Monday, November 14, 2011
Homeschooling a Large Family
"I just don't see how your wife can teach so many kids. I mean I know people who homeschool, but not that many. How does she do it?"
It was an honest question coming from a sincere yet doubtful man my husband was chatting with.
So how do parents with a large family homeschool so many children at once?
Keeping in mind that homeschooling isn't enough to produce a godly family, we begin with a lot of prayer that the Lord would give us grace to accomplish such a huge task.
But one of the presuppositions of this man's question is that "school" is 8-3, and is a duplicated classroom in the house. Um, no. (Can you hear my maniacal laughter?) Like many, we are relaxed homeschoolers and most homeschool families, large or small, eventually stop trying to reproduce a government classroom.
Also, every home is different because our goals are different. And to a degree, they should be. Each child is unique; gifted with individual strengths and abilities. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we can give our children a custom-made education. Our family's home school will not look like any other person's on the planet. That's exciting!
And that is one basic foundation to our personal philosophy of homeschooling. That each education is distinct because each child is. Each family is. Each season of life is. And my schedule and methods are not superior to anyone else's--they're just mine and they work for me.
Fitting the Mold
In any government classroom there will be students who are way ahead of their classmates academically, and have to be slowed down, given busy work, take a "gifted" class. etc. Then there are those who are way behind. Finally, there are the few that are right where someone (?) says they should be. Nevertheless, everyone is relentlessly being crammed to fit a one-size-fits-all mold.
Homeschooling rejects this cookie-cutter mentality for education. My daughter can be in 7th grade math, 11th grade literature, 8th grade foreign language, and 4th grade science.
Our Goals for Our Children's Education
1.) Our prayer is that our children's education would enable them, ultimately, to glorify God with the gifts He's given them. We want them to be Biblically literate. Do you know that most adult Christians cannot define the word justification? How about regeneration? Propitiation? And all those other ations. These were once basic, milk-truths for all Believers.
2.) Our prayer is that our children will learn to think. Think deeply and thoroughly. Think with a sieve of scripture that encapsulates their minds--that is, a Biblical Worldview.
3.) Our prayer is that our children will learn to teach themselves and not have to be spoon-fed what they learn. When we first began homeschooling my fear was that I could not teach my children all there is to know. How silly! Twelve years later here is the verdict: I can't. Nor can anyone else. But if my children have a hunger for knowledge they will find the tools to attain it.
4.) Our prayer is that they will be good readers so that they can know God better. If they read well and enjoy it, they can be taught by the greatest minds that have ever lived.
5.) Our prayer is that our children will learn from us continually about all areas of life. That as we sit down to do our worksheets and math assignments, (yes, we do have those, if you were beginning to wonder if I am a die-hard unschooler :) that learning doesn't just happen with a pencil in your hand. It is only a part.
Learning happens in spontaneous moments all day long and weekends too. It happens when you are interacting with one another, the world, extended family, friends and church family. It happens at the grocery store and at doctor's appointments, as long as we don't waste those opportunities to discuss what we see and hear.
6.) Our prayer is that they will be wise. The world defines success as good grades, good college, good job, lots of money. As Christian parents we define success as getting wisdom--the principle thing. As Kevin Swanson says (paraphrasing), "If your kids know math better than Proverbs, you're not educating them."
These are the foundations that our academics rest on. I realize I have not yet answered the question of how a mom homeschools so many children at once, but felt I had to give some background beforehand. I could say lots more, but will try for a part 2 to this subject, and will post our schedule for our homeschool days next time. I meant to do that this time, but I got long-winded :)