Large Family, homeschooling Charlotte Mason style

victorian family in the nursery or schoolroomWhen you are homeschooling multiple children in various ages, programs like may seem overwhelming or even impossible.  Many homeschooling families choose unit studies or other programs which have several children of various ages studying the same topics at the same time.

One thing to keep in mind is that if this approach still has children reading separate books and doing different assignments based on age and ability, it’s actually really not saving you as much time as one might assume.  You still have children doing multiple readings separately.

Some parents choose this route anyway, because they believe that if the children are all at least studying the same time period, you have a sense of togetherness at the dinner table.  However,  it has been the experience of many who are homeschooling several children, that the sense of togetherness is not lost by studying different topics and time periods.  Often dinnertime conversations and children’s play is enhanced, as they have different ideas and topics they contribute to the family lore and conversations.  Indeed, there can be a sense of competitiveness or a worm of comparison seeping in when the six year old and the 10 year old are studying the same topic all the time- each child noticing when the other does ‘better’, without understanding the difference age makes.  It can be even harder if the older child has some learning issues and the younger is gifted.

vintage first essential of perfect home adaptation to family life


You can still save yourself from being pulled in an impossible number of directions by doing some things together and then separating school subjects for part of the day and then coming back together.    Here are some suggestions for how that might work- and they really are suggestions only- each family’s own dynamics, relationships, layout of the house, specific issues, gifts, abilities, challenges, and outside activities work together to create your unique family culture and so what works for you may not be what works well for another.  That said, here are some ideas:

Choose one composer per month or term (around 12 weeks).  Gather some music by that composer, and all month long, this is what you play when working, sometimes while eating, sometimes while driving.  Play this composer while getting up in the morning, doing morning chores, fixing breakfast.

Breakfast- consider a parent eating breakfast before everybody sits down, so the parent can read aloud to the rest of the family while they eat (or snack, and eat your own breakfast while the kids are clearing the table and washing up afterwards).   If that won’t work, perhaps one of the older children eats fast enough that they finish eating first, and then they could read aloud to the family.  A distant second, would be to have an audio book going for about fifteen minutes while you eat: Suggestions for books to read over breakfast:

The Bible; Pilgrim’s Progress; a family read aloud such as one of the Little House on the Prairie books, Little Britches or others in that series; The Little Prince; The Princess and Curdie; a fairy tale (nobody is ever too old for these), or one of Lamb’s retellings of Shakespeare.  Only read for around 10 or 15 minutes, leaving time for discussions, not just of what you read, but of plans for the day or whatever else you need to discuss.  When breakfast is done, sing a hymn together.  Clear the table, wash up, get supper in the crockpot, finish morning chores and grooming, etc while playing classical music.

Many families like to have morning time, and you can find no better source for how to do that than Cindy Rollins.

With Charlotte Mason’s method, children own their own education and should be working with their books independently as soon as possible.  Young children have very short lessons and older children’s lessons gradually extend.  You can take advantage of this by working one on one with the youngest school children while the older ones work independently, do chores, help with small non-school age children.  It can take some time to feel the rhythm of how you day will work best, and figuring out a new routine is always hard and seems to cause a bit of friction until you get the rough edges smoothed out (and of course, when you do, something changes and you have to start over again!).  But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to just buckle down and give it a shot.

So while you are reading aloud, teaching letter formation, doing math, and working with your young scholars, your older children can:

Read a few subjects independently and narrate using the narration jar ideas, or, when you come to a convenient break in schooling with your youngers ask for a narration from an older child’s reading.  After reading together and hearing a younger child’s narration, for example, you can send the younger child to switch out laundry, unload the dishwasher, wipe out a sink, run around the back yard, jump on the mini trampoline, sing Old MacDonald to the baby, feed the birds, etc, and while younger children are so directed, having the older ones narrate to you.

Do copywork

practice a musical instrument

take a young sibling to play out back or in another room

Do some math exercises

do a chore

After some time, perhaps an hour or two, like this, come back together and do some of the following together:

Drawing, picture study, folksongs, recite memory work, work on a family timeline (each child gets a turn to put somebody on the timeline and tell something about that person), exercise, play a physical game together (go outside and play kickball, tag, hide-n-seek, badmitten, catch a ball, Etc.), have nature study, pick one or two and do them together.

By now, it’s probably time for lunch, so turn on your classical composer and fix lunch together, or have children do some chores, play outside, or finish up some independent school readings.  They can narrate to you while you make sandwiches or soup.

Eat lunch together on the same plan as breakfast- one person reads aloud for a few minutes.  A biography of your composer or artist for the term might be good.  Or listen to one of the wonderful classical kids productions, such as Bach or Beethoven-Lives-Upstairs or a Maestro classic such as My Name is Handel or Orchestra, by Peter Ustinov and Mark Rubin– see your library for these or other ideas. Don’t spend your whole lunch this way- maybe half, or even less. It’s more important to leave time to visit and discuss than to finish the book or CD.

After lunch, clean up together while listening to classical music or while singing folk songs or hymns together. If you need to send children outside to play or to do another chore or to help with a younger sibling, do so. You can work on a foreign language together (for the older children it could be practice, as they might study more in depth another time), do copywork together (each child has their own sentence to copy and 15 minutes to copy- younger children get shorter sentences, older children get longer), draw together.

It’s a good idea to have quiet time/nap time in the afternoons. Put the younger children down for naps or quiet time (nobody has to sleep, they do have to stay in their quiet time spot and work or play quietly for the hour you have set) while working one on one with the older children in something like math, dictation, grammar, Plutarch, Shakespeare, and any harder readings they may be struggling with and topics where you want more in depth narrations (you can also fit some of these in earlier in the day throughout the week, one here, one there).

Don’t neglect free time in the afternoons, even if you couldn’t get through everything you wanted to in the earlier part of the day- unless that was because the child was dawdling and uncooperative. Just be sure to progress a little each day, and over time you are building up stronger habits, important ideas, and moving forward.  Everybody taking a walk together is not wasting time. It is building a spirit of togetherness, a reset for your day.

We often came together in the afternoon again for an afternoon snack because we were always feeling peckish by 4:00. We usually had one more read aloud then- my favourite was when we slowly worked through a book of geography terms. I’d read the description, the children would draw or recreate what they heard using blocks or beanbags or other toys, and then we’d compare what they had created to the picture in the book, correcting as needed. We only did one or two terms at a time- one usually being plenty. And we’d have another family read aloud around bedtime. We generally, though not always, chose our read alouds from the free reads in AO, it doesn’t really matter which year you use.

One more way to work with a large family within a Charlotte Mason framework is by use of forms. More about that later . Meanwhile, what I’ve written above is not intended as a schedule for you- it’s just a sample idea of how you might work around your day.  Maybe you can do none of, but reading what one family did (sometimes) will spark an idea of something different but workable for you.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Start somewhere, but take it in small increments.

Small baby steps are more important than bold plans you don’t even start, or which take months to create, while meanwhile the children are growing up around you. 


This entry was posted in Charlotte Mason, homeschooling, large families and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

One Comment

  1. Posted April 4, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    This is such good advice. Pretty close to the way we do things. I dearly love AO. Can’t imagine going with anything else.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


  • Amazon: Buy our Kindle Books

  • Search Amazon

    Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

  • Brainy Fridays Recommends:

  • Search: