From the outside it seems impossible that any one woman could feed, clothe, and pay attention to a group of four or more children. I know that before I had my own brood I was doubtful. However, while this lifestyle comes with numerous challenges, it also comes with the equipment to overcome them all. (Where God leads, He feeds, where He guides, He provides.) What it takes is a mom who is determined and knows how to lead her children to higher things.
There is no waiting to hear God’s voice to take charge and keep a cleaned out refrigerator and our family fed. We don’t have to sit in prayer to know that He wants us to keep our kids in line and our laundry clean.
And we don’t have to sit and wait in order to begin to take charge of our lives so that we can educate our children to excellence, even if we do have 15 of them (like Yours Truly).
As we do our part, He does His part.
We simply need to Make a start
If we have already been called to this task, then God is in it, and we can forge ahead confidently, trusting the Still, Small Voice to give us checks and spark ideas.
We don’t need have to have a mountain-top experience to hear Him, we have His Word and His Spirit. All we need to do is:
Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way,
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.
God is always broadcasting, we just need to tune into His station (or subscribe to His channel).
First, get a handle on the day-to-day.
Homeschooling a large family takes more than dipping one’s toe in the water; it takes total immersion. To think we can buy a curriculum package and push “play” is naïve. The main ingredient in homeschooling a large brood is our attentiveness.
Forget the requirements society puts on us. We don’t have to run ourselves ragged with “activity-itis” in order to be legitimate. Soccer, karate, etc. are all fun in their places, but if they drain off energy from our primary task they are not additions, they are subtractions.
We are on a mission; a serious, all-encompassing one. We need every ounce of verve we can muster to make it on the long haul.
We need to get our homes in order by:
- Getting rid of clutter. We need to become functioning minimalists; one of everything, and a place for it to boot.
- Streamlining morning routines. We can simplify bedding and personal hygiene time.
- Mastering our meals so our grocery shopping and meal prep are happy and restful instead of nightmarish.
And we need to enlist our “army” to help take care of homekeeping tasks, such as loading the dishwasher, running the vacuum cleaner, and folding the towels.
Second, get a realistic view of what education truly is.
It is not about school-at-home, and it is not about doing everything like everyone else who is homeschooling (including that super-pressurized classical program). It is not about the tests scores or even about college.
It IS about:
- Bringing up children who have the tools and the verve to educate themselves.
- Teaching children to ask questions and seek the answers.
- Helping children see selfishness as a negative and selflessness as a positive.
- Seeing God in everything at all times.
- Becoming whole people who can stand in the face of adversity and pitch in to help when all others have fallen into despondency.
Education both focuses and broadens.
First, it focuses on impressing the basics, and then it broadens into almost anything and everything else.
Large family life is actually perfect for the creation of an environment with organic opportunities for learning. Siblings who are homeschooled can be encouraged to create their own “culture” of sorts; to enjoy the same books and authors, to have interests and even catch phrases in common that transcend cultural trends in depth and quality. This is an immersion in learning far better than the mere daubing most children receive when they take only a daily dip in the learning pool at school.
For instance, there are a few themes going around in our family discussions of late. One of them is politics; we sit around and talk for hours of the current election cycle and its potential outcomes. Another theme is the study of all things Asian; novels, language, arts, geography, history, religion, ancient forms of war, etc. Still another is creative lettering and all things design, with two oldest children holding online competitions with their Adobe Illustrator productions. The children not only talk about what they already know of each subject, but they spur each other on to research and find out more to prepare for the next round of sharing!
Next, grab hold of some simple tools to use for basic skills instruction.
For us, it has been the McGuffey’s and other vintage books, along with a free printable worksheet or two.
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I like the vintage books, first of all, because of their excellent quality. Secondly, I like them because they are affordable and reusable for any number of children. I also use them because they are not labor-intensive or time-consuming, which allows me to make sure my children are building important skills while making time for the other areas of our lives, such as folding laundry and making PBJ’s!
Finally, use the rest of your energy, money, and time to encourage children in all the other areas of learning.
This can happen more organically; gardening in the spring, learning how a baby is formed in the womb while you are carrying one, running a small family business to help with the bills, taking care of things so that you don’t have to burden the budget with constant replacing, singing and playing for family worship, creating to include beauty in your home, the list is really endless.
There are also ways to tackle this intentionally, such as reading historical or science-based books and novels out loud, or even scheduling viewing YouTube video of science experiments, etc. (We like using our Roku for times like these, since watching on a larger screen helps us all to enjoy at once.)
Notebooking is a terrific way to pull all of our extra learning together and record it, both as proof and for enjoyment later. Notebooking adapts for children at any stage, from pre-readers to collegiate level. I actually still have notebooks filled with evidences of our learning experiences from 20 years ago.
Online learning is another option. We currently have a number of computers available for this, but they are not the “latest and greatest,” just a hodge-podge of units that were bought used or donated by extended family members who were upgrading. They work perfectly fine for what we need, such as a few months spent over at Khan Academy or learning a language with Duolingo (our polyglot children started their journey with Duolingo German then went on their own to Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and conlanging.), or perhaps gaining some keyboarding skills with any of the number of free courses available.
And here is a marvelous truth: Unless we are rearing septuplets, none of our children will be at the same place at the same time.
It’s like this: you teach the oldest reading and basic writing, then assign them independent work. Then you focus your time on the next one coming up, and so on. At a certain point you can have the older ones step in for you and continue listening to someone recite their reading lesson or handle a dictation exercise so you can change a diaper, switch a load of laundry, or field an urgent phone call.
Also, the tiniest should not need formal instruction; just plenty of attention, some reading aloud time, and hours upon hours to play with open-ended toys and materials (such as blocks, Legos, and play dough). This has been proven to bear much more fruit than a set program which will demand a mother’s time and attention.
(I also created a tool for keeping track of everyone which you can find here.)
Besides all this, you have so much information and support right here at your fingertips on the Internet!
Large family moms don’t have to try and be strong alone; we can reach out and help each other along. It’s been such a blessing over the years to have other moms to encourage me and share tips and ideas.
Helpful information was nil to none when I started out. There were no blogs or Facebook pages or chats or anything else. I tried to take advantage of every resource I could find, but most days I was feeling my way along like a blind woman in a wind tunnel.
These days there are so many documented cases of success, and failure, that we can all learn from each other. We can yell out and warn about the pits dug to trap us, or shout back and suggest course changes that will lead us to the heights.
Social media, when used properly, can help propel us along the way.