As a long-time homeschool mom to quite a few kids, I have to admit it: Despite some people’s assumptions, I am certainly no Super Mom. When my first child reached high school age, it simply never occurred to me that I should suddenly change the way we were doing things. Looking back now, having graduated my oldest two children and with two more leaving the homeschool nest for college over the next two years, I am so glad I followed God’s leading and my gut instincts. After considering what practical means have helped me most in homeschooling my teens through high school alongside my many other children, I see three key elements I’d like to share so that you, too, might have the confidence to choose high school at home.

Organization

Juggling the many demands and desires, obligations and activities that make up a large household might seem daunting, but the path to a smooth, successful household routine lies in organization. I know some women think they just can’t be organized. They equate organization with elaborate filing systems, they fear it will stifle their creativity, and they know it won’t work for them. I feel their pain. I used to be one of them.

I’ve heard some people say that large families need to be extremely controlled and organized or complete chaos will ensue. I must say this is not true in our family. Organization is important, but it has often been misunderstood and sometimes overemphasized. Actually, effective organization can look very different from home to home.

If you, like me, are not naturally gifted in the realm of organization, if your spice racks are not alphabetized and your linen closet is not color-coded, then take heart. Those techniques might help some people, but they are not necessary for an efficient, multi-grade homeschool. As we homeschool high schoolers in a large family, we should focus on a realistic coordination of schedules.

For example, look at a typical household budget. It has fixed monthly expenses that must be paid on specific dates (such as a house payment or car insurance), regular necessary expenses with flexible due dates (such as groceries or gas), optional expenses (such as hobbies, field trips, or takeout pizza), and unexpected expenses (such as a trip to the emergency room). To avoid financial problems, we must determine how we can best allocate our money to meet our goals, and then we must follow through with our plan. It’s helpful to use this type of approach when it comes to our homeschooling schedules, too.

For each of your children, first determine what activities, classes, and events must be absolutely fixed in your overall schedule. These might include a Pre-Calculus class for your daughter at the community college three days a week from 1 to 2 pm, a Civil Air Patrol meeting for your son on Thursday evenings, and the Awana club at your church every Wednesday night.

Next, decide where you will place the flexible fixed items. These are events over which you exercise at least some control in relation to timing. Arrange those weekly trumpet lessons for your son; set up regular orthodontist appointments for your daughter. Schedule the kids’ daily piano and foreign language practice times to avoid conflicts, since pianos and computers usually must be shared.

Finally, decide when the remaining academic areas will be covered. Keep the time blocks general, such as History or Math, rather than going into great detail. Remember, one of your goals is to retain as much flexibility as possible. Flexibility always comes in handy and promotes a sense of spontaneity in your homeschool.

Now you are ready to make up a chart for each day of the week. Put a different child’s name at the top of vertical columns going across the page. Down the left-hand side, label half-hour time increments. Fill in the charts according to your children’s individual lists of fixed commitments. Teenagers tend to have many more fixed events than younger kids, so it is best to determine their schedules first. What remains are empty boxes that can be filled with the optional items that are most important to you and your family.