Yes, They’re All Ours
- Karla R. Shumate The Old Schoolhouse
- 2012 9 Jan
I remember it well. It was 1997, and my husband, Bill, had just completed medical school and residency and it was now time for him to do his payback to the Air Force. He was assigned the Air Force Academy hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It seemed so far away from our Texas home. When we moved there, we had two kids, ages 3 and 1. Since we were not planning on staying in Colorado, we decided we would homeschool our oldest child, the only one who would be school age during Bill’s four-year duty.
Only a few weeks after we moved, we found out that we were expecting twins. Despite the challenges of having four kids in less than four years, we still began homeschooling. I taught elementary music for three years before I had children, but it was so much more rewarding to teach my own children.
As with many who begin homeschooling, we thought it would be temporary. However, while living in Colorado, we met and became friends with some wonderful homeschooling families. We immediately saw how different their children were from those in the world, and we decided then that we would make homeschooling a permanent commitment for our family too.
In 2001, we did move back to Texas for my husband to begin his private practice. Soon after, I had our fifth child. Two years later, to our huge surprise, we had quadruplets. Admittedly, school was a bit of a struggle that first year or so of the quads’ lives. We were in survival mode, and much of my kids’ learning consisted of life skills, but it was a great experience for them. We did not have outside help, so we learned to work together to care for four infants, keep our home somewhat in order, and fit in what “traditional” education we could. We had another baby (number 10 if you’ve lost count), and by the time this article is published, I will be holding number 11.
So now, our children are the following ages: 14, 12, 10, 10, 6, 4, 4, 4, 4, 2, and newborn. Number 1 and number 10 are girls, and the rest are boys. We have a very unique family, not just because we have eleven kids but also because of how close in age our kids are. This has created many unique challenges for us.
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The question I receive the most, second, of course, to “Are all these kids yours?” is “How do you homeschool with so many kids?” In fact, I am a very organized person, although I do know some large families who are not as structured as we are, and that works for them. I think structure is important for us because of the number of preschoolers we have.
A book I highly recommend on this topic is Managers of Their Homes, by Steven and Teri Maxwell. Our daily school schedule is broken up into thirty-minute segments. Every member of the family, excluding Dad (who is at work and has his own schedule), knows what he or she is to be doing at all times. There are times for each subject in school, staggered throughout the day, so I can be with any child who needs me. There also are times when each older child is in charge of one or more of the little ones or is asked to read with the 6-year-old or to do laundry duty or to carry out other chores.
Of course, quiet time and free time also are built into the schedule. There is even a time when I am just with the baby or have time to read with the quads. It took me many hours to come up with this schedule, and admittedly, we never stick to it perfectly. After all, life happens. We, of all people, must be flexible. Nevertheless, when we use the schedule versus not use a schedule, more school gets done, the house is kept in order, laundry stays caught up, and no child is ever left without attention or things to do. This protects the whole family from stress.
Our chore chart, which goes along with our daily schedule, has been a wonderful tool that has helped us keep our house in order. Every older child has a “jurisdiction” to keep clean. During the week, he or she must keep it picked up. On Fridays, there is also a list of weekly cleaning jobs to do within each jurisdiction, and on the last Friday of the month, the children must do their monthly cleaning jobs, which is the heavier duty cleaning. This system will really be great when all the kids are old enough to help.
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Another tool that has helped us is doing lesson plans for the year. I prepare two hundred lessons a year per child. Each child follows his lessons in consecutive order. If a child has to miss a day or two, he just picks up when he can, where he left off. Each child can be working on a different day’s assignment (i.e. Day 14, Day 15, Day 26). It does not matter that they all may be working on a different day’s assignment on any given day during the year. Each child does the lessons for whatever day he is on until he completes the two hundred days for the year. This initially requires a huge amount of work on my part, but once it is done, it’s done for the whole school year.
Homeschooling is definitely something that has caused me to tap into my creativity, my resourcefulness, and above all, my flexibility. One has to be willing to try new things and abandon things that don’t work. Every year is different, and every child is different, but that is part of the joy of it all as well. There is nothing as rewarding as seeing your children develop before your eyes academically, and more importantly, spiritually.
Many people view such a large family who chooses to homeschool as weird, but we know children are a blessing from the Lord. When God did bless us with these children, He also entrusted us to protect them and to train them, and above all, to teach them about Him. In a world with an obvious departure from moral values (especially the family unit, which God established in His Word), we are proud to have our “quiverful.” We are proud to be Christians and proud to be called homeschoolers. We are indeed blessed beyond measure.
Originally published on March 16, 2009
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Karla and her husband, Bill, live in Richardson, Texas, where they homeschool their eleven children: Victoria, Benjamin, Hunter, Hayden, Tanner, Aaron, Braden, Christian, Dalton, Makenna, and Kolton. They have been homeschooling for ten years.
Copyright 2008 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
Reprinted with permission from the publisher