As a teen, I loved the freedom that allowed me to fit my schooling around my volunteer and ministry activities. Many of my friends were homeschooled and I had daily contact with them, so I was never isolated. Therefore, once I started having kids, it felt natural to me to homeschool them — yes, all seven of them.
People always ask me, “How do you do it all?!” when they find out that I have seven children and that we’re a homeschooling family. I generally make a joke in response, but the truth is that slowly but surely, I developed strategies to make it all work. Thankfully, babies usually come one at a time, meaning you have time to adjust incrementally!
Good personal organization is essential, for my own sanity and to ensure everything gets done. During the school year, I create daily and weekly routines both for myself (work, household duties, errands) and the kids. Each child has her own daily to-do list, which includes time for free play, chores and extracurricular activities, with schoolwork at the top.
The older kids understand that they’re mostly in control of their day. Nobody wants to be still doing math at 6:00 p.m. Giving them some control means they learn good time management (including the benefits of doing the most important things early!) and I don’t have to be a time cop all day.
I take time to plan the curricula well before the school year begins and redo the chore chart as kids mature and can handle more responsibility around the house (or less, if they’re now gainfully employed). Getting the house decluttered during summer and making sure I create meal plans makes things run more smoothly as well.
Daily quiet time
Little kids make a lot of noise, and introverted children (and moms!) need some quiet. When kids outgrow napping, they still have a daily quiet period in their rooms (for reading or quiet play) where they don’t interact with one another. This gives the older ones a break from the little ones and time to focus on things that require more concentration.
With so many personalities and variables, being flexible is key. I can’t get upset, for instance, when a curriculum I have used successfully with older kids is a bad fit for their younger sibling. Being willing to change and work around my kids’ personalities, energy levels and abilities means that I can’t be dogmatic about doing it “my” way or even any particular way. There is more than one way to homeschool well.
I encourage independence in my children from an early age. I let them go off on learning tangents and dig deeply into a topic that interests them, sometimes letting this replace the curriculum for that day. I also require my older kids to make their own lunch, and all the children do chores.
People imagine a homeschooling parent standing in front of a blackboard instructing kids in desks for hours a day, but that’s neither necessary nor desirable. By the time a child is reading well, I’m mostly there to facilitate and help when she gets stuck, often pointing her in the direction of Google, the library or (in the case of math!) an older sibling. Well-designed curriculum makes independent learning possible.
Learn together where possible
Some subjects can be taught to several students of different levels at once. (Think of the old one-room schoolhouses where one teacher had to teach children from K-12.) History is an example. After we have read a chapter together aloud from a history book, then the children would complete an assignment based on the material, depending on their age level. For the youngest, it may be as simple as a coloring page; for the older kids, reading a biography. A unit study approach also makes teaching different age groups simple.