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Hi,

I could use some advice from those of you juggling 4-5-6 or more kids. I will be schooling 5 kids plus the 3 year old. Here are my biggest concerns that I really need to change this year, for my own sanity.

1. Chaos and noise. This is the biggest one. It seems like my house is very chaotic from morning until night, and the older I get, the more it's starting to drive me batty. I need order and calm at least some of the time-especially when I'm teaching someone 1-1.. I have 6 kids constantly mulling around the same two rooms distracting each other. 

2. My two older kids (6th/7th last year) came home from public school and their work last year was mediocre at best. I know it's a learning curve but it didn't seem to get any better as the year went a long. They "got it done" but rarely was their any real thought or quality to their work. WORK ETHIC. Seriously missing. And sloppiness. I know it's all in my expectations, but we had so much to do and so I let some of it slide as I just tried to survive. I do NOT have this problem with my next 3, who have been homeschooled since the beginning. 

3. The older boys only like to do their work in the living room, which is the heart of the chaos (open concept home). They do have desks in our sunroom, which is off of the kitchen. My husband just suggested bringing their desks downstairs so maybe that will take care of that?

4.  I need some kind of routine to our day. I started last year with this grand plan, even telling them WHERE they had to be at any certain time of day. That fizzled out quickly. We had kind of a rhythm to our day, but this coming year it is crucial that we have a routine. Do you all have a routine/schedule? Anything in particular work?

5. Just overall attitude and mood. My oldest boys (7th and 8th) are good kids, but they like to complain. I hear about it if they don't want to do something and it's grating on me. It's "why, no, i don't want to, why do we have to do that"...all the time. The don't see why we're studying grammar, Latin, or why they have to do a second page of math. Honestly, it's everything and a terrible example to set for their younger siblings.

I would appreciate any advice or suggestions for how to make this year better.

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Look into Managers of their Home. It really helped me think through what we could fit into our day as everything has to fit on the schedule. I discovered I wanted to get about 10 hours of school in each day! Not realistic! 

1. Chaos and noise. If you do Managers of their home , you will have each kid doing a different activity for every half hour or hour. This will help with the kids that wander around distracting others. Your older 5 kids could each have 30 minutes each with your 2 yo. They would have to watch/keep safe/entertain/ teach your youngest each day with a preselected activity/game/outdoor time. They would also have to clean up what ever they got out at that time.

2. With your older two, start the slogan, "Messy doesn't count". Do it first with one subject. Pick one, like spelling, and tell them that for their spelling workbook, if it is too messy they have to redo it on their own time after their other schoolwork is done. They won't like having their free time spend on redoing subjects. You must be consistent (which I struggle with). Once they are doing well with neatness in one subject, add another. 

4. While I love Managers of the Home, I use it more as a loose structure because with 6 kids, we never have a day that we can stick to a schedule exactly. With my older kids, I let them work on whatever they wanted to do independently. But I made them meet with me daily as scheduled, and watch the baby/toddler as scheduled. We also did as many subjects together as we could. So with my oldest 4 as they were close together in age, we did history (SOTW and extra books related), science, read aloud, Bible, art , music and Spanish together (but we rarely got to these last 3 subjects). They did math and language arts on their own level. 

5 attitude and mood.  They have been taught that it is acceptable to complain and whine. Once again be consistent ( I am not good at handing out consequences). If they whine or complain about math, they must give up 10 minutes of computer/TV time for each complaint. Or make them do an extra chore, or an extra 10 minutes of math. It may seem like a lot of work to keep track of but if you are consistent, they will quickly learn. You really need to work on this or soon you will have all 6 kids acting this way.

When my kids were younger, and we were starting a new school year, I would start our schedule gradually.  So like at 8:00 am they would like up in front of the chart, and see what they were supposed to be doing for the next 30 minutes. Then everyone would go off to get in done, with one kid watching the youngest and me working with one. Then when the timer went off, we would meet at the chart and if the kid did what they were supposed to do during that time, they each got 1 m&m (yes, when they were younger, they were excited by only 1 m&m!) For the first week, we would only do two things on the list, the next week we would add two more and so on. After we got the hang of it I stopped the m&ms, lineup and timer, but every so often we would bring it back if we needed to. 

Hope this helps! You can do this!!

Gretchen in NO. CA

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Firstly, acknowledge that what you are trying to do is hard! It's not you, it's hard work to homeschool multiple children.

Your older ones complaining a lot sounds to me like they are not owning their education, they've just transferred education ownership from the school/teacher to you. That's why their work ethic is bad (well, that and they are kids/teens!), because they're not invested for themselves.

I have similar ages (9th and 7th) and they really do better when they have some say and some control. I give them a lot of say in what they want to learn and how, with parameters. I get their input on materials. We talk about their goals. Once that is done, when they whinge (which they will, because teens!) I just turn it around - you chose it, you wanted to do it for xyz reasons, I will support you if you try but this is your education and I can't do it for you. Scaffolding by providing them materials, discipline and a space - maybe keep the sunroom for the olders? Your younger kids need you, don't let the older ones suck all the energy out of your day!

Think about what is important to you and your husband in your homeschool. What do you enjoy and value? That's where I start, bible and music are important to me and give me joy and motivation so I cut out other things that I 'should' be doing. We can't do everything, so do the important things. This is your home and your family, not a perfect homeschool family, what culture do you want to instill? 

Then, start small and build up good habits - and expect to have to revisit this regularly. Start tiny, with a regular start time and 2 subjects done well. When that's consistent add 1 more thing. For example, we do a short morning time to set a 'school start time' then my older kids get on with their own lists. This year we started with 4 basics - math, writing, violin, reading (for my older 2), when they can consistently do them well, and in good time, we add one more thing (stretched reading to include history or science reading), then in a few weeks another thing (music theory for my oldest). Yes, it means that you probably won't get through all the tick boxes on a curriculum - but what they get through will be done well.

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For the older two - They're getting to the age where motivation and follow-through just get harder and harder, whether they had been homeschooled from the beginning or in public school from the beginning.  If at all possible, I would outsource one class for each of them.  I would choose this partly based on what you find hardest to follow through on.  For me that would have been science or composition - science, because I just didn't care that much about it and composition because it was hard for me to think and offer feedback with several other kids needing me for other things.  For me, math and history were easier to jump in and out of on a dime.  So think about what would help you the most.  That outside accountability and feedback, even if it's an online class, can really help a subject that tends to go downhill by the end of the year.    

As mine got older, I tried to keep the morning time thing going - to start our day with truth and beauty, but it just got harder and harder to do this in a way that engaged everyone.  And so I finally gave it up in favor of everyone jumping into their own work and me making the rounds to teach one on one where needed.  If having a morning time together helps set the tone for a peaceful day, do it!  If it becomes one more burden that doesn't seem to help anyone, don't feel guilty about scrapping it, or moving it to lunch if you all eat together, or whatever works best for you.  

Routine - some years I put the hardest thing first.  I had one who struggled in math, so teaching her math was the first thing I did.  We were both fresh, I was more patient, and she enjoyed the rest of the day more with that done.  It kept us from getting to the tiring part of the day, feeling rushed, etc.  Some people start with their oldest ones and spend one on one time with them first and then send them off.  Some prefer to start with their youngest ones.  Figure out what works best for you and stick with it for a couple weeks and then evaluate how it's going.  

The noise and chaos would be a big issue for me too.  Some of my kids liked to have music going while they work, so they resorted to earbuds and cd-players even before they had ipods/phones.  But I've kinda always had a zero tolerance policy for noise and chaos inside, even unrelated to school, so that helped too.  Hopefully moving the older boys downstairs will solve your problem.  If not, I would pick a quiet place to work one on one even if it needs to be a bedroom.  

Managers of Their Home might be a great resource for you.  The best thing it did for me was help me realize there weren't enough hours in a day to do all the things I thought I ought to be doing.  But as far as making and following a schedule, it just made me even more stressed out.  To me, a routine was much more helpful than a schedule.  I turned into the meanest mom ever when I tried to keep us on a schedule.  

Lastly, I agree with LMD, what you are doing is really hard.  And so often it feels like we're not doing it well even though we really are.  Set some goals - maybe even layers of goals.  On paper, lots of goals would be great, but maybe they're not sustainable for a whole year.  When you get to the end of the year, what do you want to say you accomplished?  Can you imagine the work it takes to accomplish that?  Is it reasonable?  Do you feel stressed or a sense of peace?  If you feel stressed, start over with your bare minimum goals and try again - gradually adding on.    

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7 hours ago, Meadowlark said:

1. Chaos and noise. This is the biggest one. It seems like my house is very chaotic from morning until night, and the older I get, the more it's starting to drive me batty. I need order and calm at least some of the time-especially when I'm teaching someone 1-1.. I have 6 kids constantly mulling around the same two rooms distracting each other. 

2. My two older kids (6th/7th last year) came home from public school and their work last year was mediocre at best. I know it's a learning curve but it didn't seem to get any better as the year went a long. They "got it done" but rarely was their any real thought or quality to their work. WORK ETHIC. Seriously missing. And sloppiness. I know it's all in my expectations, but we had so much to do and so I let some of it slide as I just tried to survive. I do NOT have this problem with my next 3, who have been homeschooled since the beginning. 

3. The older boys only like to do their work in the living room, which is the heart of the chaos (open concept home). They do have desks in our sunroom, which is off of the kitchen. My husband just suggested bringing their desks downstairs so maybe that will take care of that?

4.  I need some kind of routine to our day. I started last year with this grand plan, even telling them WHERE they had to be at any certain time of day. That fizzled out quickly. We had kind of a rhythm to our day, but this coming year it is crucial that we have a routine. Do you all have a routine/schedule? Anything in particular work?

5. Just overall attitude and mood. My oldest boys (7th and 8th) are good kids, but they like to complain. I hear about it if they don't want to do something and it's grating on me. It's "why, no, i don't want to, why do we have to do that"...all the time. The don't see why we're studying grammar, Latin, or why they have to do a second page of math. Honestly, it's everything and a terrible example to set for their younger siblings.

I would appreciate any advice or suggestions for how to make this year better.

I cannot function in chaos, so I completely understand. I need a calm atmosphere.  I would recommend starting with your space.  I work hard at creating the atmosphere in our home.  Just like the ambience of a restaurant sets the mood, so does the ambience of our home.  Clutter, disorganization, etc almost always leads to my kids being less self-disciplined.  (When their play room is neat and organized, it is easier for the kids to stay on top of putting things away.  When the room is trashed, the attitude is more along the lines of "who cares?" and it just spirals and gets worse.  Their learning mentality is equally impacted by the environment.)  Sometimes I play music low in the background.  (My personal favorites are the LOTR's sound tracks.) 

Do your older kids have daily lesson plans?  My kids know clearly what is expected from them daily.  There is no debate/question.  Their day isn't finished until their plans are completed.   If you have push back, I would set firm boundaries/consequences or something along the lines of earning privileges.

I am in the midst of creating a completely new routine b/c I am adding 2 of my grandkids to our day.  We started back the end of June/beginning of July.  Our first week I focused on just my kids.  The next week I had only my granddaughter come.  This week she is not coming, only my grandson.  Next week, I will start alternating them by days.  Anyway, the pt being that I wanted to create a rhythm in manageable chunks.  Since your older 2 are the ones requiring the most focus on getting into a positive routine, I would start with them. While you are working on a routine with them, work on "quiet" enforcement with the other kids.  Train them in what sort of play/activities are acceptable in the school area of the house.  

My goal is to have "pegs" more than schedule.  More along the lines of a flow of what we do during the day vs. a time line of what gets done.  A routine where when I finish with this child, that child has a turn.  When we finish X, we start Y.  After x and y, it's lunch, etc.  A flow is the best I can do.  My kids (and now my grandkids) are trained to know that if they can't interrupt.  Interruptions are a HUGE time drain.  Taking the time to train your kids WHAT to do when they hit a standstill w/o interrupting will be worth the effort.  (Obviously the toddler is a different scenario, but the rest of your kids are old enough to be self-regulating/self-directing/self-entertaining.

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Re: complaining, that word can encompass a lot so one of the things I’ve talked about with my kids is what kinds of “complaining” are ok and when.  

Bringing me a problem you need help with “Mom, I’ve checked my work and the problem is still wrong, are you available to help me please?” A-okay.

Venting “This math is so hard!”  A little is okay. It’s human, I don’t expect them to be stepford children. After a certain point I remind them to let it go, at first gently and sympathetically, then if necessary, bluntly.

What they’re doing to you, “why do I hafta?” When I’m sure you’ve already explained that and basically they’re just trying to make you feel bad and wear you down, disrespectful, mean, manipulative, not okay.

I know someone is going to say these are not all complaining, but my kids had trouble telling the difference and felt like if I said, “no complaining!” Then they had to act like everything was fine all the time which was really upsetting to them.  They needed to know how to get emotional support appropriately. 

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Routine has always worked better for me and mine than a schedule.

We start at a set time, do our morning subjects, lunch, then the afternoon bits. Mornings are 3 R's with the younger ones (individual time with each), while the older ones do independent reading, etc., and the older ones get me for math and other intensive subjects in the afternoons. 

All my kids have all their subjects and assignments listed out for the whole week on one page.  Everyone knows that if I am busy with ____, then you look at the schedule and do the next thing you can do that does not require Mom. 

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19 hours ago, Meadowlark said:

Hi,

I could use some advice from those of you juggling 4-5-6 or more kids. I will be schooling 5 kids plus the 3 year old. Here are my biggest concerns that I really need to change this year, for my own sanity.

1. Chaos and noise. This is the biggest one. It seems like my house is very chaotic from morning until night, and the older I get, the more it's starting to drive me batty. I need order and calm at least some of the time-especially when I'm teaching someone 1-1.. I have 6 kids constantly mulling around the same two rooms distracting each other. 

2. My two older kids (6th/7th last year) came home from public school and their work last year was mediocre at best. I know it's a learning curve but it didn't seem to get any better as the year went a long. They "got it done" but rarely was their any real thought or quality to their work. WORK ETHIC. Seriously missing. And sloppiness. I know it's all in my expectations, but we had so much to do and so I let some of it slide as I just tried to survive. I do NOT have this problem with my next 3, who have been homeschooled since the beginning. 

3. The older boys only like to do their work in the living room, which is the heart of the chaos (open concept home). They do have desks in our sunroom, which is off of the kitchen. My husband just suggested bringing their desks downstairs so maybe that will take care of that?

4.  I need some kind of routine to our day. I started last year with this grand plan, even telling them WHERE they had to be at any certain time of day. That fizzled out quickly. We had kind of a rhythm to our day, but this coming year it is crucial that we have a routine. Do you all have a routine/schedule? Anything in particular work?

5. Just overall attitude and mood. My oldest boys (7th and 8th) are good kids, but they like to complain. I hear about it if they don't want to do something and it's grating on me. It's "why, no, i don't want to, why do we have to do that"...all the time. The don't see why we're studying grammar, Latin, or why they have to do a second page of math. Honestly, it's everything and a terrible example to set for their younger siblings.

I would appreciate any advice or suggestions for how to make this year better.

I want to +1 the ideas of routine vs. schedule and outsourcing a class for each of your older students, if possible.

1) Chaos is hard for me, too.  I only have 4 kids, but they're all close in age and 3 of them are very competitive boys.  It only truly got better as they got older, I'm sorry to say.   I had years of reminding them not to interrupt me or each other.  Are the kids bothered by chaos or only you?  Are your kids motivated by rewards?  punishments?  Perhaps you could really think about ways you might be encouraging the chaos and work from there?  For us, it helped to have separate areas for my kids to work.  It helped to have rewards at the end of a well-done school day.   It helped when I was intentional about staying focused, rather than distracted by my phone or laundry or meal prep or whatever.  Are you interested in reading something like Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie?

2) 6/7/8 grades for my boys have been almost defined by mediocre work.  My boys needed a lot of physical activity at those ages.  Also, I have found some fun resources on Teachers Pay Teachers like 'speeding tickets' or 'correction tickets' to hand out to my kids when they rush through work, rather than give their best effort.  When one of my boys hands me something mediocre, I'll return it with a speeding ticket.  I wouldn't fret as much about not covering all the stuff you wanted to get done.  It's better to do less well than a lot poorly.   If the standards are based on quality, I think the quantity will come with time and maturity.

3) Let the boys work where they want?  If they like working in the chaos but can't get their stuff done, maybe they need to 'earn' it?  Like, they have to prove to you they can work well in the midst of the open concept, otherwise the desks go downstairs.  I like Andrew Pudewa's talk on Teaching Boys and working with their general bent.  I think it's free at the IEW website.

4) Routine is great.  I would start with a consistent wake-up and morning meeting time for everyone and then build from there.  My kids all had planners and knew what they needed to do in a day.  The most important part of routine in our home when my kids were younger was afternoon quiet time.  FOR EVERYONE.  We got up at a relatively consistent time, had our morning basket time and then the olders would do their independent stuff while I did 1:1 with youngers.  My kids are still not allowed to interrupt me when I'm working 1:1.  I agree with the PP that said Managers of Their Homes is a fantastic resource and my best take-away was learning my expectations were bonkers.  Timed schedules work great for us now that my youngest is 7th, but they were frustrating when my oldest was 7th.  Are your older children open to helping with the younger children at certain times of the day?  What about hiring a helper for you?  Does the 3 yr old play alone (some do, some won't)?  I like the idea of "quiet boxes" for preschoolers or younger kids to play with, with very special toys and games to use within the daily routine with a different box for each day of the week.  The items in the boxes would change from time to time.  This is something fun for a younger kids to look forward to and play with independently during the time you work 1:1 with the older kids.

5) Some of us are more apt to complain.  I'm like that, and I'm only now coming to terms with what a drag it is to be around someone like that (me).  I'm working hard to stop it.  The only  thing I have for you here is, don't take it personally.  Hold your ground and let them get it off their chest and roll off your back.  However, if they're complaining because they're stressed or unhappy, that's worth unpacking.  Maybe your kids' brains are better wired to study different topics and subjects?  Maybe you outsource the subject they most dislike?  Whatever the cause, I wouldn't engage with the complaining behavior and I would give consequences for complaining (write "I will be thankful" 100 times? Call 3 people and give them a compliment? do an extra chore? come up with 5 reasons Latin or grammar will help them in the future? if they are really being turkeys, you could assign an essay on the benefits of Latin or grammar or whatever they happen to be upset about).

Anyway, be encouraged!  It's a big undertaking.  I once figured out if my 4 kids went to PS, they'd have like 32 teachers among them, and those teachers would have a prep period most days.  You have a lot of children and a lot to do in a day.  I hope your coming year is peaceful and successful and joyful.

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