When my firstborn was four months old, I found out I was pregnant with his sister. By the fall of his Kindergarten year, he was a big brother to three younger sisters, with his first brother on the way. Another brother and sister joined over the next few years. Does this sound like a recipe for peace?
You might think that with so many little people arriving so close together, we’d be crazy to consider homeschooling. And maybe we were. But in retrospect, it was the very thing that saved us from chaos! If you think that many littles + homeschooling is a recipe for insanity, I’d like to convince you otherwise!
No Peace in Perfection
Parenting (of any number of children) will take every last ounce of energy you have. It may seem that the stress would multiply with each child. Funny how it doesn’t always work that way.
I read this article recently about a survey suggesting that stay-at-home moms with four or more children are the happiest. I knew it was true! Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not trying to one-up anybody. And I’m not suggesting that babies are all fun and games. Here is why the article clicked for me:
They found that moms with four or more kids consider themselves “very” or “extremely” happy. As the writer points out: “For stay-at-home moms, managing four or more children will mellow all but the most stubborn of perfectionists.”
Most everyone comes to a point in life where she realizes that the expectations she set for herself are not only out of reach, they were unreasonable in the first place. That realization comes to each of us in different ways. For me, homeschooling many little people forced me to abandon the fairy tale and grab hold of reality. Surprisingly, reality is a lot more peaceful place to dwell!
Sometime around the fourth pregnancy and discussions of “big family” my husband made a wise observation that turned out to shape our perspective on a lot of things. He said, “People are going to think we are weird. It’s not a matter of if, just a matter of when.” Nobody wants to be thought of as weird. But if you homeschool and you have a large family, you can’t help it – you’ve already crossed the line. Turns out there is a lot of freedom on the other side of that line!
Have you ever taken a look at all the things you do during the day and asked yourself why you feel the need to do all those things? Have you ever realized that at the bottom of it, the answer is often just “That’s how people do it.” Or (put another way) “People would think we’re weird if we don’t.” Once you are already weird, here just a few of the things you can stop doing:
- The kids don’t have to bathe ever day or even (gasp!) every week, depending on their age. My 16-month-old has had fewer baths in his life than I could count on one hand. (Seriously, the stinky parts get personal attention multiple times a day. He’s all good.)
- You don’t need to wear (and therefore wash) a new outfit every day. Recently, I told my 11-year-old a story about how I was teased in middle school because I wore the same windbreaker to school every day and someone behind me said, “Isn’t that the same shirt you wore yesterday?” He didn’t get it. He was shocked when I told him that most people think that you need to put on fresh clothes every morning.
- You don’t have to set up the house the way most people would. If two bunk beds, a trundle, a toddler bed and a crib fit better in the “master bedroom,” mom and dad actually are allowed to use one of the smaller rooms.
Freedom in Homeschooling
This same idea flowed over into our homeschool as we continued to discover things that we didn’t have to do. I named my blog Homeschooling without Training Wheels because that’s exactly how it felt. It was helpful to learn using someone else’s model. But once I got my balance, removing the “training wheels” brought more freedom and flexibility!
After the fifth baby, I had my first experience of postpartum depression. It came back during the seventh pregnancy and lasted until he weaned. Life has not been all sunshine and roses. But those low, dark times forced me to strip away anything that wasn’t necessary. And, when the clouds parted and stability returned, I found that I didn’t need to return to many of the things I had dropped!
Even in the homeschool, Mama doesn’t have to be the source of all learning. Children can teach themselves things. Children can teach each other things. School can be a family activity. And you can even do school by simply reading and having great conversations! Sure, having lots of littles can make you crazy. But sometimes it’s the crazy that makes you sane again.
[bctt tweet=”Large family? Great tips from Peace out of Chaos: Homeschooling Many Littles by Lynna of @hswotrainingwls, part of 20 Days of #Homeschooling Encouragement.” username=”busyboysbrigdade”]