Monday, June 01, 2009

How do you handle the logistics of a classical education with a large family?

Specifically, this question was addressed with The Well Trained Mind in mind (sorry about the bad alliteration.) Classical Homeschooling may look different in your family during different years and from family to family. Here's some of our version.

I've got 5 children who are presently 13, 11, 9, 7 and 1 1/2.

Things they work on their own :
  • Math (Math-U-See and they mostly work on their own)
  • Grammar (CHC or Seton Catholic workbooks)
  • Spelling (Natural Speller)
  • Memory work
  • Religion text

Things I pair them up on :
  • Prayer memorization
  • Latin (2 kids work together on a level)

Things they all work together on :
Religion discussions
History discussions
History projects

When asking around and trying to implement academic excellence (remember: I said "trying") having a toddler running around dumping the dog's water into the dog's food and all over the floor or/and a baby crying to nurse...it seems incredibly difficult if not impossible. Here's my tip : It seems incredibly difficult because IT IS!! You may look back on this year of toddlerhood or infancy as one of the most challenging (please read - this is *hard*) particularly with several other kids to teach, a house to keep clean, errands, gym class...etc. That doesn't mean you can't get through it. Really, your kids may even learn more than you expected! Hard is not the same as impossible. Hard means life is really sucky right now and you have a lot of suffering to offer Jesus. Hard means He carries you through. Hard means you need carried through.

Back to logistics -
  • Every kid takes a turn at "Baby Duty." Some of the younger kids can only handle 15 minutes at a time, but everyone has a turn at my attention (which they may have to stand in line and wait patiently for) and everyone has a chance at doing their seat work and everyone takes a turn on "baby duty." It's like a law at our house.
  • I made the preschoolers montessori materials to work with (so they're in the same room as we are) and the toddlers have toys that are just for school time. Here are more toddler tips.
  • As soon as a kid can read, he's reading out loud from a book that's on his level, but that we're all on the same topic about - religion, history, science.
  • *The big kids read books and have papers due on their own level, but in the same topic we're all covering together. Some of the big kids' books are read aloud (by the big kid to a little kid) -- that's one of the GREAT benefits of living books : The reading level a kid can comprehend being read to is higher than his actual reading level -- so he can enjoy some of the big kids' books.
  • *I have one book I'm reading aloud to the majority (if not all) the kids at all times in one topic or another. This is in addition to the books the kids may read to each other. 20 minutes a day gets us further along than we were before. Read aloud time is not always pretty. Some kids need to wiggle quietly, some can draw and others need consistently drawn back into the story with questions directed at them and OFTEN we just quit because I'm too frustrated at kids who can't be quiet or keep their bodies to themselves (boys!) but then we try again the next day.
  • This is important : the biggest thing in a classical education is to try again the next day. And wake up and try again the next day. Day to day it can look like you're making very little real progress. A mom gets caught up in wiping noses and cleaning up messes and finding erasers and scrubbing peanut butter out of hair and...then at the end of the day you look at your lesson plans and realize "We didn't get to Latin AGAIN." or, "We forgot to chant our memory items." or even "We haven't hit chemistry in a MONTH." If you wake up the next morning and try again -- it will all come together. A classical education is about the years of learning building on one another rather than looking for accomplishment in the day to day. Don't give in to discouragement (or if you do, find encouragement FAST!)
I take a LOT of cues from TWTM, but I keep in mind what Susan Wise Bauer said in this article : Here is a great article

1 comment:

  1. thanks, jenn, especially for the last paragraph. i needed that!!