Written by contributor Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom
Mothering a large family is one of the greatest privileges of my life. At one time I despaired of ever having a second child, so now to be mom to six children is truly a dream come true.
It probably goes without saying that teaching six children can be a challenge. How do I prioritize? Where do I focus my time? How do I make sure they all learn to read, write, and tie their shoes?
It’s not impossible to teach a large family. Yet it takes thoughtfulness and flexibility. It’ll keep you on your toes and keep you humble.
How to prioritize if your homeschool is a large one:
Some suggest that you focus on the academics of your older children so that they get the rigorous education appropriate to their age. Others say to give your younger children the first fruits of your day. The theory is that if you are ensuring “facetime” with the youngest, their needs will be met and there will be fewer interruptions throughout the day.
Your choice really depends on the ages and temperaments of your kids as well as the seasons of development that they are in.
Who’s a self starter? Who can work independently on a math assignment while you work on phonics with another? Who can read a book quietly while you work through Pre-Algebra with an older child? Who’s suffering from growing pains and just needs you to cuddle and read stories while the others listen to a Spanish language CD?
Go where you’re most needed on a given day, being mindful of those who “silently” need you.
By Academic Subject
What’s most important? Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic? Or do we focus on the sciences? What about the arts?
Theories abound on what subjects deserve our prime attention. You might be tempted to leave science, art, and music at the bottom of the list while mathematics and language arts take the top resources. Or perhaps you have a passion for art and history and those subjects reign supreme.
Yet, how to give your children a well-rounded education can be a dilemma when you find yourself subject heavy in some areas. Don’t feel obligated to do it all. Instead, consider mixing it up from year to year.
For my first seven years, I played to my strengths: language arts, history, and math. After years of letting science and art slide due to lack of interest and resources on my part, I made a point this year of focusing on science and art.
I found a science curriculum that I love and that is easy and fun for us to study. And since I immerse my kids in a few subjects each week at the beginning of the school year, slowing adding more onto their plates during that first month, I introduced science at the beginning so that it didn’t get our leftovers. We’ve really enjoyed science this year!
I also bit the bullet and invested some of our funds into a series of pottery classes for my boys, something I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) teach them myself.
Next year we might give extra attention to historical field trips or on music lessons. While I might not do everything every year, I’m starting to catch a vision for “the forest” and to mix up the types of “trees” I plant each year.
I’ve discovered that we don’t have to do everything every year — except read and love learning.
There are some seasons of life when academic studies just click. Each kid is learning and advancing; our homeschool is a veritable buzzing hive of activity.
And there are other ties when the seasons of life usurp the lesson plans. Priorities shift. Survival mode kicks in.
A peaceful home, clean clothes, and a visit to Grampa in the hospital might trump math, science, and the arts.
Priorities change during moves, illnesses, pregnancies, births of babies, and other family transitions. It’s important to remember they are seasons. And seasons change.
Photo by Raphael Goetter
Remember to Be Flexible
Setting priorities can be a challenging aspect of homeschooling a large family. As children grow and move through stages of development, their needs change, socially, emotionally, and educationally. And so priorities are constantly being reevaluated and adjusted.
Just when you think you’ve got it, things will change on you.
Yet, it’s not impossible to find the right balance. In fact, the mental gymnastics of it all will keep you young.
How do you prioritize your homeschool?