Identifying Priorities in a Large Family Homeschool

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:

By Age

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.

By Season

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?

About Jessica

Once a public high school teacher, Jessica now homeschools her six children, covering preschool through 10th grade. When she's not changing diapers, washing mountains of laundry, or chasing down the wayward math student who's steathily playing video games in the closet, she shares parenting and homekeeping tips on Life as MOM as well as "delicious ways to act your wage" at Good Cheap Eats.

Comments

  1. I love Jessica- she always reminds me to breathe and just take it a day at a time (while still having a plan). We are adding our second child into our homeschooling next year, so this is something we are going to continue to work with.

    • Now, if only I could remind myself of that! ;)

      • Jessica,

        One other thing to stay focused in homeschooling is to keep reminding children that if they stay foucsed they can accomplish anything.
        Make certain your children know they are not a burden yet they are the most important thing in your life and Everyday in everyway no matter how they do /you are always proud of them!

        I homeschooled long before it was at all vogue 15 years ago and if anyone wants any advice or just a pat on the back for doing a great job! Ideas to make things go easier. They can visit me at glossymoney dot com.

        Jessica is great and oh so wise she knows that the older child is the stealthly playing video games in the closet rather than doing the math assignment as soon as you turn your back.

        I homeschooled a boy with ADD who went on to graduate from Cornell with honors. He came a long way from the public school teacher who was telling him he would never learn to read.

        Children learn what they live ! Teach them they can achieve anything ! Anyting that they can dream!

  2. Fabulous post… The truth is that with multiple kids priorities change and ebb and flo… one day it may be really important to help my daughter with her history and another day I might have to spend on my son’s math. Whatever needs doing to keep the flow going I guess… I like to be plan and be a little bit more intentional than just putting out little educational fires all day but often it boils down to just getting our reading done. Our favorite subject is art and yet it always gets left till last and “Oh its supper, maybe tomorrow…” So this past school year we did it first, what a difference to start the day on the right foot!!!
    We went on an a “School outing” and my kids had to do artwork and the teacher kept saying take your time… they took just as long as usual but everyone was so much more relaxed!!! Now I say: “Take your time” a lot!!! Everything takes the same length of time but everyone is more relaxed about it!!!

  3. A wonderful post!

    With my brood, I found it worked best for everyone to try to find ways for them to do things autonomously as possible. With my eldest, I was very much in the mindset that I needed to do everything one-on-one, paper and pencil with him which only caused us both stress. Finding computer programmes (which have endless patience!) that allow him to do to do things on his own gave him the sense of achievement and gave us space for him to really flourish. Taking a step back really helped us.

    Also, finding ways we can do things together. Reading aloud, taking walks and asking them questions about what they see, activities that can be done on multiple levels (yay clay and large poster paper for art) really helped them come together and enjoy themselves.

  4. I love this article.. I’ve been stressing about “getting everything done” with my 4 but this reminds me that I can relax a bit!

  5. Jessica, we don’t have a large family but we went through a recent reordering of priorities.

    Thank you for this “Priorities change during moves, illnesses, pregnancies, births of babies, and other family transitions. It’s important to remember they are seasons. And seasons change.”

    We are moving and that has totally shifted our home life and I needed to let go of some homeschooling expectations. Ironically, I just wrote about that:
    http://fimby.tougas.net/hello-unschooling

    Good timing!

  6. Tiffany Matthews says:

    Followed you on over Jessica!! I have one daughter in 3rd & then two more that are 3 & 4 (almost 5). I’ve been trying to incorporate the younger 2 into doing some “school” activities from 1+1+1=1 & that’s been going well but I still feel like the 2 younger ones get the short end of the stick. Our main goal is to get Math & English done & Bible – they get priority, math & english because that’s what the State tests for here & Bible because that’s OUR priority…History is my daughters favorite so that will usually make it in somewhere but some days we spend alot of time of History so I feel that balances out those days that get missed. My husband & I have also discussed here recently going year round. I discussed that with my daughter today explaining that if we went all year that we wouldn’t be so stressed about “catching up” when we take a vacation or “a Daddy’s home today”-day…I also talked to her about although we were doing school in the summer that maybe we would just do Math, Bible & history one week maybe & then switch history for science or english (continuing to do spelling every week however). We were just brain storming on different things. I am not a scheduled type of personality but feel my daughter is & would benefit from one so I am trying to work that out (loved your recent discussion on how you’ve done that!) & how it could benefit all of us. Thanks for inviting us over to check out your article here today…I look forward to visiting this site more frequently!
    Blessings!!

  7. AllieZirkle says:

    Jessica, this is great! I thought 1/2 way through it was ending, and I’m thankful it kept going! We start homeschool next week… Do you have the worksheet above available for DL?? Please :)

    :) Allie

  8. You can read, research, and plan. But it basically comes down to prayer, your family and their needs. No child is the same. No family is the same. What works for one may not work for the other. As a mother of six that is probably one of the best lessons I could learn. One day at a time and what works for us. Thanks for sharing!
    Kingdom Life & Blessings
    Machelle’s latest post: Christmas Decorations Put Away

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