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  1. #1

    Red face Outnumbered! Homeschooling Your Larger Family

    Outnumbered! Homeschooling Your Larger Family
    When I was a little girl, I overheard a conversation between my mom (who had two children) and our neighbor (who had three). The neighbor mentioned that, for her, parenting was new and exciting when she had one child and manageable when she had two. When she added the third, she felt outnumbered! If she and her husband went out, there were only two of them to wrangle three children. If she went out alone, she only had two hands.

    As a working, homeschooling mom of six children (single for the past five years), there's no doubt that I'm outnumbered. I've learned a few survival skills along the way.

    Rallying the Troops: Nope, I don't play Reveille at 6 AM (although I've been tempted). Hot cocoa is more my style (and I never learned to play a trumpet). No one in our house wants breakfast first thing in the morning, but I've found the smell of Mom's homemade hot cocoa can entice sleepyheads from their beds, especially if they know all they need to do is throw on their robes, grab a cup, and lounge around the living room, listening to a read-aloud. My family has enjoyed many books through shared reading over the years, even during high school and beyond. I need to start my morning gently, too. When the cocoa is gone, we're awake enough to get on with our day.

    Managing the Mess: I gave up on chore charts years ago. They ended up being just one more schedule for me to manage (along with the ever-changing soccer, Little League, and Scouting calendars). When chores were rotated, I was constantly having to teach someone how to perform a task they had never done before. There comes a point when the goal is to just "git 'er done". My kids are all specialists at one thing, and they have the same chore for years. We'll switch things up if someone outgrows a chore or gets old enough to tackle something more difficult. The essentials are done quickly and well that way . . . and I know immediately who to make my "mean" face at if they aren't.

    I try to emphasize responsibility for one's own space and belongings. (Don't I sound like a cool mom?) Bedding, for kids, is a fitted sheet and comforter, so even the youngest child can make their own bed. We add blankets on top if it's extra cold. Beds are box springs on the floor, with a mattresses on top. There are no bed frames, so there's no place for stray socks to get accidentally kicked (or purposely hidden). Everyone has his personalized mug on a mug tree. They rinse it and hang it when finished. I wash them all every few days. I have grown kids now, but they still have their mugs at Mom's house.

    Homeschooling the Herd: Books. All. Over. Confronting an enormous pile of workbooks to grade at the end of the day gets to be too much when you're teaching more than a few kids. When my youngest was born with Down syndrome, I simply had no time for school for a few months. I didn't want to take a year off, so I started looking for an online curriculum. Time4Learning has been a part of our school day ever since. From my perspective, the best thing about an online program is that it grades the work for you. I can still sit with my younger kids while they do their work and interject my own thoughts or explain something in a different way, but it's been a huge timesaver over teaching everything from scratch. With the basics efficiently handled by an online curriculum, I have time to customize a few extra subjects for each child.

    Tutor Time: When my middle daughter was two, I used to sit her at the table with a coloring book while the older kids did their school work. She cracked us all up one day when she picked up a crayon and started complaining, "I don't get it! I don't get it!" She was obviously mimicking what she had heard her brothers and sisters saying day after day, and it prompted me to take action. I did seem to spend a lot of time helping one child who didn't "get it", while others had to wait their turn.

    I decided to schedule 30 minutes of Tutor Time for each child in the afternoon and taught them to move on to something else if they didn't understand something. During their Tutor Time, I helped them with whatever they were "stuck" on. When a couple of my kids started saving almost everything for me to help with, I decided they could have a cookie and a videogame of their choosing for the balance of their Tutor Time each day. So, if they only needed ten minutes of help, they got twenty minutes of extra gaming for the day. They were also expected to keep their grades up, but there were many days no one needed any extra tutoring after that.

    Addressing Assumptions: It's often assumed that all homeschoolers are "religious". Add a larger-than-average family size to the equation and people start assigning very specific religious denominations to you. I had six children for many reasons, but religion wasn't one of them. When people begin trying to guess which church I belong to, my response varies according to my relationship to that person. The best advice I can give here is that it's almost never a good idea to respond the way you'd really like to. Family size is such a personal decision . . . whether you choose to be child free, have an only, the typical two, or more.

    Take Time for Yourself: This is SO important. I think I will schedule mine for the year my youngest turns twelve.

    I've been a parent for 32 years, homeschooling for close to 20 of those. I could write a book, and maybe some day I will. Until then, I'd love to share some of what I've learned, so any comments or questions are welcome here.
    Last edited by Kelly'sHome; 05-02-2016 at 12:03 PM.

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  3. #2
    Site Administrator Arrived Aandwsmom's Avatar
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    Oct 2010


    Kelly, you are my HERO! Honestly!

    I wanted 6 kids, would have settled for 3 but Mother Nature and my body said we had to stop at 2.
    Between 2 kids and running a childcare, I have utilized many of the same options you have!

    Chore charts don't work at our house either. More work for me. And each of my boys do things better than the other. Same kid, same chores.

    LOVE Tutor Time idea. We staggered the boys work times. Youngest was an earlier riser so we usually did most of his school in the morning and it was just us. While brother slept later and preferred afternoon work.

    1000000x agree with take time for yourself. Easy to say, harder to do. Used to be grocery shopping was Mom time. My boys LOVE to shop with me. I get an occasional sneak out to the store now and then and I enjoy it 100%,

    Loved reading your story! Thanks for sharing!
    Homeschooling Mom since 2008
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  4. #3


    I've become overwhelmed. I have 3 and they are 8, 6, and 4. My youngest is loud and cries a lot. My middle only wants to wrestle or play tablets. My oldest loves science and stories and art but doesn't get to do very much because he can't work on his own since he is still a very reluctant reader and can't get through instructions by himself.

    I'm finding out that I'm sensitive to schedules. When soccer changes or swim starts it throws off my schedule for a couple of weeks, so most organized work goes out the window.

    My younger one won't sit by a table or really do anything quietly and without my attention. Yesterday we were doing a Magic Schoolbus Kit and I found I had to get stern and loudish over and over and it sucked the fun out for me.

    Every time we sit to do anything there is crazy push back. Way too frequently I mention going back to public school.

    even writing this has been a trial

    and I forgot my well worded ending point

  5. #4


    Time for yourself..... hahahaha. And I only have 2, though if I include dh and 2 dogs, that makes 5. Even I do have the house to myself I have such a hard time not preparing for the next class, or finally doing some cleaning. I'v decided I need an extra 2 days each week just so I can catch up and relax.

  6. #5


    How do you get and make the most out of time for yourself?

    Like ScienceGeek, when I have downtime, Im usually browsing the web about homeschooling, or reading something in advance of my boy, or catching up on long-overdue cleaning.
    Grocery shopping as *me time* seems to be in the same category as getting a vacuum cleaner as a birthday present. *Ah yes, I get me time as I scrub the bathroom and kitchen floors.* Kind of thing.
    Doing something just for myself - Im so not in the habit of it, Im not sure how to productively make use of time I eke out to do it. Getting a rare (and theoretical) day myself would leave me wondering what I could do, and probably doing just the same old things I do during regular downtime.

    If that sort of thing makes any sense at all. :-/
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  7. #6
    Senior Member Arrived TFZ's Avatar
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    Mar 2015
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    AM I'm too tired to actually do anything during my downtime. Every once in a while DH will see that I'm teetering too close to the edge and take the children out for the morning. Those days I lay in bed. That's it. I just lay in bed. That's enough for me. I don't want to shop or meet a friend. I just want to lay in bed.

    Thanks for the tips. I'm at my limit with three. I hear what your friend is saying. My third has been the toughest adjustment. I like the bed thing a lot. Why do they need sheets? They don't. Smart.
    I'm a work-at-home mom to three, homeschool enthusiast, and avid planner fueled by lattes and Florida sunshine. My oldest is 6 and is a fircond grader (that's somewhere between first and second, naturally), my preschooler just told me she wants to learn how to read, and my toddler is a force of nature.

    I gather all kinds of secular homeschool resources and share them at

  8. #7


    Yah Im often too tired, too. I live for those weekend naps, but is that really *me* time?
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  9. #8


    I work from home PT and have 5 kids. I use a lot of your suggestions. I hate chore charts, too! My suggestion is chore TIME. For a set amount of time- usually 30 minutes or an hour depending on the day, everyone has to do chores. I give out a chore to each child, they complte it and then come back for another chore. If a child is found not working efficiently or goofing off, he has to put in more chore time when everyone else is done. These 30 minutes a day can transform my house! It isn't enough for reorganizing or in-depth cleaning, but the dishes are washed and clothes folded and put away, and usually I can get the vacuuming and possibly some dusting done.

    I do find it hard to grade everything- I've resorted to NOT grading most of my older ones math, just the tests. I also take dinner time to talk about things we learned in science or history, in the context of sharing with Dad, but they do get to show what they have learned and ask questions. I find that just as good as testing.

    I wonder if others do well with Buddy REading. I"ve read about it, but it never seems to work right in my house. I am the main book listener... and I have twins, which means I have to often hear the same story read aloud twice in the same day... THe 4 year old won't sit still to listen, and the older 2 don't like listening to their brothers.

    I'm interested in what all you do together as one big group, and how you manage to teach so many different levels at the same time. Next year I"ll have 4 grades schooling and I am a bit nervous about that!

    I also haven't figured out the 'me' time. My favorite time is when I Put laundry on the line- it's the only time I probably won't be interrupted.
    Mom to 5 great kids~

  10. #9


    I think my tongue-in-cheek plan to schedule some "me" time for the year my youngest turns 12 was too subtle. He won't turn twelve for quite awhile, so that was my way of saying I have not found a way to fit time for myself in with young kids in the house.

  11. #10


    Reviving this thread for the fall planning season, minus the "spring senioritis sydrome" (when you're all just so.worn.down and DONE with it all).

    I've got 4 kids: a relatively independent 6th grader (prefers me to be nearby for his math time on Khan Academy, much hand holding and cajoling for writing/composing anything), a barely independent 3rd grader (he reads independently, but needs me to "do" his subjects with him to grasp the comprehension to make them worthwhile, and ditto the written communication issues of DS1), an energetic and bright terror of a 3.5yo (who will be doing a Waldorf preschool 2 mornings/week, speech at least one other, but I need to keep productively occupied otherwise), and a clingy yet adorable 8 month old surprise.

    We'll be out of the house at co-ops 2 days/week for most of the year, but I'm at a loss as to how to schedule our time those other 3 days. I know I will somehow start my 2 oldest on a quick language arts lesson/writing practice, but not sure how to structure the rest. (Or what to do with the 3yo when she's with us 2 of those 3 non-coop days) I sure wish I could remember any of the preschool-y activities I had my older two doing!

    What do your days look like? What time to you start? What time do you finish?
    DS1 (3/05), DS2 (3/08), DD (12/12), DS3 (11/15)

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Outnumbered! Homeschooling Your Larger Family