Having a large family is a wonderful blessing. It is also a huge responsibility. How can a mom with many children homeschool each of them well while managing the other responsibilities of life and home? Here are 10 Tips for How to Homeschool a Large Family.
My husband and I have nine children and one on the way. Currently we have seven kids in school, the most we have ever had. Our grade levels are 12th, 9th, 8th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, and Kindergarten so that makes a pretty wide age gap! We also have a preschooler and toddler. Here’s how we make it work every day in our home. I hope these can help you, whatever size family you have.
(You may also enjoy reading Our Homeschool Routine | Day in the Life Mom of 9.)
Video: 10 Tips for How to Homeschool a Large Family
TIP #1 Encourage kids to be independent learners
It is simply not possible for a large family mom to teach each of her kids one on-one for every subject. Encourage your kids to be independent learners and watch them thrive!
For the first several years of homeschooling, I worked one-on-one with each of my kids. Their academic studies were my primary focus. Homeschooling consumed so much of my time because they were all getting started with the basics of reading, writing, and math. We established a good foundation and I am so glad we did!
As our kids got older and our family began to grow, I began to realize that I could not maintain this one-on-one time with each of them for every subject. Reluctantly, I started reshaping the way we homeschooled to have them work more independently. I was hesitant about this, because I thought it was second rate to what we had been doing. Boy was I wrong! My older kids began to thrive working independently because they took ownership of their work. I became less of a teacher and more of a facilitator to help them when they came to new concepts. Currently, they each have a daily checklist to guide them through their day.
This model is still working for us. I am always working one-on-one with the youngest child who is learning to read, write, and starting math. As soon as they can read and write, I gently push them toward more and more independence.
TIP #2 Use Morning Time and Read Aloud Time as a Time to Learn Altogether
For subjects that you want to combine your kids and learn all together, implement Morning Time and Read Aloud Time. Grouping your kids is perfect for subjects like memory work, current events, picture study, Bible reading, poetry, and even science and history.
The more our family has grown, the harder I have found it to be to gather everyone. For us, Morning Time works best right after breakfast because we are all already gathered.
We do Read Aloud time after lunch. Most of their independent work is done, the littles are down for a nap, and the house is quieter. Everybody is ready for some down time, especially when if means going to imaginary places through the books we are reading!
TIP #3 Prioritize House Work
With a large family, everything is MORE! More food to make, more clean up, more stuff. If there is no system or plan for keeping the place in order, it will be chaos! It will also be very difficult to be productive. In Proverbs it says, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean, but much increase comes by way of the ox.” Large families can be very productive, but the process is most often messy! It takes a plan and LOTS of hard work to keep order in a home with many children.
For our first year of homeschooling, I had a Kindergartener, two preschoolers, and an infant. Housework temporarily was set on a back burner as I threw myself into figuring out this new lifestyle change. Although I thrive on simplicity and order, during this time our school work came first. We saved chores for afternoons. I felt that if I were to have everything picked up and clean before we started school in the morning, we would never be ready to start with all those littles coming right behind undoing my work!
This worked for me in the beginning. As our family grew however and we became more established in our homeschooling habits, I realized that our home was slowly sinking to a state of disorder. I was working harder than ever before, but by the time I finished breakfast dishes, it was time to start thinking about lunch!
At this point, I re-shaped our homeschool day to make housework and chores a top priority.
Begin Your Day With Chores
Divide the house into zones and assign a zone to each child. Keep a visual chore chart in a noticeable spot so everyone can see it. It may take time for them to learn all the expectations and responsibilities for individual zones. When we started this system, I made a chore envelope. Inside the envelope I put index cards, one for each zone. On the cards, I listed all the jobs for that zone. These are the things I would check for when I checked their chore. it takes time for them to get good at this, so don’t be discouraged when you have been implementing a chore system for a year and they still do a sloppy job. Learning to do a task well is a lifelong skill and takes time!
Assign a Child to Kitchen Clean-Up for Every Meal
Depending on the ages of your oldest kids, assign a child to either be your kitchen helper (middle kids) or completely responsible (older kids) for kitchen clean up for for every meal. Currently we do this by day. One child is the kitchen clean up person for one day a week. This is less confusing to me than having a different person for every meal. We have this covered for six days. Mom and dad do the seventh day. Younger kids can be a helper to an older child on their clean up day.
- Kids age 10 and up are able to do their own laundry.
- Aim to do 1-2 loads of laundry every day to keep from getting behind.
- Have a box of safety pins handy. Have kids pin their socks to help keep the matches.
- Pinning socks has been a huge help, but inevitably, we still get mismatched socks. We put them in a basket and pay our preschool/Kindergarten age kids to match them.
TIP #4 As Much as Possible Use the Same Curriculum
As much as it will meet the individual needs of your kids, I have found huge benefits to sticking with the same curriculum as much as possible. One little known tidbit about large families is what I like to call the “trickle down effect”. When our oldest kids were little, we worked so hard to teach them the basics of everything…reading, writing, tying your shoe, riding a bike, making your bed. What I have found with our younger kids is that often I will start to teach them something new only to find out they already picked it up from an older sibling. This has happened in life, but also in our school subjects as well!
When they start history in second grade, they have watched all their older kids sing the history song and do the self-paced course. They know exactly what they have to do.
Sticking with the same curriculum optimizes the trickle down effect in the family, and lightens the load on the mom. (To read more about our curriculum, see Our Large Family Homeschool Curriculum.)
TIP #5 Have Older Child take a Break Between Subjects to Read to or play with a younger child
The most challenging part of trying to homeschool can often be juggling the baby, toddler, or preschooler while trying to do lessons with your school age kids. Allow your older kids to take breaks between subjects to hold the baby or take your toddler outside. This is meets the needs of the little child. It builds stronger sibling bonds. And, of course, it’s nice for the older kids to get breaks here and there during their work time.
TIP #6 Check Their Work
In a large family, it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks. I have learned this the hard way! When I haven’t consistently been reviewing and checking my kids’ work, they get lax in their habits. This is also where kids can start to struggle or get behind in a certain subject because it’s easier to just keep going to the next lesson rather than to ask mom for help. When your kids know that you are going to sit down with them at the end of the school day to review their work, they make sure to be thorough.
Make it a goal every day to conference with each of your kids every day when they finish their checklist. This doesn’t have to be a long meeting. Unless they need help with something specifically, this is usually 2-5 minutes for us. We run down each item on their checklist and they show me their work for each subject.
TIP #7 Seriously Limit Outside activities
This is one that is much easier to write and talk about and MUCH harder to apply! Even if each child chooses one activity that they want to be involved in, when you have multiple children, this still makes for a very busy schedule.
Take a close look at what is important to you and to your kids. Are the activities your kids committed to meeting the needs of the whole child AND the needs of your family. It’s ok to NOT do certain sports, lessons, or clubs for a season and to step back in at a later date.
Seriously limiting your involvement outside the family may be the one thing that brings your family the most peace!
TIP # 8 Invest in a Hobby
Now don’t gloss over this one because it seems a little off topic! Homeschooling and raising a large family can be all-consuming. There is always some work waiting for you: dishes, laundry, projects, things you want to do with or for the kids. I have found that if I do not step away from it all for short periods of time to do things I enjoy, I can get depressed. Having an interest outside of homeschooling and the kids is energizing! When I take breaks to do something I enjoy, I come back with renewed vision and appreciation for my family. Also, the kids get excited to see mom enjoying something. They ask me about it. It seems fascinating to them to see that I can wear a different hat other than “mom”.
TIP #9 Be Flexible
If you think you can have your spotless house and your ideal homeschool day with a large family, you are probably setting yourself up to be disappointed! The more kids you have, the more variables there are. The more chances for interruptions, for someone to be having a bad day, for any number of unexpected circumstances. You can be that mom who has everything in your home just right, but you might find that you are constantly uptight and rigid… and that’s no fun! Relax, enjoy your kids, roll with the punches, be flexible!
TIP #10 Prioritize Prayer and Time in God’s Word
Raising and homeschooling a large family is a wonderful blessing. It is also a huge responsibility. Don’t try to do it in your own strength. Spend time consistently in God’s Word finding your wisdom and strength in Him. How can a busy mom find time for this? There are some seasons, for example after having a newborn, where you may have almost no time to yourself as a busy mom. I can think of several times like this in my own experience! Often, the only way I could get Scripture in my mind was to play it aloud on my iPhone Bible app. My prayer times were IN the moment, living with an open heart before the Lord.
Here’s a question. When you get the first bit of time to yourself, what do you do? Where do you turn to refuel and relax? Try seeking the Lord first. Read a Scripture passage. Seek His face in prayer. It doesn’t have to be long or belabored. Making your relationship with Him your first priority IS the source of your strength.
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Hi, I’m Sheri! I am a Christian saved by grace, married to my high school sweetheart, and a thankful mom to ten incredible kids. I’m a former public school teacher who never thought I would someday be a homeschool mom! Drawing on 13+ years of homeschooling experience, follow along to find help for getting started, tried and true homeschooling advice, life skills learning, simple Morning Time ideas, and interviews with everyday homeschool moms just like you!