I am not getting it all done; Homeschooling multiple children & multiple subjects
“I am not getting it all done…”
That’s what she said to me the other day. A mom who had recently begun homeschooling her four children was telling me how she had been struggling to find the time to cover every subject with every child every day.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard moms say this sentence over the years. It is understandable. We have to cover subjects that go from reading and writing to foreign language, math, science, history and then to music, art and computer. For those of us with several children, it can be even more challenging, trying to meet all the instructional needs of each grade level every day.
No wonder we can’t seem to fit it all in. I know I struggled with this a lot when my children were younger. I had had four children in a period of six years. I was daily spending time trying to teach one to read, work with another on his cursive writing, introduce fractions to a third, and gather materials for a science experiment for the fourth.
You know. Like the guy in the circus who has those long poles with spinning plates balanced on top of each one. As one plate slows down and begins to wobble, the guy has to run to it and twirl it around again, just in time to run to the next one and keep it spinning. One after the other after the other.
I was spinning homeschool plates each day, going from one child to the other to the other, and by the end of the day I always felt like I had done a lot of work, but accomplished very little. Some subjects always seemed to fall by the wayside. No rubber bands in the cabinet? Well, I guess we can’t do the science lab today – maybe tomorrow. You didn’t finish your math problems? We can work on it together in the morning while everyone else is getting dressed.
I wondered if I would ever be able to do it all. Then one day I didn’t wonder any more. I realized that I would NOT be able to do it all! There is absolutely NO WAY we can do it all. Does that surprise you to hear me say that?
I just figured out that I would never be able to teach everything about everything to my kids. No one ever learns everything about everything in school.
Does this mean that my kids were not going to have a complete education? Of course not. Though it was likely that we would not be covering 13th century ancient Chinese history or the string theory of physics, I didn’t have to stress about it. If I taught my children to love learning and how to learn, then I would be giving them the best possible education. They would be gaining a way to educate themselves.
Of course, I consolidated subjects whenever I could, and I highly recommend that for families. Whenever possible, we would cover the same history or science together, and I would give different assignments to the children based on their abilities. Then we would all come together and present what we had done – from illustrations, to short stories, to reports or even plays – they were all about the same subject, and we would all learn a bit more by hearing what everyone else did.
I taught my children to use reference materials, do safe internet searches, and we spent hours at a time in the library, enjoying the adventure of hunting down information. I even broke down the word “research” into its prefix “re” and the root “search,” telling my kids that it was an adventure to "search out" information hidden in the texts around us. One of my sons was so energized by the idea of research that he often wore his safari hat while he did any history work, telling me that he was prepared to hunt out the information.
I focused on the three R’s during the elementary years. After all, how many times do we have to cover Medieval Times or the Boston Tea Party in elementary school? If students get a solid understanding of how to read and write, and they learn the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, then they have the foundations to build on those skills in the upper grades.
Now eventually, I had to let my older ones branch out into individual work as they entered high school. We just couldn’t do every subject as a group. But by that age, they were more able to do independent work and (for the most part) required less and less of me to complete their assignments.
This is what we want for our children in a home education. We are striving to produce independent learners who have a life-long desire to know more. It doesn’t always play out perfectly. Believe me, I know. I have had struggling learners and two with learning issues (which I like to refer to as just a personal way to process material that is out of the box). But we would try different learning strategies until things seemed to click better. Plus we always stressed the fascination with learning something new and tried to allow them to pursue many subjects in their areas of interest.
Did my children have gaps when they graduated? Of course. We all have gaps. We all don’t know everything about everything. But if they know how to find information and if they have a love for learning, then they can seek out information to fill any of those gaps as they continue in a career or in a college setting. They will be proactive and can take control of their learning.
So don’t fret if you feel that you just can’t seem to finish everything in your lesson plans each day. Try to consolidate when you can. Do some non-core subjects every other day or once a week. Revisit your plans again and again, praying for wisdom as you do.
And know that you are providing an opportunity to build a love of learning that will benefit your children for the rest of their lives, giving them the best possible academic tools for success. You are getting the important things done!