"I can't do this - but Lord, if you want me to, I will!"
- Patty Armstrong, speaker
* These are my notes from a workshop by Patty Armstrong, seasoned homeschooler of 8. She was really encouraging and just the refreshment I needed to continue this roller coaster lifestyle. I've added a few of my own tips too.
Homeschooling a Large Family
It's new to most moms who have not been homeschooled themselves, so don't feel as if you need to have it figured out from day one. It might feel awkward at first, but reach out for support and good examples. Develop a routine!
1. Get up first. Mom's need to be up before the chaos begins - so it won't!
-- I myself am not a morning person, so I've been gearing up for an early start all summer. Training my brain to recognize the alarm at 7:30am and not sleep through it. I'd like to be the one who greets them in the morning, instead of being awoken by the sound of a crash, someone slamming the fridge, or candy wrappers opening despite all our safety locks.
2. Start with an activity - the Mass when possible. Begin your school day with prayer.
-- Fit your day around God, not fitting God into your day.
-- The prayer above is our family prayer I wanted to share with you. It's so simple and gets our kids to recognize that when we say this, it's time to get to it! We sometimes exaggerate to make it a morning stretch.
> Dear God [hands folded]-- Even "Help Me, Jesus." is a good prayer to begin with.
> Help me spend today [hands open, giving]
> with a Smile on my face [point to a smile]
> Love in my heart [hands together over heart]
> Joy in his grace [hands up in the air]
> and my thinking cap on all day. [Hands on head]
>Amen. [Hands folded]
-- Starting the day needs a transition or routine. Get dressed, have breakfast, and a startup activity.
3. Find out your students' needs and learning styles. Plan accordingly.
-- My Daily School Planner
-- Desks are nice for storage, but honestly - EVERYONE ends up a the dining table!
-- Schedule one-on-one time with each student on a daily basis.
-- The unschooler likes a multi-media, relaxed approach.
-- The wanderer would prefer kinesthetic learning, or hands on. Try workboxes.
-- The disciplined learner will be your bookworm.
-- The feeder needs group learning opportunities.
-- With multiple learning styles and ages, you'll naturally find opportunities to learn as a group. Consider after the lesson to have children draw, write, speak or type what they learned. They can share it with the group or during your one-on-one time.
4. Teach them "how to learn." Teachers guide and help, but it's the student who is self-taught.
-- Children need independent learning/study.
-- Don't spoon-feed all the information and directions.
-- Having a structure with flexibility is important. Have a schedule with open times.
-- Self-motivation through group learning, independent study and personal rewards.
-- As in any work environment with multiple people, there will be distractions. It is something they will learn over time to get past. For those who cannot, like my son, have a quiet place they can go for study.
5. Have outside help
-- Have a person you can call if you need backup to run errands, or an older child to call upon to help with others while you are in a one-on-one with another child. Some hire mother's helpers.
-- Some mothers schedule nap/quiet time for all children, where they must be in their rooms reading or sleeping. The mother takes this time to do some chores or nap herself.
-- Have educational videos or PC games available. We like our v-smile!
-- Quiet Time. Have busy time assignments such as instrument practice, quiet reading and playtime.
-- Family learning = Interactive Learning = a Higher Education! Plan for group lessons.
-- Preplan meals, letting children help where you can.
-- No mother can say enough about chores! Whether you have a chore chart or not, everyone can help - usually after lunch for about 30-60 min. [Age appropriate chore list] [Chore Charting] [Print Chore Cards]
-- Improve on yourself, evaluate yourself each year… each quarter… each day. Confession and the sacraments. A great way to show your children you are doing all you can to be the best mother and teacher.
6. Other Tips
-- Weekly Spelling Bee, words given to each student from their spelling list.
-- Preposition Bingo [Directions and Printable Cards at this link.]
-- Have students Self-Check, but always review during one-on-one time.
-- Group foreign language lessons, group physical education, group science and art…
-- It takes humility, discipline and God's grace.
> After a few of Patty's kids graduated she figured she'd have some extra or "leftover graces" to handle the rest at home. Turns out, God gives you just the amount of grace you need for what you have to do. That works too! :)-- Be Joyful. [Hands in the air!]
-- Ask yourself "Why AM I doing this?"
A Few Online Resources:
Homeschooling In Minnesota: Large Families
Magnum Opus: Yahoo Group for Catholic Homeschoolers of 4 or more