About a year ago, every single day–I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the toddler screaming from atop the piano while the oldest was glaring at me for help with math factoring while my third was wistfully saying, “Read to me, Mommy. Will you read to me?” while I was running to turn the timer off from the second’s timed test — there was this point I would reach where I’d say, “I can’t do this!”
Ha! Why did I say this? Who I was talking to? I mean, I couldn’t tell you what I thought my option was. Seriously, there’s never been a Plan B in sight. I’ll wake up tomorrow, next month, next year, next ten years—and I’ll still be homeschooling! (But thank you, Sweet Jesus–not in 20 years! Wee-haw!)
At this time, I homeschooled with four kids in the house, a sixth grader (12), a fourth grader (10), a first grader (7), and an 18 month-old toddler, Little Tank, who liked to stick her finger in the electric pencil sharpener when I wasn’t looking. (Pointer fingers fit nicely.) Our homeschool days felt like a free-for-all, holy mess! Chaos is not my chosen style, but I swear Little Tank, who stops at nothing and fires at will, invited Curly and Mo over to wreck my orderly home and homeschool every day. Tank disrupted school worse than a fire drill. I could have locked her in the basement, and she would still have found a way to disrupt school!
The Family Makes the Homeschool
I really felt like I needed some moral support for homeschooling with diverse ages–yet with the oldest children not yet being old enough to teach themselves. So I turned to some experienced homeschoolers’ blogs. Others have traveled this path before me! Here’s the gist of the encouraging words I found on most blogs (well, it seemed like most blogs):
“Don’t worry about it. You’re building family relationships and teaching housekeeping skills.”
Grrrr-eat! But unless every one of my girls aspired to be a housekeeper or nanny, I had to get my act together, because, unfortunately, those didn’t seem to be my kids’ answers when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”! The intended encouraging words didn’t help cheer me up, so I kept “looking for love in all the wrong places” and searching the internet for some cheerleading.
Next words up: The quality of a homeschool education depends almost entirely on the parent…
Uh. Oh. That’s me. Parent. I am TOAST. I guess since I like a good spank every now and then, I kept reading:
…Homeschooling is a large responsibility and may overwhelm a homeschool parent, even though they have the best intentions, because things like illness and the demands of a large family may arise. Hmm. That could be me too, if four kids equates with large. (Somehow going from three kids to four felt like three kids plus A HUNDRED.)
My reading finished with the discussion: Older kids may have to put their education on the back burner as they are called to help with housework, childcare, or educating siblings.
Hello, no! THAT is NOT what I had in mind for my daughters’ education. No. No. No. And no. Back burner?
Dang. If I needed hope and encouragement, it looked like I was going to have to turn to my inner-coach. Grand. Get out the bun-huggers and pom-poms.
Tomorrow I Will Loosen Up
Each day was frustrating. No matter that I went to bed feeding my subconscious positive affirmations: “I am loose. I laugh at chaos. Tomorrow I will entertain the toddler so she doesn’t keep the older kids from doing Spanish and long division. Tomorrow will be a new, shiny, bright day!” The sad truth was, even if I had gotten that positivity-schmivity stuff down and smiled like Cinderella every day, that still didn’t mean that our school days would go any better.
Couldn’t I acquire both a positive attitude AND a decent day’s worth of homeschooling?
Well, I tried a lot of things. I don’t give up till I find the path that fits. We have finally found that path, and our school days and home life are wonderful again. What we finally arranged will not work or even be feasible for everyone. But for us, it’s just the ticket. I want to share with you all the things I can remember that we tried and the thoughts I thought, so maybe you can find your way too. Or at least know someone has the same concerns you do.
Tips for Homeschooling With Many Kids of Diverse Ages
Get help. Any help will help! When I could find someone to come babysit in the mornings, I seized them. (They often told me to let go of their neck so they could breathe.) Then, the older girls and I could at least get some good, solid math instruction in. Even if this was only a couple of mornings a week, it helped immensely. My older girls appreciated it so much when I helped them “like a teacher” with school! (And that’s why I homeschooled!)
Abe Lincoln would not have had math every day. Abe had hunting and log splitting to do before reading and math. His education would have come in spurts. I’ve got the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-most idea of school in my head, and sometimes I just need to spit it out. Learning doesn’t make it school. And school does not make it learning. Learning is learning, and it is everywhere! Remember a lot of brilliant men and women throughout history didn’t have the privilege of sitting in school for eight hours a day. (Probably a good thing, too!)
To be continued…