Teaching with lots of little ones underfoot is definitely difficult. Large family homeschooling is made up of multiple ages from babies to teens, but even two or more children can be a challenge since you are juggling your time between more than one child with different needs.
If you have pre-school children and school-aged children, you may feel like you are not doing enough in your homeschool since your time is going in two different directions. I understand!
The good news is that when you homeschool in the USA, you have tons of flexibility. Check your state’s homeschool laws, then customize your homeschool to fit your season of life!
Homeschooling with multiple children needing your attention isn’t easy but it also is not as hard as many imagine. I am here to tell you that you can do it!
Large Family Homeschooling Resources
Large Family HomeschoolingLarge Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large FamilyThe Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on HomeschoolingTeaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable PeaceSo Many Littles, So Little Time: A worn out mom’s guide to mothering little onesFlexible Homeschool Planning: A Simple Method for a Simpler Homeschool
Teaching with lots of little ones …
One huge thing is to change your mindset about “school” versus “education”. When you home educate your children, you are actually not doing “school” like a public school.
EDUCA’TION, noun [Latin educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.
Public schools have developed a way of teaching children that is based around large groups of children that are (supposed to be) at the same level developmentally. That is a lot different than having children ranging from 0-18 as many homeschooling mothers have.
You may consider the “one-room schoolhouse” method a good model for teaching with lots of little ones, but even then things are designed for a classroom setting rather than a private home with just one family. So, how can you teach many children with many levels of needs – whether academic or not?
- think of how you can see to your youngest child’s needs first. Start your lesson time after you have spent 15-minutes with the baby, not only caring for their obvious needs (food, diaper change) but also giving them love and hugs. I do this with my developmentally delayed children, even though they are not babies.
- think of academics as an extension of parenting. How do you parent more than one child outside of textbooks/seatwork/lessons? Consider the natural routines and natural flow of your family’s dynamics outside of academics and adopt those into your lesson time.
- think of life as one big learning opportunity. You may realize that many educational lessons are caught (rather than taught) and so the burden of formal lessons is lifted in those areas.
- think of how to work around the youngest child’s nap time. Which academic subject is most difficult to teach with lots of little ones underfoot? Save those for when the baby is down for a nap.
- think of how you can include the littlest ones. By six-months-old, most children are interactive enough to enjoy participating. Put your infant/toddler in the high chair with educational toys (appropriate for their age) and intentionally include them while you are supervising the academics of your older children. Sidenote: this will make adding them in as a “student” easier since they will have learned to be involved from infancy!
- think of how you may combine all levels for subjects. Many subjects such as history, science, art, and social studies can be adapted for children of varying levels of development. Either find a curriculum that is designed for group lessons or simply teach those subjects through literature (living books) and keep the younger children quiet during the read-aloud time with coloring pages – and they are learning by default.
- think of how you can take turns. When there are subjects that require you to be focused on teaching one child (math), then take turns teaching 1:1 while another child watches the youngest children – great life skills are learned, too.
- think outside the academic box. In seasons of a pregnancy (sickness), newborns, or medical crisis you may simply take a break from textbooks for most subjects, but that doesn’t mean your children will stop learning.
Consider these options instead:
- educational games that your children can play without you
- living history/science/social study books that you can read to them while in bed
- documentary-style DVDs for science, history, etc.
- have your children read out loud to you
- give your children blank notebooks/nature journals and encourage daily documentation of their lives in words and/or pictures depending on their learning level
- realize that life lessons of empathy, service, work ethic, and all that your children may learn during academic breaks are some of the most important lessons they will learn
- ask your children observant/educationally-minded questions and that will encourage your children to ask questions, learn, and be observant as well
I have learned that, with seven young children (currently 6-15), planning a rigid schedule doesn’t work. Having two medically needy/special needs children means that our home operates similarly to how it did when I was pregnant, had a newborn, or during a medical crisis – although stable health for the last few years has allowed a more steady routine (thank You, Jesus).
However, I have also learned that academic lessons are not limited to the textbook or classroom setting. My children have shown me that learning is a mindset and the world is the classroom.