself, and I laugh and groan simultaneously! You DON’T need to do anything formal too quickly. I think we ended up trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, by forcing formal schooling too early. 

That, however, is a whole other blog post.

 We used ACE to begin with. We knew some people who used it, and as a first-timer, it seemed easy to follow and all laid out for us. Both of those things were true. It took us about 4 years to realise that crying and torture on every school day was NOT necessary, and we could do something different! It was one of the most freeing things I have ever done – choosing to stop it, and think about other options. We took a couple of months to research and find something that would suit our family.

Now, THIS is where my “How do you do it” comes in. Here is what I look for in curriculum, to make it work for US.

I wanted something that inspired my children to learn, and especially with living books. Not just prescriptive text books. I am an avid lover of learning, myself, and in order to keep the “Love of learning” fire lit, *I* needed to feel passionate about it. Whatever you choose, as a parent of lots of children, it needs to suit the parent, and their needs. We aren’t in a busy Church situation (my hubby is a Pastor), so we don’t have lots of extra activities we need to work around. Each day is ours to fill as we please, and I wanted to relax and enjoy learning. With ACE, it was all about “pages completed”, or books completed – all tallying up and pressure to do “x” amount. I didn’t want learning to feel like that.

I wanted something that was multi-level. When you have lots of children, I think there are maybe two main road to take. Either, something that is workbook/textbook based, that each child just works alone on, or, multi-level learning, where you can work on the same topics together, at the level appropriate for that child. That’s what we chose. There are two exceptions. Maths, and grammar. Children need to work on those at the right level for their learning curve, so we chose Math-u-see and we are currently using Rod and Staff for English. For everything else we use a multi-level, cyclical approach. Our main curriculum is Tapestry of Grace. I have written other posts about that, which you can search for on my blog. WE use Answers in Genesis for science. I do it as a read-aloud, and they all then join in with various associated activities, as they are able. WE use read-alouds in a general sense, too. I have recently been reading aloud a missionary story, which we are ALL loving! They all learn together, and it’s a great way to learn.

My next “how-to” would be about how we physically get it all done. It’s been a bit of a gradual process, finding what fits for us. We do a 4-day week, as my hubby has his day off on a Monday. Home-ed is great for flexibility like that. I spend the first part of the day working one-to-one with my youngest learner. Whoever that may be needs to have extra support, until they are a fluent reader. The next one up stays nearby, too, so they can ask about anything they struggle with. Everyone else does their maths and English first, and works independently on that. Our other subjects get spread out through the week. Our reading – history and lit – gets done on a Tuesday. Different children working at their own level, but on the same topic. When we start back, we will be studying from the days of the early Church into the medieval times, and onward from there. We do science one or two days a week, art and music one day, geography one day, and then the worksheets and activities that tie in with history and lit get done through the week.
I realised that for me to stay sane, we needed a relaxed day of learning. We don’t rush, and it takes us all day. As we don’t have anything or anywhere to rush TO, it doesn’t matter! I also have “room time” for an hour after lunch. They go off and play, and burn off steam, before coming back to do the activities we do all together. I could squish it all into a shorter space of time, but why bother? It would create more stress and the joy of learning would be supressed. 
Another thing I have had to LEARN, and trust me, I’m still learning - if I plan to do something, and we don’t do it, it DOESN’T MATTER! No person can learn everything! I find I need to be more laid back and open minded about what is necessary to be getting a solid and well-rounded education. Some things can be dropped, and it won’t harm anyone.  It’s so easy to get stressed and caught up in jumping through hoops, that someone else has set the height of. Who says you need to do “X, Y and Z” at a certain time, or by a certain age? I try and do what suits each child best, and our family as a whole.
The thing, above all else, that I try and hold onto, is remembering who we seek to honour in every part of our lives – God. Keeping the focus on character, and learning about the truths of scripture, woven into life. THAT, for me, is the joy of educating at home. Talking of His greatness as we rise, walk and lay down again.
I thought I would finish with a “Top Tip”, that I have particularly had to learn about when teaching so many children. Don’t be afraid to say “this isn’t working for us”, and do something else. Maybe you chose it because it was advertised well, but it’s not working for you at all. Sell it, move on. Maybe it worked for you to start off with, and now it doesn’t. Sell it, and find something else. Maybe you LOVE it, with a passion, but it doesn’t suit your family’s needs any longer? Find something else, and move on. You can’t live and die by one choice you make in your home educating journey. You’re not a failure because it doesn’t suit any more. It just means you are wise enough to respond to the needs of all your family, and provide the best for what you need right here, right now. Change does NOT equal failure. I am so glad I learnt that, but wish I had learnt it sooner.

If you want to ask me anything else, feel free to contact me through my blog, or ask questions from this post. Above anything, love your journey.

 "Caroline is wife to Robert, and mother to 8 wonderful children. They live in rural Bedfordshire, where her husband is the Pastor of a small Reformed Baptist Church. Life is busy, but very blessed, as they live and learn together. She enjoys blogging, where she shares the lessons the Lord lays on her heart, along with a dose of how they live life in their home. Crocheting, knitting, reading, and spending time with her family, are her favourite pursuits, but more than anything else, she loves to walk closely with her Saviour, and learn of Him. Find her at"

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