I recently stumbled across a homeschooling blog post from Natalie Barnett, a Montana mama and lifestyle blogger over at My Mountain Wild. As a mama of 2 with one child in 3rd grade, she was talking about updating her homeschooling rhythm for the year, and she asked how mamas who homeschool multiple children all in different grades do it.
Her question got me thinking back to the time when I was in her shoes and prompted me to write a response to her question, sharing how I homeschool multiple children — all while working at the same time.
How I Homeschool Multiple Children While Working
I have 4 boys all in 4 different grades. Each child has a different personality and learning style. Add my personality and teaching style into the mix. Then add the fact that I work part time as an herbalist for the Herbal Academy as well as here on my own blog. On top of that, add in home, church, friend, and family responsibilities. Total all of that up, and you’ll find a very unique homeschool situation.
I’m sure if you think about it, your situation would look similar with only a few variations.
Perhaps our story will remind you of yours, or maybe it will inspire you to do something similar. The most important thing I can say here is this is OUR journey, and I’m sharing it because I hope it is helpful and uplifting to you in some way. If you’re a homeschool parent, try to not compare yourself and what you’re doing to what we’re doing. Take what I’m about to tell you and use it to help you wherever you are.
How We Homeschool
The first thing I want to share with you is how we homeschool — more importantly, how we structure our day and the rhythms you’ll find running through it.
First off, we do 4 full days of school and one half day each week. On Mondays, I put in a full 8-hour work day. Because of this, the boys do have some independent things they need to do this day, but none of it is a core subject. Tuesday through Friday, they have a full school day. This means they have independent work in the mornings, and we all do group work together in the afternoons.
While Dean and I wake our kids up around 7:30 AM, some of them don’t actually get out of bed until 8 or 8:30 AM. Because we don’t start school until 10 am, they have plenty of time to have what I call a “slow morning” — making their breakfast, getting their chores done, playing if they want, or sleeping in a bit longer.
This slow morning rhythm not only helps them to be fully awake and ready to go come 10 AM school time, but it gives me time to get my work hours completed before school even begins. It has also dramatically helped those early morning attitudes that you sometimes get from kids when they’re still tired, and you’re pushing them to do their school work.
From 10 AM to 1 PM, the boys do independent work, taking care of most of their individual grade level core subjects like math, spelling, and grammar. This is also the time of the day where they’ll get in their individual readings done for the day and do any foreign language, typing, music practice, or any other subjects that they can do by themselves.
During this time, you’ll find me doing my housework for the day. (I use the free FlyLady app to keep me on track, and LOVE it!) I’m available to help the bigger boys with subjects they need help on (typically math and grammar), and I also sit down with Ezrah, my youngest, and help him through work he’s doing or listen to him read to me.
Each child has a checklist with all the things he needs to do each day of the week. I bring the list off at the start of each week and keeping it located on our kitchen island where it is not to be moved. This has been the best way to help my boys to stay on track with their school work and make sure they get everything done. Otherwise, they’ll conveniently “forget” a thing or two. LOL!
If the boys don’t get their lists completed by the time morning school is over at 1 PM, they lose their tech time that day. Yes, no TV shows, YouTube videos, video games, or tablets. This is a strict rule we’ve set in our home because we want to teach the boys the importance of completing their responsibilities before doing fun things. The only exception to this rule is when I’m too busy to help them with something, and it gets pushed out until after group work. That’s not their doing, so they are not punished for it.
At 1 PM, Dean comes home for lunch, so we have an hour break from all school work. We try to sit down at the table to eat together before either watching a family TV show on cold or rainy days or heading outside to go for a walk, play together, or relax on the hammock on warm, dry days — all before Dean walks back over to his shop for finish up his work day at 2 PM.
From 2 PM to 3:30 or 4 PM, the boys and I gather together for group work. This is when we do the subjects that I can teach to all the boys at the same time regardless of grade, such as bible, history, science, geography, and our fine arts subjects. Before we begin, the boys almost always make tea or coffee (the oldest only!), get their blankets and a cat or two, or bring in some Legos or drawing materials if they want to keep their hands busy while I read to them.
We start our group work by listening piece of music followed by a devotion. Next, we do one core subject reading each day (this sometimes includes a hands-on activity or video), and finally, I read a chapter from whatever read-a-loud book we’re making our way through. And that’s it. Our school day is complete.
From here, the boys take their tech time for an hour, and I get another hour for online work or free time before Dean get’s home around 4:30 PM.
Evenings in our home vary depending on the day. Some evenings the boys have music lessons, which Dean takes them to and from. Other days we have church activities. Some days we have nothing planned, so we get house projects done or do something together as a family. And every now and again there are days where we have friends over for dinner.
Regardless, when Dean gets home from work, our evenings consist of being together as a family, a few chores, and dinner. Most evenings we try to start winding down around 8:30 – 9 PM. Everyone splits up to watch a TV show or two (depending on how long they are) before getting ready for bed, and then the boy’s have lights out around 10 PM. Dean and I go to bed around 10:30 to 11 PM, later on the weekends.
As you can see from our daily rhythms, there are spaces set aside in our day for the boys to do homeschool work on their own as well as with me available to help them and to teach them lessons. There’s also space for me to work built into our day. Lastly, there’s free time set aside for the boys to play together or on their own, for me to do things I want (like go for a walk or do a home workout), and for us to spend time together as a family.
Sometimes our days don’t go seamlessly. That’s expected and okay. I call these “adventure days” when they come up, and it helps everyone (me included) look at them in a more positive light. If we’re thrown off our work or school schedule for one reason or another, we try to make that out-of-the-ordinary day special.
An Important Part of the Homeschool Journey
Now that I’ve shared our daily rhythm with you, I’m going to tell you about two important parts of the homeschool journey that I ignored for years.
The first thing being homeschool goals. You see, I always heard other homeschool moms who were ahead of me on this journey talk about was the importance of setting a goal for your homeschool.
I mean, in my mind, the simple fact that I was teaching my kids things they needed to learn seemed like enough of a goal to me, so I always ignored this recommendation. However, over the years, I’ve seen the importance of having a core goal, a why, a set of values behind our homeschool.
The reason is because every homeschool day isn’t aways going to be all sunshine and roses. There are days when I most certainly feel like sending my boys to public school and going back to work full time. On those days, having a core goal, a why, and a set of values really helps me from throwing in the towel.
For us, my core goal is to give my children freedom in their education — allowing them to choose how, when, where, and what to learn — all while having some guidance from Dean and I as well as educators we respect and upholding government/state standards as well.
My why behind homeschooling is that I don’t want them to be pushed through a standardized system that may not be the best for them. While I feel that this is mostly the case in the public school system, it’s also possible to have this happen in one’s homeschooling as well, which brings me to the second thing I ignored for the longest time — flexibility.
When I first started homeschooling, I homeschooled the only way I knew how — like I was schooled in public school. We had schedules, charts, and checklists that had to be completed each day so we didn’t get “behind.” Ugh!
Thankfully, I eventually learned about Classical education, Charlotte Mason, and interest-led learning. I also came across the Wild and Free community and homeschooling pioneers like Sally Clarkson and Julie Bogart, and my eyes were opened to new and exciting ways to teach my children from home.
Over the years, I’ve merged these educational philosophies together to create something that I feel is best for my boys, and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that flexibility is needed in every area of our homeschool — in our daily rhythms, in the curriculum we use, in how lessons are taught, and more.
I’m growing and learning right alongside my boys. Most days are good days. Other days are rough days. No matter, we are together doing our best to make our days work for us, to stay true to our goals and values, and to remain flexible when needed.
How I “Do It All”
So here we are, at the end of the day (and this post about how to homeschool multiple children and work at the same time), and you may still be wondering how I “do it all.”
Well, here’s the thing — I don’t.
First, our rhythms change as our lives change.
- There are times when I’ll split my work day up so I can sleep in.
- There are times when we cut out certain subjects and focus on core subjects only.
- There are times when we eat out more often or eat more convenience foods during busy seasons of life.
- There are times when school makes way for life so we take a break and pick back up where we left off.
- There are times when we do exams and testing (usually Charlotte Mason style) and other times when we pass a subject based on comprehension or skill.
Next, I have help when it comes to my choice of homeschooling.
Dean was homeschooled during high school, so he’s a huge help on this journey. If the boys are out of line, he comes over from work to get them back in line. He encourages me as their teacher regularly, and he even helps out by taking them to their piano lessons each week and by being in charge of teaching them a lot of the life skills and handicrafts they need to know.
Not only that, but my mother-in-law homeschooled her kids and most all my sisters-in-law homeschool, so there’s a lot of family support as well. Even though we all have different homeschool styles, it really helps to have someone to talk things over with when you need it.
In addition to that, we have a few local homeschool co-ops we can be a part of if we choose. When it comes to how I homeschool multiple children, participating in co-ops gives me the option to not have to teach my boys everything myself if I don’t want to. Plus, homeschool field trips and group classes are always more fun with friends!
Lastly, Dean and I teach our kids that they are responsible for their own education.
I mean, there’s only so much I can do to teach my children, especially because I homeschool multiple children! At some point, they have to decide they want to learn and are willing to put in the work. This may look like putting more effort into their schoolwork, paying better attention to books and lessons, doing extra lessons or projects to help them better understand something, or requesting a class on a subject they’re interested in.
This responsibility for their education typically happens as they near high school. This is the time they typically begin to think about their future or start caring about knowing more things or gaining more skills. It’s a maturity thing.
I used to feel like a failure if one of the boys complained about “useless” math, asked when they could stop diagraming sentences in grammar, or remarked about studying “old paintings” as a waste of time. But here’s the thing. Kids aren’t always going to love learning. Heck, adults don’t always love learning. We first do it because we’re made to, but eventually, if we’re taught to appreciate and value it, we do it because we want to.
So, if you’re thinking about homeschooling, are in the beginning stages of the journey, or are trying to figure out how to work and homeschool multiple children at the same time, I hope you’ve found this post helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to share them with me in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to get back to you soon.
Until then, mama — keep your head up.
Love and light,