Hi Shelly! What made you decide to home school?
I'm a mom of 11 beautiful children from 3 to 23 yrs. old. We are in our 8th year of home schooling, and what a journey it's been! My passion in life is encouraging new and struggling home schoolers. I've been blogging consistently at There's No Place Like Home for almost 7 months now, and it has been such an amazing opportunity to reach as many home educators as possible. Besides talking my husband's ear off about home schooling, I am an avid reader who would honestly move in at the library if they would just install a snack bar!
There were so many factors that culminated in our decision to home school. At the time, our school district was having frequent bomb threats and some difficulties with classroom management of unruly children. Besides that, the quality of education in our district leaves a lot to be desired and seems to focus entirely on test prep instead of actual education. I also was finding with my oldest son, who was in 9th grade at the time, that I wasn't in agreement with a lot of the things he was being taught.
When I began home schooling, I had just given birth to my 7th child and was finding the morning and after school rush to be terrible. Each morning we'd be frantically searching for missing homework papers, toothbrushes, shoes, backpacks...you name it, we lost it. After school, it seemed like a stampede, with everyone needing me to sign something, sell something, or help them with homework- all at the same time.
After meeting a family with 6 children who home schooled, I thought to myself, "Hey. Maybe I can do this!" I'm so glad we did.
I know this is going to seem confusing to some people, but I'll try to explain our routine. :)
Since we have 10 kids being homeschooled, I've found it easiest to break them into 3 separate groups- the littles (ages 5, 6, 8, and occasionally the 3 yr. old when she feels like it), the middles (ages 9, 10, and 12), and the teens (ages 14, 16, and 17). We try to start at 10 am each morning with the littles. We begin with a Bible story and then move on to our "table time." This is usually spent one-on-one with each child while they are working on phonics/reading and math. As I'm helping one, the others usually just play outside or upstairs until I call them down for their turn. Afterwards, we all read a book together, and we do cross-curricular activities which pertain to the book. (This is called a unit study.)
After they are finished, the middles begin their homeschool day- usually around 11:30. They follow basically the same routine as the littles, except they do math and spelling/copy work instead of phonics. We begin with a devotional and move on to a read aloud together, after which they do their table time. While they are waiting for their turn with me, they usually read silently and write what they read about, do some math review worksheets, and then play outside or upstairs.
At 12:30 we take a lunch break until 2:00 to allow them to eat, play, and do a quick clean-up before my husband arrives home from work.
At 2:00 we are usually still finishing up our table time. Once that is finished, we read another book together (yes, I'm reading 2 separate books to them...I AM a bookworm!) and then we move on to their unit study, which is usually based on character traits. For example, right now we are focusing on inquisitiveness by learning about the scientific method and famous scientists. Each day, they complete a note booking page, which is similar to journaling, about something they learned that day.
My teens are a bit tougher to describe because they all work on their own and do everything completely differently from one another, although they all have one thing in common- a 4-day week with Fridays as their day to make up any work they needed more time on or missed altogether.
After I finish working with the middles, usually around 3:30 to 4:00, I touch base with my 16 year old to give him his unit study assignments for the day. His homeschool routine has taken a lot of tweaking and creativity because he has ADHD and simply cannot sit for long periods of time.
Once I tell him what's on the agenda for his unit, he tackles it right away. These usually involve either hands-on activities, documentaries or YouTube videos, writing assignments, and field work. Every Monday I give him a planner for what is expected of him for language arts, algebra, reading, and note booking, so he usually completes that at night once the house gets a little quieter.
My 14 year old prefers to learn through living books- biographies, historical fiction, trade books, etc. Like my 16 year old, she only uses textbooks for language arts and algebra. Everything else is done through library books and note booking. She is very meticulous and prefers to schedule her own work for the week. She has always shown much responsibility in this area, so I don't have a problem with that. She tends to work on her assignments off and on throughout the day, leaving algebra for after the kids are asleep (or are at least SUPPOSED to be), so that I can help her if need be.
My 17 year old is the only child I have who prefers textbooks. She wouldn't admit to it, but she is very studious. She recently started working part-time, so most of her work is also done at night (which she would rather do, anyway). Since I wasn't able to find textbooks we liked for all of her subjects, she also uses some living books and notebooks through them to help her retain the information. Beyond that, she is extremely creative and loves to paint, make paper mache crafts, draw, and study the Japanese language and writing characters.
I leave a window of time open every night for the teens to come to me for help with any school work- usually math-related or chemistry.
It's taken us some time to find a routine that flowed well for all of us, but it was well worth it and has helped to relieve much of the stress that can accompany homeschooling multiple children.
Home schooling does present some challenges, but none that can't be overcome and none that are worse than when my children went to school. As I mentioned earlier, multiple children definitely takes some flexibility. You have to be willing to change things up if they don't seem to be working. It's crucial to remember that homeschooling does not have to look like school. In fact, for most of my kids, the less it looks like school, the better they do. It can also be tricky when you've got several kids who all have different learning styles. It takes time to really get to know your child's preferences for learning and find ways to integrate it. Although it might be easier (in theory) to make all of the kids do things the exact same way, in reality, kids are individuals, and that really comes through in how they like to approach things.
Another challenge is home schooling when you've got babies or toddlers in the house. As with everything else, it just takes some creativity and being willing to try new things until you find a way that works for your family. Two of my teens get paid a small stipend for helping to watch the littles when the middles are home schooling. If they're not available for some reason, I like to keep a basket of special activities for the younger kids to be brought out only during school time. And I'm willing to admit that when all else fails, I will turn on a movie to keep them occupied for a while. I say, whatever works!
There are so many things that I love about home schooling that I could write a book about it! I'll try to narrow it down. :)
-I love having such a close-knit family.
-I love learning alongside my kids.
-I love reading aloud to them every day.
-I love our lazy mornings drinking hot chocolate, being aware of how blessed we are that we're not out rushing around to get the kids to school.
-I love being there for every new milestone my kids reach- Learning to read, add, and subtract. Watching their eyes light up when they make a connection about something we're studying. Watching them proudly write their name and write "Mom" and "Dad" for the first time.
-I love that we can do school in our pj.’s if we feel like it and that my kids CAN chew gum in class. :)
-I love that we are able to tailor their education to fit them, and not the other way around.
-I love our trips to the library, and our animated discussions about books that we've read in common.
-I love that my teenagers sit down and talk to me every night and rest their head on my shoulder during church.
-I love that my 16 yr. old son tells us he loves us in FRONT of his friends.
-I love the fact that even though life is hectic, I wake up every day excited about what the day will bring.
I love to work with new homeschoolers and encourage them. This is what I always say:
Think about what a typical day looks like in traditional schools and throw that image out the window because homeschooling is not school at home. Find out what interests your kids, how they like to learn, and what they want to learn about. The library is a treasure trove for homeschoolers- anyone could easily homeschool practically for free by almost exclusively using the library.
Don't get stuck on a curriculum. Textbooks are a tool; that's it. Most kids actually do better when textbooks are not used, but excel through hands-on activities, field trips, living books, and educational videos.
The most important thing is to get to know your child. Ask for their input on what they'd like to do and incorporate it. Children who learn what they are interested in retain the information better than those who learn things simply because they're told they have to.
If you don't believe that's true, think back to your own days in school. How much do you actually remember? Did memorizing the dates of Charlemagne's rule stick with you? What about trigonometry? How much of that do you remember? Sentence diagramming?
Now think about what you DO remember. Chances are, the information that's stayed with you is information that interests you or has been beneficial to you in some way. This is why it's so important to take your child's opinion into consideration.
And remember that learning and living cannot be separated. Everything that your child does is a learning experience. The longer you homeschool, and the further from your mind you push your image of school, the clearer this truth becomes.
Live a full life. Read to your kids. Cook with them. Take them with you on errands. Show them how to take care of household tasks. Stock up on art supplies and let their creative juices flow. Make frequent visits to the library, and let them explore the world around them.
For the vast majority of recorded history, children learning at home was the norm. Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Lewis Carroll, Pearl S. Buck, Ansel Adams, and Virginia Woolf are just a few historical figures who learned at home and flourished.
Homeschooling can be such an amazing opportunity. All it takes is some creativity, a bit of planning, and, most of all, love.