Siblings snuggling up next to their mom as she reads the daily read aloud. A table full of kids listening to their mother explain their history lesson. A family learning together in their home. This was my idea of homeschooling. These were the images I replayed in my mind as more children were added to our family. I couldn’t wait until they were all old enough to join in on the homeschooling lessons. We would all be learning together. Except together wasn’t working so well….
My oldest daughter is doing high school work on her own. She spends her mornings sitting at her desk in her room studying topics too difficult for my other children to comprehend. My next two daughters have a difficult time concentrating with activity around them while my son doesn’t seem to learn anything unless he is moving and making noise! My 4 year old is so eager to do school work that she continually interrupts me to show me what she has accomplished and the baby seems more intent on exploring the world around him than playing close beside us.
Trying to teach all my children together was not reaping the harvest that I had anticipated. It seemed that only half of my kids were retaining the daily lessons at any given time. My girls couldn’t focus with their brother doing somersaults and making bodily noises around them while my son wasn’t learning when his attention was devoted to trying to sit still.
I was determined to figure out a way to make homeschooling work for my family which meant I had to throw out my idealistic idea of how homeschooling a large family was suppose to look. I knew that if I was going to conquer this homeschooling challenge I would have to divide up my kids.
Now I have a divide and conquer homeschooling mentality and it’s working. Well, as much as any plan involving kids can work.
I’ve divided my school age children up into three groups. I put my active (almost) 6 year old boy together with my 4 year old daughter who has an amazing ability to block out distractions. I teach them first thing in the morning while the older girls play with the baby. I grouped my 2nd grader and 4th grader, who are easily distracted, together and instruct them while the baby is taking his morning nap. My oldest daughter works on her own in her room throughout the day.
Trying to keep the noise level and activity to a minimum while my 2nd and 4th graders are working on their school work is a challenge in our home. We have an open floor plan which means that the little ones cannot play in the main living area while I am doing school work with their older sisters. My solution was to have them play in one of the bedrooms for at least half an hour (which is a challenge because our bedrooms are small in size but full of beds). Then they each get 15 minutes on the iPad followed by 40 minutes of TV time.
We all enjoy reading the Bible together at lunch time. For some reason stuffing their faces with food makes for a good listening and learning environment!
Overall the divide and conquer method has provided a more productive and enjoyable learning environment for everyone. But it isn’t perfect. I mean, what plan has ever been executed perfectly day after day when it involves six kids and an often tired mommy?! The little ones still interrupt the older kids lessons, the noise level still gets out of control and the baby occasionally skips his morning nap but things are better than before and I’m good with that!
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