Monday, August 12, 2013

Homeschooling with a Large Family, Multiple Ages, and Special Needs

We have just entered our sixth week of school. Six weeks and I still feel like I am trying to find my groove. I have only ever schooled two kids, so jumping to six school aged kids has made a real impact on my day and how I structure it. I also have kids all over the map in ability and grades. Micah is in ninth grade and fairly independent. Alex is in seventh and struggling to get by. I'm fairly certain he is dyslexic, so we are trying to find the best way for him to learn. Kaelyn and Nathaniel are both first graders this year. Nathaniel is doing great despite his visual impairment. Kaelyn is developmentally delayed and needs to be taught everything from the beginning. I try not to get overwhelmed with her. Lily is still preschool age, but doing kindergarten/first grade work. She is a sponge for learning even with being a borderline braille reader. Mae is also preschool age, but ready to take the next step up.

I have tried multiple methods to my day. The first week I held a fairly rigid schedule. We accomplished a lot, but it was stressful and confining. The next week I let the schedule go completely. It was a lot harder to get things done without direction. So, I am trying to find a balance between the two. I need structure, but also some flexibility. I have found that starting with group time is great. We memorize scripture, read the bible, sing some songs, pray, and read our read-alouds for the day.

I've worked out a good system for everyone to be able to see at the same time. I use a doc cam while reading that puts it on the laptop and then to the external monitor. I need one more monitor and we will be set. No more complaining about not being able to see and I can actually read the words!

After group time I send two off to play while I work with the other two. It seems to work best if I start with Mae and Kaelyn. They are pretty quick and I feel successful when they are done. Nathaniel and Lily take a little more time. I've tried them all at once and it is a little chaotic trying to keep them all busy. Two is much more manageable.

As far as the special needs go, I do have a few accommodations.  Lily and Nathaniel both use a magnifier for their reading. I would love to have a CCTV for them, but they are PRICEY! It is a goal for the future.

They also need to write on an elevated surface. Slant boards are in our future, but binders are working for now.

With Kaelyn we are just working on very basic preschool skills. I'm trying to get her little mind to start working. Six months ago stacking cups were impossible. Today she gets them fairly quickly. She's doesn't do them perfectly, but her brain is working! Learning to let go of expectations and working with her where she is is key to teaching Kaelyn. I can't wait to see where she is in five years.

I am learning to take advantage of the kids to teach each other. Above, Lily is quizzing Mae on her letters and sounds. Lily loves to be teacher! Occasionally Micah and Alex will step in. One day I was gone in the morning and I came back to find that Alex had done group time with the littles. So sweet!

I usually finish with my littles by lunch. Throughout the morning, Micah and Alex are working on their independent work. We break for lunch and then all littles go down for a nap from 1-3:30. It's during nap time that I work with Alex and Micah. Most of that time is spent with Alex. Micah needs me for just 15 minutes or so. Oh, how I love an independent learner!

My school day usually ends around 3:30. I shoot for starting around 9, so it's a long day of teaching for me. I have had to accept that afternoons are no longer mine to spend how I want. I have come to realize that I need to keep my focus on God and how to give Him glory throughout the day. That's really the only way to have a successful day. The problem is that so many of the days I am in the trenches just digging with my head down. It's a constant battle to look UP.

ETA: I want to make sure that you, the reader, know that my days are filled with temper tantrums, attitude, frustration, impatience, and sinful people. I don't want this post to sound like we have it all together. This homeschooling thing is tough!


  1. Wow, it sounds like they are very full, but fulfilling days. All that you accomplish is inspiring!

  2. I think you're wonderful, Liz. What a blessing you are to your children. I appreciate that you're honest & vulnerable about your frustrations, but also about your Source of strength. May God continue to bless you as you mold these lives!