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Cammie Arn

I’m often asked how exactly I do it all. I mean I do have 8 kids, 4 of which are still in my homeschool and 4 who are adults. Parenting doesn’t stop at the diploma, trust me! In addition to homeschooling, I serve on the SPED Homeschool Team, teach a girls small group at church, teach two classes at our weekly co-op, volunteer in the nursery for the local homeschool choir and I work 3 part-time jobs. My husband’s schedule is much the same. I say all this to say that even with all this, I still don’t do it all. No one can. We can only do our best. But there are a few tips for making a large family homeschool run more smoothly.

Tips for Your Large Family Homeschool

 

Large Family Buddy System

This is my biggest secret!
I currently assign two sets of buddies. My children’s ages are 4, 9, 15, and 16, so I usually match my 15-yr-old with my 4-year-old and my 16-year-old boy with the 9-year-old. Currently, my two big kids serve their buddy a meal before serving their own and help with getting clothes out of dressers if the younger child can’t reach.

 

Large Family Laundry

My seasons here have ebbed and flowed as I added babies or sent an older one to work. We have always had 3-4 bedrooms in our home, so I assigned laundry days by the bedroom, leaving sheets and towels for Saturday. The buddy system also comes into play for laundry. The big kids in the bedroom wash and dry or hang out the laundry for the littles. This has greatly cut down on laundry room congestion.

 

Large Family Meal Planning

Planning for meals is crucial. Whenever possible, I cook overnight while I sleep. I generally have several crockpots going at the same time. My last cooking session included pinto beans, potatoes, and spaghetti sauce all cooking at the same time. Then, these meals were packed for lunch or frozen for later. I prep individual ingredients for later use as often as I can, such as, precooked frozen meat, diced pepper, and onions.

My other trick is theme nights. It’s helps the grocery budget too. This is my current routine:

  • Monday Italian
  • Tuesday Sandwich night/Soup and Salad
  • Wednesday Mexican
  • Thursday Breakfast for Dinner/Casserole night
  • Friday Pizza
  • Saturday Chicken/Pork Chops/Roast
  • Sunday leftovers

 

Large Family Homeschool

I schedule the same subjects to be studied across all ages so that I only have to keep up with one lesson plan. The different grade levels come from the depth of the particular assignments, but the content is the same. 

  • My big kids read out-loud to my littles
  • We go to co-op weekly to provide accountability 
  • We take every day as it comes but use scheduled weekly goal sheets for each student
  • I do my very best to not compare my children to each other or other children 

 

Large Family Relationships

Number one rule in our house is to never go to bed angry. I spend a great deal of my time while children are young training them about right from wrong. We do our best to draw any squabble back to the Bible. This includes lots of teaching on forgiveness and the benefit of not holding grudges. We talk about servanthood beginning at home and doing our best to put others needs before our own. Showing kindness, sharing and teamwork is how we roll.

 

The large family homeschool life has its challenges, but with a few simple routines it can run more smoothly. Plus, the rewards of a large family sharing life together make the normal chaos worth every challenge.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

Holidays are tricky for families dealing with atypical situations, but that doesn’t mean holidays need to magnify these areas of your family life. Follow these DIFFERENT steps to ensure you won’t miss out on a joyful holiday season with your family.

 

D – Develop a plan

No matter how many activities your family would like to do over the holiday season, take a critical look at your schedule, at what is essential and what isn’t. Purposefully blocking in margin around these essentials reduces stress and the pull towards over-booking holiday activities. Then, discuss as a family what traditions or activities matter most to each of you. Finally, match open dates and times in your calendar with these top traditions/activities.

 

Also realize every year will be different and just because you may only be able to schedule in three or four activities this year, this doesn’t mean next year you will have to do the same.

 

I – Individualize acceptance

Holiday activities are often accompanied by vivid memories and biases on how they should be done or enjoyed. But, when you have a family member who has a disability, sickness, or other struggles that require a holiday tradition to be modified it can be difficult to make the necessary adjustments if you can’t be flexible. Yes, your family tradition may take on a new flavor, but that doesn’t mean the new flavor is worse than the original. It is just different.

 

Over time your family member may be able to adjust to the original way you remember enjoying this holiday activity, or over time the modified activity may become more favored by you and your family than the original.

 

F – Focus on strengths

Holiday celebrations and traditions often stretch relationships, sensory thresholds, and much more. Unfortunately, this stretching can cause contention between family members who only see the weakness others possess in comparison to their strengths. On the other hand, these differences in strengths can be beneficial, gifts that complement other family members in need.

 

Especially during this season of giving, it can be helpful to set aside time to discuss individual strengths and weaknesses of each family member, create awareness, and purposefully work towards strengthening each other by better supporting one another.

 

F – Frame togetherness

Just because your family may want to spend more time together creating memories and doing your favorite holiday activities, it may not be realistic to expect everyone to spend all their spare time together doing these activities, especially when considering the needs of the more introverted and medically fragile members of your family.

 

Framing holiday time together with family members who must build rest into their daily schedules should be prioritized by setting aside not only specific days of the week but also the specific times of day for that rest. For instance, if the morning is the best time of day for your child, then booking a matinee for your family to attend the Nutcracker would be better than holding out for an evening performance like you remember enjoying from your childhood.

 

E – Embrace forgiveness

No one is perfect, and yet we often fantasize about having perfect holiday experiences with our imperfect family and less than perfect self. Realistically it is better to aim for ideal and build a larger buffer of forgiveness and understanding into our holiday planning.

 

Sicknesses, miscommunications, forgetfulness, and the general confusion and chaos which happens during the holiday season typically remind us we need to be okay with allowing wiggle room into our “perfect” holiday plans. This way, we don’t ruin our entire experience because we struggle to see beyond the imperfections and to simply enjoy the experiences we have been given to share with our family.

 

“If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities”

 

R – Remember to love

The greatest gift we can give any time of the year is to love others the way we would like to be loved ourselves. It’s not about the gifts we work so hard to hunt down and buy. Sometimes the pursuit of the perfect gift ends up sidetracking us from being anything but loving.

 

If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities. Many times, this means we have to sacrifice our wants to love, but this is the exact love that Christmas is all about.

 

E – Enjoy the journey

Joy is essentially the bi-product of where we determine our enjoyment or fulfillment will draw from. If our joy rests solely on the product of our day, or even the season, we do not find fulfillment because life’s twists and turns can keep us from reaching these goals on time or how we had imagined them to turn out. But, if we instead seek to rest our joy on the journey towards reaching our goals, we can more readily find joy in our progress as well as in our relationships we might have otherwise overlooked.

 

During the holiday season, focusing on the joy of the journey can require even more intentional concentration as our days, weeks, and even months have checklists for things we don’t normally prioritize in our lives. This is when getting done what the day allows without sacrificing the joyful journey alongside our family members needs to become an even more intentional practice as well as something we intentionally celebrate throughout the season.

 

N – Non-negotiable relationships

Loving others is difficult and the holiday season often brings our lives closer in proximity to relatives we don’t always associate with regularly. And, while it is important to set boundaries with others, proper boundaries always leave room for any relationship to continue to grow if these individuals make positive changes and establish more healthy habits and boundaries.

 

Everything we can do on our end to leave a relationship open, even if we have to mostly close out a family member because of their personal choices or extenuating circumstances, leaves room for that door to widen once again in the future. We can’t always take on the full weight of what another family member is going through or allow the harmful or unsafe choices immediate or extended family members have made into our homes, but we can show there is always room in our hearts to love beyond these extenuating circumstances.

 

T – Take action

 

Finally, it is important to remember to act and put these practices to work. A plan and good intentions will never lead you to where you want to go. Only by stepping out in faith to approach this holiday season differently and move beyond various obstacles that in the past may have held you or your family back from experiencing joy will the season be the most joyful one you could experience.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Teaching a child how to hike parallels the larger tasks of homeschooling and parenting.  Hiking, as well as homeschooling and parenting, may have many technical pieces of instruction, but never should we dismiss the greater benefit of the journey itself. There is a greater benefit of the homeschooling journey too, and it has more to do with walking the path with our children each day than how well any of us masters the hiking itself.

 

A Family that Hikes Together

Our family has been hiking since before we had kids. My husband and I both came from hiking families. Plus, within a few days after each of our children were born, as an initiation into the family, we introduced them to hiking.

As an infant, our child would ride in a front-pack when we would take off for a nearby trail.  As each child grew bigger, the transition from facing towards one of us in the front-pack to facing out happened around the second or third month.  Next, the child graduated from our front-pack to a more sturdy hiking backpack.

But we did not leave each child in the backpack stage. Instead, we observed that child’s walking acuity.  We paid particular attention to how well the child mastered uneven terrain and how resilient the child was to the occasional fall.  Our oldest was a natural pack mule on the trail and thankfully so because he was as solid as one too. He became rather difficult to carry early as a toddler, and we were all too happy to let him take that stocky frame and carry it on his own two feet.  But his younger brother was completely different. Our second child had difficulty mastering uneven surfaces. He hated walking on grass and especially when he needed to transition from the grass to another type of surface. Thankfully he was extremely light, and we managed well in the need to carry him much longer than his older brother when we went out on our hiking adventures.

Each child’s readiness considered, we still did not transition right away to multi-mile hikes as soon as each started putting their feet to the trail.  Instead, we had each walk part of the way and ride the other. At first we continued to carry an empty backpack and allowed the child to ride when walking became too difficult or was slowing down the rest of the party, but eventually, we transitioned making our shoulders available for the occasional rest.  

 

Hiking Milestones

Not until each child had built up enough personal stamina did we remove the option to ride.  But, getting our children walking on the path by themselves was only the first milestone in teaching them to hike. In the years to follow, as our family hiking continued, we continued to teach our children lessons on the trail.  

Our children learned how to:

  • Plan wisely and pack enough supplies.  Acknowledging your unique needs and properly preparing to address those needs dependent on the conditions of the trail and the length of the hike is extremely important if you are to get the most out of the trip. Ill-preparation can lead to uncomfortable situations and the potential need to make otherwise unnecessary changes.
  • Be considerate of others. No matter who is on the trail with you or who will follow your path consideration is appreciated.  These lessons involved making room for others who are slower or faster than you are and making sure to “leave no trace” so the hike will be equally appreciated by those who follow.
  • Look out for dangerous conditions. Being observant or taking appropriate action when necessary is essential to hiking safety.  From determining an animal and it’s probable proximity from droppings and prints to knowing when to make noises to warn animals of your approach, when to stand still to avoid getting attacked or trampled, and how to protect yourself if caught in a storm are all invaluable lessons to keeping safe on the trail.
  • Enjoy the journey.  Taking time to look up from the trail to watch the wildlife, smell the flowers, take in a scene, or stand in awe of the magnificent beauty that God alone can create so flawlessly has to be cultivated and encouraged. Looking beyond the trail to be immersed in the experiences is the greatest reward a hiking experience has to offer.
  • Cultivate relationships.  Talking on the trail or even sharing long periods of quiet pondering when walking side-by-side with others strengthens relationships.  Hiking parties naturally bond on the trail and these bonds have strengthened relationships in our immediate family and with extended family and/or friends we have hiked with.
  • Never give up. Hiking can be very tiring especially in high-altitude, dry, and steep conditions.  The determination to finish the trail before you start, unless conditions cause a necessary detour, helps for keeping the course when the trail gets the hardest.

 

Greatest Benefit of the Journey

Why do I share these things with you?  Because over the years as our family has taken countless hiking trips from short half-mile hikes in quaint campgrounds to grueling hikes down into the Grand Canyon and up again, there is a wonderful parallel for how teaching our children to hike has mimicked our 17 years of homeschooling and 22 years of parenting. Little by little we have trained our children not only to hike but also how to hike well, and still at the ages of 22, 20, and 14 they continue to do a lot of “hiking” alongside us as we teach them how to best follow the trail God has set before our children in the way they should go. Thankfully they still desire that we keep hiking with them through the ups and downs of their daily lives which has been the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey.

“Our children still desire that we keep hiking with them through the ups and downs of their daily lives which has been the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey.

Our children at the beginning needed us to help them with everything.  But, teaching them the mechanics of life was only the beginning of teaching them all the knowledge that my husband and I had acquired over the years. In fact, we are still teaching our children as they actively navigate much of their trails now on their own. The same is true for homeschooling and parenting.  We teach our children reading, writing, math, and other life skills, but if we stop walking alongside them once we have taught them these things then we miss out on the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey – the deepening relationship.

 

Path Yet Ahead

My encouragement to you as you look back at your homeschooling and parenting journey so far, and then look forward towards what yet you have to teach, there will always be enough path and time for the lessons that need to be taught as long as you plan wisely and determine to never give up. The key is in teaching the technical lessons that build on mastery and allow time for integration: enjoy the journey, cultivate the relationships, build awareness of potential dangers, and teach your children the importance of the impact God desires to make through them on the world around them.

Thankfully, God provides the trail as well as a continuous stream of supplies. So, as long as we follow His directions every day, we will not get off track or lose our way and our relationships with our children will only grow more strong and beautiful as we walk alongside them on this journey we have the privilege to share.

 

We at SPED Homeschool are so glad you have allowed us to take this journey with you, and we would love for you to share snapshots of what your homeschooling journey looks like.  Feel free to share a picture or story that makes your homeschool unique and beautiful, and let us know if you would allow us to share your story with the SPED Homeschool community.  When we share our stories, we not only gain a greater understanding of one another’s path, but those outside our community will also gain a greater understanding of what homeschooling looks like when a family works to help their child succeed beyond their struggles.

 

 


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 Amy Vickrey, MSE 

At first glance, we might seem like a typical American family. My husband is a veteran and we have 2 busy, active boys. However, we have challenges that range from food allergies to special needs and even health issues. Traveling can be tricky. Flying? No thanks, the suitcases aren’t big enough! Here are some ways we have found to make traveling and vacationing a little easier.


Packing Snacks
The first thing we plan for is snacks for the trip and any food products that might not be available where we are headed (I have one child who can only eat 1 brand of waffles and they are from a local grocery chain so we always stock up before a trip). While we might buy some snacks or drinks on the road at places we stop, this ensures that there is safe food for those of us with food allergies on the road.

Having a Space of Our Own
This past October, we traveled to beautiful New Mexico to see family and enjoy the sights. We opted to rent a house for those 4 nights we would be in Las Cruces through Airbnb. This gave us several advantages:

  • We paid a lot less for the large space we had
  • We had a full kitchen and could cook meals to save money and ensure food safety
  • We could keep a regular routine for my son who has Autism

Overall, the ability to have a space of our own and keep our own schedule was wonderful!



Visiting Tourist Spots During the Off-season

While we were there, we took advantage of the fact that most of the other children were in school and visited some cool museums and zoos. There were few crowds which meant my oldest didn’t get so overwhelmed. It was also nice weather so while we had to watch out for too much sun, it wasn’t so hot that we couldn’t enjoy ourselves.The animals at the zoo were active and playing in the cooler weather too.

 

Using Internet Resources
There are many internet resources for finding allergy-friendly places to eat these days. With cell phones, it is easy to check for allergy-friendly restaurants on apps such as Find Me Gluten Free and to check for reviews. There are also chains that are working hard to train their employees nationwide in allergy-safe practices that we follow. However, before I go to a restaurant I am not familiar with, we call and ask questions about what kinds of things are on the menu, the handling practices, etc. 

One way I know a place is training their employees well is when the person who answers the phone (usually a hostess or cashier) can answer my questions confidently or be willing to ask questions when they are not sure. 

I also try to pack a quick snack just in case we have to make a last-minute decision not to eat someplace as I have gotten to a restaurant that passed the phone call only to discover I was misled on the phone. 

Calling Ahead
One really cool thing we did was to attend the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. It was my oldest son’s sixth birthday, so we went all out and bought tickets for one of their breakfast service areas. This was great because it included a shuttle from the parking lot and to the shopping areas (my husband has issues with walking distances). 

When we first started planning, I called and talked to the head caterer to let them know we were coming and to see what accommodations could be made for food. They were great and we were even able to take our own allergy-free brownies in with us to celebrate the event! Also, the quieter, calmer atmosphere that was offered to us allowed my son to enjoy the balloon fiesta without getting overwhelmed.

 

While a lot of planning went into this trip and parts of it were a lot of work, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build family memories. My boys still talk about the balloons and the time with Grandma and their uncle. 

While we hope to do it again, I know the memories we built will last them a lifetime and since NO ONE GOT SICK it was even better!!

 

 


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