by Christina Rivera
A woman once told me that raising more than one child was not much more effort than raising a single child in that if she were already making a sandwich, why not make five? It is true with parenting and it is true with home education. You have already made the choice, have the dedication, and made the lifestyle change that this requires. You may just be doing it longer, both during each day and during your lifetime. Be encouraged that it is so worth it. You will have to be more disciplined to make it all balance, but isn’t that just as life is? Each additional child requires a bit of a juggling act. The Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit will enable you to do it, if you truly want to learn. He is faithful to grow you into the person you need to be if you obey Him fully.
Harry and I have eight children. When I was young, I was sure I would only have one daughter. My husband laughs and scolds that I never dictated to Him how many sons I should have. I only had one daughter biologically. We have four sons and four daughters, three of whom are adopted. My point is that even if you think you aren’t the “Dugger type,” you can be found dreaming about warm, fuzzy heads and cuddly, milk kisses. After you’ve had those plump, little kisses, it’s time to go to work. I know. You’re tired. I get it. Take extra minerals and buck up mom and dad. You’re on an adventure!
We are not schooling as an assembly line. However, we are only one parent-team who has defined the goals and precepts of our home education to be solely based on Scripture and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we work with a unified and purpose-driven focus that can be applied to all children, giving way to their personality and bent. That’s my philosophical view of home educating children of varying ages.
I have identified certain modes of organization that have worked for me. I hope you find them helpful.
1) The use of rotation, grouping and teaching independence
2) Gifts and training (for both you and your child)
3) Get up before they do.
4) I’m busy with a child. What do the other kids do?
The use of rotation and teaching independence will be your friend.
Before other children come along, Number One has a dedicated mommy for her first year(s). As more babies are added to your family, this child will continue to grow and mature. It is important that she learn to value special times that nurture her spirit during her day. She will want to experience alone time, even before more siblings. She will want to experience this at play and doing “school.” She will want to experience work time where she has a chore that she’s learning, and one or two skills she has mastered and can do independently. You can grow this time of solitude as she matures, just like you can teach her to sit still or stay quiet for longer and longer periods of time. As siblings are added to your precious fold, you can keep this going, and add alone time with Number Two. Maybe since they’re the oldest, they can read a book together. With Number Three, Number One can read a simple book with her, or play blocks. With Number Four, Number One can play baby toys, talk to baby, and cuddle.
Precious child Number Two will prove to be a very different personality in many ways, because she is a different person. This was always shocking to me. I don’t know why, but I always expected another Number One. This child will be more this and less that. Now you can use the independent time you’ve taught Number One to teach the same ideas to Number Two, Number Three, and so on until the Lord decides you’ve had enough.
In our family, we eventually had three groups of kids – Biggles, Middles and Littles. The first two were always the Biggles. The Middles and the Littles grew up through the three stages. All we have now is Biggles and a Middle, so we rarely use that phraseology any longer. Even though we had eight children spanning a 17-year gap, I really only taught three groups or “grades” at one time.
You have gifts and weaknesses. So does your child. Use this to your advantage. I usually work first with the child who is the most needy and the one I may not be connecting with very positively. This is because I am usually more patient at the beginning of the day, right after I have had alone time with God. (See: “Get Up Before They Do” below.)
I assign books, writing, and chores based on what the child has been taught to do, and where his natural abilities give him the best chance of successful independent productivity.
I never give a child a job (school related or chore) that I haven’t taught thoroughly. I may not remember if I have taught the child, so I always ask, “Have you been taught to clean ________?” If they haven’t, I either teach them, or I ask another child who has been taught. I usually say, “Sorry, you need to wait until you are taught.” They pride themselves on knowing skills and being truly useful.
Get Up Before They Do and Create a Cheery Morning
I saved the ultra-magic weapon of all time for last. You need time to get yourself together before they’re running circles around you. This is usually only achieved after you are not nursing newborns or sick toddlers. It’s madness to think of it before then in my opinion.
Many mothers take this time in the evening with the mantra that they’re not morning people. I have observed that there are truly night owls, but also observed that because they stay up late and sleep in, they create night owl habits. This is something you will have to decide for yourself. I did not want to get into the trap of being up too late and being groggy and unhappy in the morning. I had experiences of other mommies in our co-op staying up to finish work until one in the morning and being irritable and testy.
My husband is a great enforcer of a bright and cheery morning. He insists that we all be friendly, cheerful and encouraging. I never had that experience, so I made excuses for myself. After sitting in many conferences with wise women (ladies saying this straight to my face for many years), I finally got the hint. So now I make myself go to bed and get my eight-ish hours, usually from 10:00 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. We take naps on Sunday, too.
What I do when some children are waiting while I’m busy with other children
Most Californians don’t own a lot of property. If you are blessed enough to have a yard, could you have a small trampoline? We were fortunate enough to have a sandbox with a swing or two, a tree to climb, a small plot of land to work, and a trampoline. Outside time is great if you have an area where they can be safe and be outdoors. This was one of the times my children had alone time (minus the dog).
Coloring and activity packets that follow the theme of your study work well for quiet time. When my kids were little, we did many unit studies following a chronological study of history. Even as they are older now, I have packets for them to do when they have free time that helps direct purposeful relax time. This year we are memorizing lists such as abbreviations, mountains of the world, the original thirteen colonies, and presidents.
F.O.B. (Foot On Bed) We have quiet time each afternoon. This includes time to think, time to dream, to read, and time to be silent. It’s a skill that can grow.
Large families can be fun, and so can those with just a few kids. If you have more than one child, you are part of this beautiful “multiples” club where we juggle our kiddles with love and hope for the future. Keep on strong until your dying breath. You and I have to be there for our kids and it doesn’t end. What a glorious ministry!
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Christina Rivera and her husband, Harry have eight children to love. They began homeschooling in 2001 and have gradated five of them, leaving three children to play and romp with. Their favorite subject at home is “farm schooling,” working with their chickens, bunnies, and gardening.