This is a continuation of Part I
Here's a few ways we've tried to cope with the demands of a larger family size and much more chaotic schedule while still trying to use Charlotte Mason principles of a "living" education-- none of these ideas are very original and all are sort of general, but keeping them in mind does seem to help us progress on the right track:
(1) Making learning an atmosphere. One way is by having access to materials: construction toys, good books, music, art supplies, the outdoors. Another way is to have sufficient free time. Another way is to foster the development of interests, both by being aware of the development of interests and talents in the children, and by modelling lifelong learning. I can honestly say I've learned more with my kids
watching my trial and error than I did as a kid myself. My husband is an excellent model of picking up new interests and developing skills without formal teaching.
(2) Short lessons. I know I am singing a familiar song to CM homeschoolers here! But it has been true in our family as well. I particularly like the Clarkson's distinction between discipline subjects and discovery subjects. Sometimes you can break the subject into two -- eg math involves drill, but it also involves discovery. For the discipline subjects or parts of subjects, which I feel aren't necessarily fun but are important, I set the timer and try to make a little progress every day. For the discovery subjects, I may not have a lot of time to guide my kids through every detail, but ideally I can inspire them by using good materials to want to learn more. Eg with several of my kids, one thing that has worked is reading aloud to them and discussing or narrating, then assigning them related reading or work. This works well for history, in particular, and literature studies.
(3) A combination of family learning and tutoring. All this year I've been teaching mostly by tutoring each kid in turn, then setting them off to complete work on their own. This works well, but leaves me feeling somewhat scattered and IMO loses some of the benefits of family learning. I'm going to experiment this summer with some family workshops, perhaps in religion, science or history. We have started the group writing workshop, and this has gone well. They have been motivated by each other. So I think that some more group learning might add some variety to our day and allow more sharing of learning. I think everyone has to find what works in their circumstances, but even if every child is working independently in their room, I think homeschooling has family learning benefits because it fosters a closeness and a shared goal.
(4) Organization: never quite enough around here, but it has helped to get a handle on things. I constantly refer to Leonie's "pegs" of habits based around mealtimes, etc. We are now trying to get the chores on a consistent rotation (I have 15, 13, 12, and 9yos all capable of doing many things around the house) so I will have less things on my to-do list. This training process is my main goal for this summer; it will be essential as we head into an involved third trimester, assuming it is God's will that we get that far, and I hope it is!
(5) Thinking in terms of "seasons": we find that fall is a more structured academics season; winter is the time for reading aloud, music, conversation over cocoa, projects, etc; spring is our nature study season, and summer is when we maintain academic skills, go on field trips and rabbit trails into hobbies and learning projects of interest, and experiment with the way we do things in preparation for next year. It's not a radical disconnect, but a transition from one focus to another, and provides variety with consistency.
I also think in terms of seasons in a broader sense -- the early years are the time for quiet, steady but vital development --concrete experience, foundation in literacy and numeracy, and foundation character qualities; the middle years are the time for exercising logic, comparing family views with the world's views, trying a variety of new skills; the older years of childhood (highschool) are a time for refining skills and worldviews, learning to work in an adult world and deal with more adult temptations and situations while still under a parent's guidance.
Obviously these also are transitions with much overlap, not rigid stages.
(6) Flexibility and patience -- realizing that things are going to be in flux and that we will have to not only adapt, but keep adapting, again and again. Charlotte Mason writes about training habits that a mother can get discouraged thinking of all the endless work ahead of her, but in actuality, it is like a clock -- only one tick at a time is needed. She says that a mom can actually get to enjoy and embrace her responsibility to train her children and I think this applies to adaptability too; we can learn to expect and embrace the necessity of adapting under God's providence, and this is actually perhaps an important learning skill to model to our children.