I have four kids, and they’re all polar opposites from each other. Mr. C is gifted, extremely social, and loves to read. A-Man is autistic, loves being alone, and despises anything resembling “school”. Cap’n M has a developmental delay, wants to be a big kid, and strongly prefers hands-on activities. Miss S is (so far) neurotypical, sassy as can be, and makes her every desire known to the whole world. All four kids have entirely different needs, and trying to meet them all can be quite the task! Thankfully we’ve learned a few tricks that help with balancing independent needs in a large family homeschool.
Balancing Independent Needs in a Large Family Homeschool
One of the main reasons that we homeschool is to make sure our kids’ independent needs are being met. We know that the public schools in our area don’t have the resources to meet their needs, so it’s important for us to do everything we can to meet them at home.
Knowing Your Kids’ Independent Needs
The first step in balancing independent needs in a large family homeschool is obviously to know your kids’ independent needs! Do you have one kiddo that needs one-on-one instruction in math? Maybe one kid needs to have complete silence to read without getting distracted. One kid might need a fidget spinner while another needs to have a snack in between subjects to reset their brain.
Whatever your kids’ individual needs, once you have them front and center in your brain you can set up your large family homeschool to meet those needs.
When Your Kids’ Needs Conflict
In a perfect world, your kids would all have needs that complemented each other beautifully. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. One of your kids will need silence while the other will need background noise. One kid needs movement while the other gets distracted by movement. It’s bound to happen. So what do you do when your kids’ needs conflict?
First, do your best to meet both needs somehow. If one kid needs silence and the other needs noise, maybe grab some headphones playing soft music for the one that needs it. If one needs movement, but it distracts the other, keep one kid in the dining room and have one in the living room.
If all else fails, you’re going to have to prioritize needs. There are a few ways to prioritize needs that will depend highly on your family dynamic. In our family, we have to look hard at whether something is a true need or a preference. Beyond that, we can look at the severity of the need compared with the ability of the child to compromise. It’s much easier for Mr. C to compromise and meet his needs in a different way than it is for A-Man, both because he’s older and because he’s not autistic.
*Note, please keep in mind that just because it’s easier for one child to compromise doesn’t mean they should always compromise. Find ways to meet your “easy” kiddo’s needs too!
Playing to Your Kids’ Strengths
Make sure that you play to your kids’ strengths and focus here when planning for your kids needs. Mr. C is a strong reader, so we make as much of his curriculum literature-based as we can. A-Man does best with hands-on activities, so we use hands-on curriculum whenever we can.
That means that our kids very rarely use the same curriculum. While I’d love to be able to get one curriculum to use with Mr. C and save it to use a few years later with A-Man, it just doesn’t work for our family. Their needs are too different to try to fit them in the same curriculum-box.
Keeping the Discussion Open
The last tip I have for balancing independent needs in a large family homeschool is to always keep the discussion lines open. It’s really tricky to balance all of the different needs, and making sure that each member of the family feels that they have a voice and can truly understand why your homeschool is running a certain way is super important.
We have struggled a lot in the past with Mr. C getting frustrated when it seemed that his brother didn’t have to do the things he did. Now that we’ve had a lot more open discussions about neurodiversity and how each member of our family has different needs, our homeschool is a lot more peaceful!
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