Homeschooling a Large Family
by Umm Badr
Homeschooling seems acceptable when there is an only child but when there is more than one child we wonder how we are going to cope. Organization is the key when homeschooling more than one child. Organization gives us a framework to complete our tasks expeditiously and to allow us time for us to do the extra things we enjoy. The following ideas may be helpful for organizing and homeschooling more than one child.
You can choose which ideas may suit you and your family in sha'Allah.
Many families find the week goes much more smoothly if they designate one day for organizing.. They prepare the weekly planner, decide the meals for the coming week, set goals, review the previous week's work, have a general family meeting, organize and review calendar. By having one day set aside for these tasks they do not seem so overwhelming and it gives you a clear idea as to what will be going on in the next week.
Weekly meetings are a wonderful way for the family to get together and share their feelings and opinions. This should also be an opportunity for each member to partake in weekly goal setting discussions. Each member discusses the goals they set the previous week and if they were able to complete their goals. If they were not able to complete their goals they discuss why they couldn't. Each member also discusses this weeks goal and the actions they are going to partake in order to complete these goals. This is a time when children who can read and write can read aloud or introduce some of their writings to other family members. Parents can also partake in this exercise of language arts. We use this time to read Qur'an and see how each others recitation has progressed. We also share hadiths that we have learned in the previous week and our favorite stories involving the sahabah.
Curriculums make lesson planning very easy when you have more than one child. Unfortunately when you have a large family money is tight and the cost of pre-packaged curriculums are not always practical. Many parents find creating their own curriculum to be not only cheaper but much more rewarding. The curriculum can suit the child's pace and interests. I know you are thinking I have so many children how I possibly going to have the time to create curriculums for them all. If for the first child, the curriculum you create is thorough then you can use it again for the rest of your children in sha'Allah. You need only to create the curriculum once with slight modification if needed, to suit the needs of subsequent children. Here are some more tips from parents with large families to make curriculum planning a little bit easier.
Have one binder for lesson plans. Use a certain colour of marker or pen for each child. This way the children can look at their own lesson plans and know what is expected.
One day a week decide what you would like each child to do. Pass on worksheets and lesson plans down from child to child. Put all worksheets in plastic page protectors and let the children use dry erase markers to complete them. When they have completed the worksheets, it is their responsibility to clean them and return them to the cabinet.
Utilizing the dining room as the education center is a technique many families use. They store all necessary materials in a cabinet or dresser. This prevents time being wasted for those objects that always seem to be misplaced.
Each child is responsible for the care and storage of their own supplies. Including such items as; their own pen, pencil, marker, and notebook(s). Have their names clearly marked on each item in sha'Allah. This prevents arguments on who has what and teaches the children responsibility.
Many large families find it easier to have 'school' hours. If you are unschooling then this would not be applicable to your family. They find that having the children work together at the dining room table at one time allows the parent to be available for any assistance they might need. This is also the time when assignments would be given and previous assignments reviewed.
'School time' is in the morning when the children are the most productive and the mind the most alert. All work assignments are to be worked on from 8:30 to 11:30. The day begins with Qur'an memorization, Islamic studies and then other relevant subjects. Many parents reinforce that this form of home education does not stifle the children's creative learning. The children know the expectations and after 11:30 they have 'free time' to spend in any manner that they wish in sha'Allah.
Infants are kept with mom because they will be quiet and content if held. Preschoolers can also participate in the 'education room'. They can be given their own tools such as crayons, paper and scissors. If they do not want to join then other toys can be made available in another part of the room. The oldest of the preschoolers is responsible for the younger ones but are not given free reign of authority. They are not permitted to punish their siblings without consulting a parent first in sha'Allah.
Older siblings can be vital support in home education. Having the older children teach the younger children is not only practical but has been found to succeed even more than adult instruction. Children do not feel the same pressure to perform with other children than they do with adults. Older siblings can find ways of teaching certain subjects that you may not have thought of in sha'Allah.
Housework seems an informatible challenge when you are homeschooling a large family. Scheduling work assignments can greatly reduce the workload of the parents. Give chores to each child and make it clear what the chores entail and when they are to be completed in sha'Allah. The rotation of these chores can vary from weekly, monthly, or yearly. This is entirely dependent upon your own family and their personal preferences to certain duties.
Another technique used by many large families is the marking of dishes. Each dish and glass is marked with the child's initials. This makes them responsible for own dishes and eliminates any misunderstandings when dishes are left out.
Having the children responsible for their own laundry is essential to reducing the burden of housework upon the parents(who are we kidding, the mother). Each child from the age of seven (this is a common and general reference) is responsible for the maintenance of their own clothes. This includes washing, folding and putting away. My three year old is responsible for putting his clothes in the basket, putting them in the washer and finally folding them and putting them away. If you encourage your children to do chores from a young age their is no room for disputes when they are older. Children love to help mom and dad from a young age but we often discourage them because including them would take much more time and effort. It does take more time when they are young but it be rewarding in the long run in sha'Allah.