Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Five helps for keeping my sanity while homeschooling 9 kids developmentally under 7 (and a 5th grader!)


I'm often asked how we are able to make it work to homeschool our ten children (9 of ours and a child we are providing respite for).  Seven of the kids have special needs and 6 of those kids are under 4 developmentally so it becomes our very own preschool class with 7 kids, plus kindergarten/1st grade with another 2, and then there's my 10 yr old son who is on 5th/6th grade curriculum.  Quite the spread!

Here's five little things that make it work!  But first, let me dispel any thoughts of super-hero qualities which allow me to do something that you (as a homeschooling parent) feel is impossible to accomplish in a day.  Let me assure you first that WE DO NOT HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER ALL THE TIME!!!  And second, that YOU CAN DO IT WITH YOUR FAMILY TOO!  Sure, some of the time we have it all together.  And sometimes we really don't.  Sometimes everyone does a full day of "school".  Sometimes my 'academic' kids get all their school in and the others get a whole lot of educational TV.  Or coloring and floor play.  Or we have activities that take us out of the house and we call it a field trip and learn in different ways than what we can learn within the walls of our home.  

Regardless, here they are... the top 5 things that help homeschooling go smoothly for us:

1. "That's MY DOT" 

The kids each have a 'family color' and we found these fun shapes which have 6 each of the 10 family colors... so we bought two sets and those whose colors aren't included know they have to adjust and whatever other one we assign to them instead will be theirs.  Now you're thinking that this lets the kids know where to be.  Well, yes... sometimes it is for that reason, like when we're all sitting in a group and I want the kids spread out or not next to a particular child, etc.

But truthfully.... I often use them during the day so *I* know what activity I last sat a child at, and when I find that they've taken off and are in a different room, I know where they were supposed to be!! :) See... we don't always have it together. :)

The kids tend to use them creatively as well, for instance when I'm not using them, or not all of them... then they may be turned into a piece of the kids' work...

2.  Make a schedule, and be ok changing it

These are our daily homeschool sheets.  Each number gets an activity assigned-- for ME to know what they're supposed to be doing. I use one of the cards on the left and stick it on the velcro dot on this page, and that is their assigned character for the day.  Then the cards get placed on other activities, following that schedule, so the kids can work semi-independently through their day.  There are soft velcro dots on things all over my house for these cards to go on!


You'll notice there's only two characters in all of these pictures, and that's because at the moment I'm only using the characters for Lynae and Brianna.  They are the two working through work books and boxes at their own paces.  I also choose to use ONE child's schedule to designate some 'family activities'.  So whenever Brianna's said snack today, I brought all the kids together for snack.  I just write 'all' to the side of her assignment sheet.  I did the same for play dough time.  I also skipped snack initially, because Brianna worked through her boxes pretty quickly this morning and I just wasn't ready!  We put it 2 numbers later, and it didn't disrupt anything.  She worked through a couple more assignments and then we had snack.  I do NOT assign times to activities, though I do assign LENGTHS to some (like stencils, computer time, outside play, art easel, and books).  I also assign time frames to each subject for Kristopher, and he moves to the next subject at that time.  Timers are AWESOME for him, and for us all! 

3. Trays give work space boundaries

These are simple restaurant trays from a fast food restaurant that are slightly larger than a sheet of paper.  They keep crayons close by (and not rolling off the table!) and they give the kids a work space that is defined, and keeps everything together, like blocks and other project pieces.

4. Dry erase workbooks= being able to use a workbook page 10,000 times without having anything to throw away

Sure, you can scan workbooks, photocopy and use copies, etc.  But this is a simple way to be able to use it over and over again! 
Not only that, but I've taken the work books apart and put 8 different workbooks that all teach colors, shapes, numbers, addition, etc with slightly different ways... and I put ALL the shapes, ALL the addition, ALL the coins, etc... into each section.  That way I'm not hunting through workbooks to get a different way to teach an activity either, and instead I can choose 3 math pages from the addition section, or 2 workbook pages on shapes.  When she's done with a page, she shows it to me then we erase and go on!  Many of my little ones need quite a bit of repetition to 'get' a concept, and refreshers to remember how to do it.  Plus, like the picture above, it's great for a little work that is independent and successful when getting ready to begin a new subject that will challenge them. :)

5. School isn't all about academics

School time, as you can see from the pictures above, can be a combination of all sorts of things!  We work on colors and sorting and shapes and numbers, and fine motor and gross motor and... and ... and...  Computer time and art time are built into the day, and of course time to play outside! Snack, and lunch, and we have a built in time of day when we have 'quiet time'.  That means each of the kids either finds a quiet activity to do on their own (or finishes their school work...) or they sit quietly in the family room where we put on a movie and turn the lights down.  The two littlest take naps in their beds during this time.  Below are some of the 'organization' that we have, so the toys on and under the table can be used for play time and school, and the activities in the (locked) cabinets can be taken out individually for specific activities.  

Care to share?

What are your helps that get you through your homeschooling days with a tad bit of sanity intact? I'd love to glean from your tips too!

1 comment:

  1. This is fantastic! Thanks! Errr..... sanity. What is that? I do have a daily rhythm and a overall weekly schedule that we keep to for school and the kids' chores. I'm still figuring it out, though. It goes something like: the breakfast rush followed by the getting dressed and brush hair thing, followed by the kids doing the items on their chore chart in order (some are printed with words, some with pictures), followed by snack. Then, when we start school next Tuesday, we will start school after snack, with me rotating around and keeping things moving. Lunch happens at lunch time and if school is not finished, it's back to school after lunch for a bit. Then it's quiet time/nap time/room time/mama rest time. And then somehow I make supper and wait eagerly for my husband to come home and pick up slack with the kids. I put details onto the weekly school charts every weekend (it says "reading" on Monday, so I write "Hop on Pop" or whatever, etc.). Also, we take "run around the house like crazy" breaks and "go to our room and rest for 10 minute" breaks for kids feeling overwhelmed or too wiggly for seat work.