Homeschooling multiple children was hard work. This is a picture of the first year I was teaching all four at the same time.
Back in those days homeschooling multiple kids went like this.
I was trying to be patient.
I was pretending that my stomach wasn’t churning with anxiety as I tried to calmly explain a math concept to one child.
I was multitasking but trying to act focussed as I gently pushed and shushed the other children into another room.
I was trying not to think about the 5 loads of washing in the laundry
I was trying to be in the here and now.
I was calming myself with chocolate and coffee. I was getting (got) fat.
I usually only lasted 45 mins before the guilt trip and self-talk began: – “It’s impossible to homeschool. I am a failure! I can’t do it and stay sane. I’m not going to last. They’d be better off in school!”
And so, the emotional saga of homeschooling multiple children goes…
I had sent the two oldest to school for a short spell when the two youngest weren’t school age. School wasn’t the solution and I soon had them home again.
I was determined to make homeschooling with multiple children work – others do right???
Homeschooling With Multiple Children – The Family Friendly Strategy
I get it, homeschooling multiple children is hard. It’s not impossible. In fact, it is very rewarding, but you need to learn strategies to make it work. I homeschooled with babies and toddlers, and I homeschooled 4 kids at the same time. Some of my friends are homeschooling 6 and 7 kids at the same time – I’m in awe.
Scheduling is always easier if you are only having to plan for one child. However, the reality of homeschooling is that many of us have to juggle quite a few children. With each year you get better at this but in my experience, it’s never perfectly streamlined.
When homeschooling multiple children you need to think realistically about the type of curriculum you choose. If you choose a teacher intensive graded curriculum for all your children, you are bound to fail because you simply don’t have time to give each child the time that each resource requires for it to be done properly.This is especially true, if you use curriculums that are really school resources that are used for homeschooling.
I found this out early in my homeschool journey when working with a rigorous reading and math program that required lots of one-on-one time. Its labour intensive style worked well for a class but it didn’t work for me. It had games to set up, special hand movements to follow, flash cards and long spelling lists to do daily. Each lesson took 30 – 40 mins and it required focussed attention from me and my pupil. However, that was much easier said than done.
Everyday became a battle because I just found it impossible (and unsafe) to ignore the other children while I focussed on just one child doing one subject. But I blamed myself for the failure – It took me a while to realise, there was a better way.
Combine, Combine, COMBINE!
One of the best ways to get a good routine going, that won’t run you ragged, is to combine lessons whenever possible
Combining curriculum was the key to my sanity and a great success when homeschooling multiple children.
Most Subjects are Taught Together – The One Room Homeschool
Many subjects are suitable for group work. Read alouds, nature study, history, art, narration and geography can all be combined. The concept of Morning Time is born out of this idea.
Literature was a group subject. I read aloud the same books to all the children even when they were a little beyond the youngest. And I made sure those books were also covering history, geography and science. I did keep their writing lessons separate but I used narration and copywork as their main writing instruction which isn’t teacher intensive.
Art, history, geography, language and science were done together until the child was old enough to move to a curriculum that they could do independently (this usually depended on their reading ability).
Lessons in maths needed separate instruction.
But What About Grades?
When you combine grades you still need to look out for the individual needs of your all your children. This can be done using supplementation. Often a trip to the library can help you find material that suits their ability and interests.
English – Find literature that challenges each child at their level. You may also like to choose a separate English resource for their grade. Primary Language Lessons works well for this.
Maths – Online math resources can make homeschooling multiple kids easier. Math Online has a great homeschool family discount.
Science – Try to use one science book when possible but supplement older children with extra science reading. Do nature study as a family outing. When they are ready move them on to a resource they can do on their own.
Meeting Government Requirements when Homeschooling Multiple Children
Shake up in your traditional thinking and free yourself of the school grade model. This can be hard to do, especially if you are transitioning from a school environment.
Recognise that curriculums are there so the school doesn’t “miss anything”. When we homeschool we will still cycle through most of the “required topics” even if it is in a different order. Understanding this will help you explain to the “powers that be” that you will still cover the curriculum.
It is also handy to know that the Australian Curriculum is set out in broad stages. Within these stages there is flexibility to teach content at different times. For those in NSW, you can register as a ‘primary school’ student rather than set a grade.
Structure – The Workbox
Teaching independence also helps your children take more responsibility to their study. One of my favourite ways to do this is using workboxes.
A Clean House
When you homeschool multiple children your house looks lived in. You have mess makers 24/7 and you need some order. We all have different levels of “acceptable mess” but nobody likes chaos and cockroaches.
Learn to clean and do chores together. In our home everyone stops to hang out washing. Teach them to make their own lunch and clean up after themselves. Have a cleaning roster of set jobs.
If you can afford it – get a cleaner.
Luckily They Get Older
Each new year of homeschooling, brings a little more independence in your child. And believe me it gets much easier. Your role changes from the primary teacher to the coordinator and coach when they get to high school.
Homeschooling multiple children can be done but you need to work out a realistic plan.