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When I start each homeschool year, I have a moment. Or a few. Where I think that homeschooling will look like it does on Pinterest.
But as soon as one of my toddlers asks for another sippy cup of milk or I get called to the bathroom to wipe a tiny butt…I remember that homeschooling when you have a large family, no matter how disciplined you are…will never look like Pinterest.
When your oldest daughter is having an absolute meltdown about math and she needs you (sometimes only for emotional support)…a toddler is bound ask you to clasp her princess dress together or another will ask you put the password in so they can play Minecraft (because they are already DONE with their school).
Am I right?
Of course, I am. I can almost hear you nodding your head, because homeschooling when you have a large family running around is tough. Brutal. Almost impossible.
As a seasoned homeschooler with four of my seven children actively homeschooled, I’m going to share my secrets to surviving the homeschool day with my large family.
20 Tips on Homeschooling with a Large Family
1. Be Honest
I know it’s tempting to envision your toddlers quietly coloring on the floor as you stand explaining the ins-and-outs of Algebra, but it’s not usually reality. Whether you are a seasoned homeschooling or someone that’s just figuring out how to homeschool, toddlers like to be the center of attention.
Setting your expectation too high for your small children to reach is a recipe for disaster. Only frustration will come of it. And tears. Don’t forget the tears.
2. Focus on Hard Stuff During Naps
Do you have a newborn AND a toddler?
If your toddler still naps, praise the Lord!
Take advantage of this time to do the hardest subjects when distractions are at a minimum.
Things are likely to get off course even with a toddler down for the count, but it’s much easier to get back on track when they are safely tucked in their beds.
If you have non-school aged children running around, naptime is a good time to have “room” time or for them to watch a movie quietly in another room.
3. Take Advantage of Technology
Along with being honest, we have to admit we live in a technological world.
During those moments that your toddler isn’t napping or otherwise preoccupied, allowing him/her to play on the Kindle or iPhone is an acceptable form of distraction.
It’s also useful for older children when you need to focus your attention elsewhere.
On Kindle FreeTime, you can make an account that is only able to access educational games. That way I feel like it’s not a total waste of their brain power!
You can do the same thing with TV.
Netflix, Amazon or PureFlix, which is what we use, has an enormous amount of education television for your homeschoolers AND non-homeschooled-yet children
4. Pull Out All the Stops
Snacks, special toys, new art suplies, make a fort…by whatever means necessary, pull it all out of your arsenal in order to entertain your children that are finished with homeschooling while you’re still in the middle of working with your other children.
We have a bean-bead-sequin box that encourages sorting that only gets pulled out during the homeschool day.
Edible playdough is another fun way to keep a toddler distracted when trying to figure out how to homeschool when you have toddlers.
So much so, that I might have to purchase another set because sometimes the toddlers are so loud that no one on God’s green Earth could focus.
Even when it’s not school time, you might find anyone in our house wearing them just to escape the chaos!
These noise-cancelling headphones are especially helpful for your auditory learners!
(And your husband can take them to the gun range!)
6. Create a Secret Nook
I have one. Do you have one?
I’m talking about an introvert.
Like super-duper-needs-her-space-or-things-get-ugly introvert.
Because I recognized the need for a “getaway,” I gutted our hall closet and made a nook…just for her. If things get too crazy, she can hide away where no one can find her and do her work!
Your secret homeschool nook doesn’t have to be a closet, it can be under the bed or in the car (as long as it’s not too hot, it’s ventilated, and not running in an enclosed garage).
Sometimes we all need to get away!
7. Talk to Your Children & Offer Rewards
I know that some toddlers are too young to understand what homeschooling is, but most can understand simple concepts like “let’s leave sister alone right now.”
Talking to your children about homeschooling and why they need to be quiet can do a lot for keeping the peace.
Offering treats for being quiet, doing school or being still is a great strategy for making your homeschool routine successful.
My motto is: Candy is the currency of childhood.
8. Nip procrastination in the bud
Many times my homeschooled children use the all the large family distractions as an excuse for procrastinating their schoolwork.
When another child asks for some help during school, it’s amazing how helpful my other children become!
Don’t let “helpfulness” get your homeschool routine off kilter.
9. Train Your Child
Children, young and old, thrive on routine.
If you train your younger child to sit in a playpen or a high-chair for a certain period of your homeschool day on a regular basis, it will be expected by them.
“Room time” is a great way to encourage independent play and autonomy for an age-appropriate amount of time for older non-schooling children.
Having a definite start-stop time will help train older children to know when homeschool begins and ends.
10. Involve Them
Many times involving your everyone in your large family in schoolwork doesn’t work out, but sometimes it does.
Some great times to involve them are
For role play, get younger students to be the student and your older homeschooler to be the teacher. Allow your homeschooler to re-teach a concept that s/he is learning…even if the not everyone “gets” it.
11. Tire Them Out
If possible, get some physical activity in before or during school time so the “wiggles” don’t grab hold of your homeschoolers.
This is especially true the younger they are. A tired toddler or non-school will be less of a hindrance to your other childrens’ progress.
Personally, I love when my children are able to interact. A “PE” class hosted by your older students will get the urge out for interruptrions later on in the day.
12. Give In…For a Little While
Sometimes we keep pushing our little one out of the way, when all the really want is a little bit of your time.
I’ve noticed when I’m busy and no matter what I try my toddler won’t budge, giving in for a little snuggle time is just the thing they need before running off and going to play again.
13. Encourage Autonomy
Encouraging independent work in your other children as they homeschool will help curb any conflicts between your large homeschooling family.
Start small, don’t expect your first grader to do all his/her work on their own, but start somewhere.
If you find that one homeschooler is more sensitive to noise, you might have them work independently somewhere else.
14. Start School Early
No, I don’t mean early in the morning…I mean start homeschooling your toddler sooner than later!
By allowing your little one to “start school” they will be less likey to want to interfere when they see big sister or big brother doing school.
Give them their own space and encourage them to stay there during the school day.
Make a rule that if they don’t want to “do school” they need to go off and play something else!
Many families are simply too big or the season of life is too difficult to have beneficial school time while dealing with all the demands of a toddlers, newborns and non-school-aged children.
Whether you hire an older homeschool student to babysit for an hour or two or plan a special time with grandma, outsourcing during those peak school hours may be a life saver.
16. Make a Barrier
Your toddler is adorable. I know mine is! But flipping and dancing in the middle of our big school room isn’t cool.
Making your school area an off-limits zone during school by setting up a barricade might be a great way to show everyone physical limits.
17. Bedroom School
My kids usually retreat to their bedrooms when the noise or activity level gets out of hand.
Many times we do school sprawled out on their beds so that the toddler can watch TV or help you in the kitchen.
18. Split Up the Day
I know that most moms (not me…but many that I know) like to get their homeschooling out of the way…many times before lunch! (God bless you ladies. I salute you!)
Splitting up your homeschool day might help your large homeschooled family not to feel neglected for such a long period of time.
You can also split up who gets homeschooled during each part of the day, letting another child pick up some responsibility for entertaining the other children. (This is a great training ground for babysitting as well!)
Infants and toddlers most active times are during the day, so why not homeschool during the quiet hours of the night?
Although, my personal experience with nightschool is most of us are too tired to really take advantage of the quiet time.
But it might be a great last-resort method for a short season!
20. DON’T STRESS
One benefit of homeschooling is that your children are getting a one-on-one education.
Distractions are not only common to homeschooling children in a large family, but also in public school where one teacher has to manage upwards of 30 students.
If you or your student find that you are getting off schedule, just let them know that distractions are a part of everyday life. We all have to learn how to deal with them.
When All Else Fails
There are many days that no matter how much you try not to stress or how much you have trained your toddler to stay semi-quiet during your other children’s homeschool day, that it just won’t work.
The beauty of homeschooling is that you can take a day off when things get too crazy.
Your large homeschooling family will one day not be full of newborns, toddlers, and elementary students. One day everyone will be teens and you’ll have other battles to face.
Try to enjoy this season even though I know it’s difficult.
Too Many Kids? Too Many Chores? Too Little Time?
Download this ebook and worksheet that's saved my sanity!
Too Many Kids? Too Many Chores? Too Little Time?
Download this ebook and worksheet that's saved my sanity!