This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Teaching Textbooks. All opinions expressed are mine alone.
One of the biggest questions I get asked all the time is how I manage to juggle homeschooling a large family. I have to laugh when people tell me that I must have an abundance of patience and organization. I’m about as Type B as a person can get, but to help manage my own procrastination, disorganization, and adult ADHD, I have come up with several ways to handle things so we can all be more productive!
I asked my older children for some input, and they agree with the following 10 tips for homeschooling a large family. They even gave some input, so this isn’t just coming from Mom. You see, with a lot of kids, you have to work as a team. Here is how we do it every school day.
How to Juggle Homeschooling a Large Family
- Get organized – create a task list for everyone.
For the past 5 years, we have always had some kind of a planner for the kids so they can each keep track of what they’re supposed to be working on. As they’ve gotten older, it’s been even more necessary so I know they’ll be on task, even when I can’t watch over them to make sure they’re working.
Our current system is a large binder with 4 spiral notebooks, one for each school-aged child. Every day, I write down exactly what they’re supposed to be working on.
For example, I might write something like the following for one of my kids:
1 Teaching Textbooks Lesson
30m personal reading
Science Lesson 16
History ch. 26 & narrate to me
As my kids wake up and get ready, they usually check their notebook before they eat breakfast. Once they’re done eating, they tackle their assignments in whatever order they would like and use a highlighter to mark off each item as they finish.
In the pockets of the larger binder, I also keep copies of Reading Logs, Book Report Forms, and any tests or printed out worksheets they might need.
This has worked well for us, because it acts as a sort of control center for all of the kids. Over the past few years, I’ve become much more disciplined in filling this out for them because I know that this transfers the weight of the workload to the kids and they don’t have to ask me a million times a day what they should be working on! It also helps, because they can see straight away what is expected of them and that there will be an end to their work for the day!
- Teach children independence at a young age, and continue that as they get older.
Mothers of lots of kids already naturally gravitate toward this out of necessity, but don’t forgot to translate that over to your homeschool! Just as you start assigning your kids more and more chores as they get older, have faith that your kids can handle more and more of the responsibility of their schooling as they get older. This may mean that you put your child in charge of their schedule more, that they work on more assignments independently, or that they get to make more choices along the way.
If you can convince your kids that they are capable of being self-starters from a young age and foster that in them as they get older, it can really benefit a large family homeschooling situation.
There is usually just one homeschooling parent to multiple children in a household, so getting them to work by themselves is huge!
- Make use of online, and other self-directed, curriculum.
Our absolute favorite homeschool curriculum of all time is Teaching Textbooks. We used the CDs and workbooks until last year, but have begun to use the Large Family Plan of their online 3.0 version and LOVE it.
I do still like to buy the workbooks for the kids since they’re already printed out and spiral-bound, but the online version does come with free e-books if you’d prefer. My kids log in and get their work done without having to ask me to do math. If anyone gets really stuck on a problem, Teaching Textbooks offers free tutoring over the phone, which is awesome as my kids are getting older and working on more complex math!
If you’re curious about how this online course would work for your own large family, try the first 15 lessons of any of the levels over at the page for the Teaching Textbooks 3.0 Free Trial.
We’ve used so many online supplements and classes for my kids. They do really well with them, especially when they’re older and can more easily navigate the computer! Some of our favorite history and science programs are computer-based and are simple for the kids to do on their own, which frees me up to help kids with schoolwork that truly needs my one on one attention.
Speaking of which, having multiple devices available is such a great way to unburden yourself so that they are able to work online simultaneously! There are a lot of ways to obtain inexpensive devices for this purpose, and I highly recommend seeking this out, because it makes life easy.
- Let your children help choose their studies.
This won’t be possible for everything, but homeschooling will be a lot more seamless if your students are motivated to complete their work. I recommend having at least one subject completely chosen by each child. For example, my daughter loves art, so we’re pursuing all types of art for her this year, from watercolors to sketching to painting and handicrafts. My middle kiddo loves to work out, so we’re doing more physical activities with weights and resistance bands and body weight exercises together as a physical activity.
They really enjoy working on things they’ve gotten to pick for themselves!
- Choose a system to motivate your kids to finish their work. There are several ways to go about this. It does not have to be monetary and does not have to be tied to screens, but that’s what we do around here!
In our family, we motivate the kids in short and long term ways. My kids don’t earn allowance, so earning money really speaks to them! I offer payments to my kids for good grades in their Teaching Textbooks math when they finish quizzes.
I also pay my kids when they finish literature books (different than personal reading, which is a free-for-all as far as the quality of those books!) and complete an age-appropriate book report. That’s based on how many pages their particular literature book has. This has provided pretty solid motivation for them to read more ambitious pieces.
Additionally, I motivate my kids with screen time. They are not allowed to use any screens until school is finished, unless it’s for an online course or supplement. Additionally, they can either use their daily screen time (we currently do 3 hours/day) or bank it and cash out twice a month at the rate of $1 per hour that they didn’t use. Since we started doing that system, my kids have unsurprisingly begun to work ahead on school, play with toys, and read a lot more!
- Carve out special time with each child every single day.
This special time can be actual school work, but it doesn’t have to be.
With my kids, each child wants something different for their time with me. It’s evolved over time and has really become a regular routine around here.
I usually spend special time with my daughter either listening to her writing assignments or watching movies or shows together. For my oldest son, it’s usually listening to him tell me all about how he’s whooping everyone in his latest favorite video game. My middle guy likes to workout or play board games with me. My Charlie likes to spend special time with me playing imagination type games, but we also spend time every day doing his phonics, handwriting, and reading lessons together. He still sits in my lap and everything! My youngest isn’t homeschooling yet, but we spend special time snuggling and watching Mr. Rogers as part of our day.
Every kid needs to know that you have time for them, so please do carve some out, even if it’s just 5-10 minutes! It will pay for itself tenfold, I promise!
- Keep little ones entertained to minimize distractions.
Every large family mom knows what a challenge it is to homeschool with little ones underfoot. If you are in the midst of homeschooling with toddlers and preschoolers in the mix, be sure to keep them entertained!
For babies, of course, be sure to make sure they’re well-fed and well-rested.
Toddlers and preschoolers can be entertained easily, but be sure they only have access to things that you won’t regret later. For example, avoid leaving your little guy downstairs with Play-Doh if you’re going to be upstairs for “just a minute” – ask me how I know! However, leaving him with some Color Wonder markers and paper or some wooden blocks is a pretty safe bet if you can’t stay in the room the whole time.
I also recommend letting them sit in your lap as much as they want, within reason. I don’t know about your little ones, but mine always threw the world’s biggest fits if they felt like they were being pushed away. I learned to love wearing my babies in a sling and letting my toddlers sit in my lap at least some of the day. They really just want to feel included, and they really want to be close to their mama. Eventually they’ll get to the more independent stages and you can have your hands free! Until then, try to honor their needs while also helping your older kids.
It can be overwhelming some days, so don’t be afraid to indulge in some self-care once the kids are in bed. Hot, steamy bubble bath, here I come!
- Take advantage of lulls throughout the day.
If you happen to be blessed with kids that still nap or just really enjoy quiet time, take full advantage of it! This is the perfect time to do elaborate science projects, cook together with your other children, watch shows meant for an older audience, help with language arts work, and more.
Another good time is right after snacks and meals. If you have a kid or two who tend to get sluggish after mealtimes, focus on your other children a bit while the afternoon slump crowd can do something that is more relaxing for them, like reading or playing with toys.
Remember,just because your kids aren’t doing book work or screen work, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing something important! The beauty of homeschooling is having some flexibility to allow each individual to fulfill their own needs. When certain kids are fresh and wide-eyed, jump on that opportunity to work with them! When they need rest, let them take it. Everything balances out in the end as long as there is an end goal established.
- Allow some freedom in the schedule for play, reading, and last-minute fun and events.
One thing I love about our list of to-dos each day is that we don’t have a super-structured, planned out, scheduled day. When something fun comes up, we’re able to accommodate that!
We’ve had several times where we started our homeschool day and got a text or Facebook message from a friend inviting us somewhere cool. We’ve also gotten messages that have sent us packing on a spur-of-the-moment roadtrip, such as 2 funerals this year.
Fortunately, we’re able to see exactly what the kids have completed (by looking at their list and seeing what they have or have not highlighted as done), so we know exactly where to pick up when we get back to school next time.
Don’t be afraid to get off track a little bit every now and then! Life happens. Think about the bigger picture and see what has wiggle room and what is the TRUE must-finish for the day, week, month, semester, and year.
- Realize that not every box will get checked perfectly, and that’s totally normal!
I think every mom wonders if they’ve done “enough” with their kids throughout the year, homeschooling or not! When you are homeschooling a large family, it can be even more complicated, because you have to worry about the specific needs of each child.
Let me assure you, it is perfectly fine to skip things here or there. Give yourself, and your children, some grace!!
I often hear mothers, especially in times of crisis or big family changes, say that they are so worried about finishing it all. On the other hand, I know many other homeschooling moms who consider finishing 80% of any given curriculum as ENOUGH as long as their students thoroughly understand the material.
Think about WHY you began homeschooling in the first place. Think about your ORIGINAL and CURRENT “why” for doing this. Are you fulfilling that purpose, overall? If you are, feel free to let some things go! Maybe let your kids do every other problem instead of every single one, or give them alternate assignments if even the directions are confusing in their current workload. Focus on your WHY and you’ll all be just fine!
- Get organized – create a task list for everyone.
A large family does come with some challenges when it comes to homeschooling, but it can be so wonderful and rewarding! I hope I’ve helped you with my tips on juggling the unique demands of home educating several kids at one time.
I’d love to hear how you balance homeschooling with multiple kids!
Remember that I mentioned Teaching Textbooks above? I wanted to remind you about their Large-Family Discount Plan. If you’re enrolling 4-8 children in the online version of Teaching Textbooks, you’ll ONLY pay $199.08 annually for EVERYONE! Remember, that includes free online e-books for each course, plus automatic grading and easy to access grade books for the students, too. I also love the pause feature, which allows you to pause for a week or more at a time so you can take a summer break, take time off for vacations, focus on other subjects for a while, or for whatever reason you would need.