A large family relaxed homeschool approach? Meet Shelly, a homeschool mother of 11 and fellow blogger, who believes in keeping homeschool simple and relaxed.
Tell us about you and your family.
I’m Shelly. My husband Shawn and I met right after high school graduation and have been together ever since. We have eleven children, and they are 22, 17, 16, 14, 11, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, and 3. People always ask me if I’m crazy for having so many kids, and I always tell them, Maybe just a little! My husband has worked in a foundry for the last twelve years, and I have settled in as a SAHM after working a couple of years in retail.
How long have you been homeschooling?
We’ve just completed our seventh year of homeschooling this year, although I did burn out after our first two years of homeschooling and sent the kids back to school for a while. (Big mistake!) After having them in school for a while, I realized how much I missed the kids and how much easier it was for our family to homeschool, so I pulled them back out, and we haven’t looked back!
Tell us about your large family relaxed homeschool approach.
We have tried almost every major type of homeschooling there is and have settled in as relaxed/eclectic homeschoolers. I’ve found that there are benefits to every approach we’ve tried, but the one thing our family needs most is simplicity. Having such a large family, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed when we try to add too much onto our days.
Year-round homeschooling or traditional calendar homeschooling?
My teens stick pretty closely to the school calendar because they want to be able to spend the summer with their friends, although they do start about two weeks earlier and finish earlier than their friends, as well.
My younger kids all do much better with some sort of routine, so year-round homeschooling works best with them. We usually start in July and do school six weeks on, one week off until the week of Thanksgiving, when we begin a six-week break that lasts through New Year’s Day. After that, we pick back up with our regular routine, except for Easter when we take a two-week break. We usually finish sometime in May and then will take another six-week break until the next school year for us begins.
Tell us about your large family relaxed homeschool routine.
I’ve separated our kids into three groups of learning:
- The Littles (3,5,6,7)
- The Older Kids (8,10,11)
- The Teens (14, 16, 17)
Breaking it down like this has really helped to make our routine more manageable, so that’s how I’ll describe it here.
The Littles usually start school around 10am, after breakfast and some morning chores are completed. We don’t follow a strict time schedule, but we do generally do things in the same order every day.
- We start with morning table time when I work one-on-one with each child on phonics and math unless our unit study covers those subjects for the day, in which case we’ll skip table time. (They like those days!) I don’t go overboard with seat work with my kids. Each child will usually only spend about 20 minutes or less doing these assignments.
- Next is Bible time, followed by our read-aloud.
- Lastly, we do our unit study activities. We are currently working through Five in a Row (FIAR), so after we’re done reading, we’ll usually do two or three activities related to the story. *We only do this every other day, since my older kids do their own unit study separately. There just wouldn’t be enough hours in the day for me to do everything every single day.
After the Littles are done, it’s time for the older kids to start. Their routine is exactly like the Littles, except we do either spelling or grammar, depending on the day, and math. We do not use FIAR for their unit study. We use Konos, which is a little more advanced and is perfect for this age group.
We’re usually finished with their work about an hour after lunch, so we really only spend a total of about 3 hours doing actually structured learning. The rest of their time is spent pursuing their interests and completing any additional chores.
Our teens work mostly independently, so they are allowed to do their work whenever they choose, as long as they get it done. All three of them learn so differently that I’ll write about each of them separately.
- My oldest daughter (17) is very no-nonsense and straightforward. She doesn’t like to feel that time is being wasted with needless busy work, so she prefers to use textbooks for most of her learning. We weren’t able to find textbooks for all of her subjects for this coming year, so she will also be using living books and the internet, as needed. She’s also been using Rosetta Stone for her Japanese.
- My son (16) is very active, loves the outdoors, and hates reading and book work. Since we can’t keep those two factors completely out of his school routine, I found the most straightforward, no-nonsense books for him that I could find for grammar and algebra. Otherwise, he’ll be using nature study (combined with wildlife photography), experiments, and, occasionally a textbook for science. At this point, we’re not 100% sure what he’ll be doing for history. He’ll either be continuing what he did this year and use movies, documentaries, and living books to study military history, or I’ll be writing my own curriculum on World Folklore for him to notebook through. That’s still up in the air.
- My second-oldest daughter (14) loves to read and hates textbooks, so she always uses a very Charlotte Mason-type approach, using literature-based curriculum for pre-algebra, algebra, and language arts, and living books for everything else. I do want her to write a bit more than she did this past year, so she will be notebooking this year, also.
Complete the sentence: Our homeschooling happens mostly at…
Hmmm…everywhere? Just kidding. Let’s see, the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the backyard, and for my older kids, their bedrooms.
What have you picked for your curriculum next year?
Oh, this is going to take a while. 🙂
- Five in a Row- Pre-K, K, 1, and 3
- Liberty Mathematics- K, 1
- Adventures in Phonics– K, 1, 3
- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons- K, 1, 3
- Life of Fred Math, Pre-Algebra, Algebra- 3, 4, 5, 7, 9
- Spectrum Math- 3, 4, 5, 7
- Life of Fred Language Arts- 9
- Daily Grams- 7, 11, 12
- No-Nonsense Algebra- 11
- A Beka Consumer Mathematics- 12
- Building Spelling Skills- 4, 5, 7
- Contemporary Chemistry- 12
- Physics Essentials for Dummies- 12
- Exploring the World Around You- 11
- Quantum Physics- Alistair I.M. Rae
- Rosetta Stone Japanese
- Konos Character Curriculum Vol. 2- Carole Thaxton and Jessica Hulcy
Otherwise, we will be using lots of library books and copywork. I hope I didn’t forget anything!
List 3 books about homeschooling that really impacted you.
- Teach Your Own, by John Holt
- Learning All the Time, by John Holt
- Dumbing Us Down, the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, by John Taylor Gatto (not necessarily a homeschooling book, but it certainly solidified my resolve to never put my kids back in school again.)
Your family is going on an unplanned trip, not much time to pack, you must homeschool the kids while traveling and you can only take 5 of your homeschooling resources/books with you. What would you take?
- A laptop, complete with WiFi and Netflix
- The Little House series that always inspires us!
- Lots of paper, markers, and pencils.
- Our Konos curriculum it’s flexible enough that I could use it for any of my kids.
- A camera for my kids who loves to take pictures!
If you had the chance to start homeschooling all over again today with the knowledge and experience you have now, what would you do differently?
I would not try to recreate school at home, which is what I did the first two years we homeschooled. I hadn’t read up enough on the different approaches and didn’t really know anyone who homeschooled, so school-type learning was all I knew. That was what caused the burnout and our trip back into public education for a couple of years. If there is one thing I could tell any new homeschooler, it would be this: Why try to imitate something that isn’t working?
Shelly, this is so awesome getting a glimpse into your homeschool! Thanks for taking the time to share with #SocialButterflySunday! Hope to see you link up again this week 🙂
Thanks for clicking over. I’ll see you there!
These stories are very encouraging. When I first considered homeschooling my ideas where school at home not but only because I didn’t know any better. Stories like yours are a reminder to follow our hearts and don’t force what doesn’t work. Thanks for sharing!
Believe me, I also tried to do school-at-home at first, too! That’s why I’m so passionate about spreading the word to newer homeschoolers that it doesn’t have to be that way. Thanks for commenting!
Shelly, your post is so encouraging! I just love so many things you said in it. I love how each child is different and how you cared to customize each individual learning according to their learning styles, needs, and interests. Thank you for the reminders that we can keep it simple and efficient and that we should not try to imitate what is not working in our schools!
Thank you so much. If there’s one thing I hope for people to get out of my posts, it’s that they CAN homeschool in any number of circumstances. Thank you so much for this series!
“Why try to imitate something that isn’t working?” Well said!
Thank you, Bronwen. I think that’s the key to a successful homeschool!
Shelly, you just amaze me! I am with you, we keep it relaxed here too, simplicity is key and I only have 3. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you so much. I couldn’t do any of this without God. I think relaxed homeschooling is the best of both worlds- structure where you need it and freedom to explore!
Shelley, you have encouraged me so much and I am sure so many other moms as well. You are a fine example of doing what works for your family. The more I read stories from other homeschooling moms, the more I understand that the greatest homeschooling experience for your child will not be found in buying every curriculum other there. It will be in learning your child’s education style and customizing his/her experience to where they can learn best.
My biggest passion at this stage of my life is to encourage other homeschooling parents that you CAN do it! Thanks so much for commenting!