Are you a homeschool parent struggling with getting everything done each day? You're not alone. Most homeschooling families need an organized schedule to help keep it all together. Take for instance, the Duggar family from Tontitown, Arkansas. With 19 children, this Christian homeschool dad and mom have plenty of wisdom and practical experience that might give you ideas to improve your homeschooling routine. Although she's the first to say she's still learning herself, Michelle Duggar openly shares invaluable insights she's learned along the way in an exclusive interview with Alpha Omega Publications.
Q: How many of your children are currently homeschooling, and how many hours of formal education do they typically receive each day?
A: Our three oldest have graduated and completed their homeschooling, so we now homeschool eleven children (plus our three-year-old Jackson, who likes to think he's homeschooling, too). We spend approximately four hours a day in formal schooling in core subjects with additional music lessons.
Q: With such a large family, what time management secrets have you incorporated into your daily routine to manage the household workload?
A: We've adopted the biblical Titus 2 organizational principles of older children teaching the younger. Working within an assigned buddy system, each of our older children assists in helping with the needs of a younger sibling. Plus, chores are assigned and posted on a master schedule on the wall, so they all know what to do and work together to complete their assigned "jurisdictions."
Q: What is your daily homeschooling schedule like, and what method do you use to track what each child is supposed to be doing?
A: Our day begins at 8:00 a.m. with personal hygiene, breakfast, family devotions, and a "quick clean" of the house. The younger children begin their individual lessons in phonics, math, violin, and piano with the assistance of their "buddy". In teaching their siblings, I find that the older children have learned so much more themselves. When they're done, the older children then start their individual studies in math, English, spelling, and typing. One of the older girls, Jill, begins preparing lunch at 11:30, and we break at 12:00. Everyone helps clean up and then individual studies are finished. The babies go down for naps at 1:30 p.m., and then the older children and I study science, history, law, or medicine around the table from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. As we study the same topic together, we use a "bus stop" approach. The younger children participate with age-appropriate activities, but are released to go play as we go more in depth into the subject matter with the older children. During this time, we also memorize Scripture, learn hymns, and study godly character qualities. From 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., we break from our group study and complete individual studies or enjoy "free time." Dinner is at 5:00 p.m. and prepared by Jana (18). Everyone again helps clean up afterwards and after another "quick clean" of the house, each child finishes music lessons or schoolwork. Snack time is 8:00 p.m., and then it's time to get ready for bed with baths and picking out clothes for the next day. Bible time with Daddy is at 9:00 p.m. and bedtime is at 10:00 p.m. Individual checklists which cover schoolwork, chores, music lessons, and personal hygiene let us see at a glance how each child is doing and keep our children accountable, so we can reward them accordingly.
Q: What techniques do you use to handle discipline problems and keep your homeschooling on track each day?
A: The Duggar House Guidelines:
- Always use soft words, even when you don't feel well.
- Always display kind actions, even if you have been mistreated.
- Show joyful attitudes, even when no one is looking.
- Have sincere motives with no thought of self-gain.
- Think pure thoughts.
- Always give a good report of others. Never tale-bear unless physical harm will come to someone. Use Matthew 18.
- Never raise a hand to hit.
- Never raise a foot to kick.
- Never raise an object to throw.
- Never raise a voice to yell.
- Never raise an eye to scowl.
- Use one toy/activity at a time.
- Never let the sun go down on your wrath. (Don't go to bed angry or guilty)
- Amendment J.O.Y. Make serving your family a priority. Put Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.
Q: How do you incorporate time for each individual child and their interests, as well as make time for yourself?
A: To give each child one-on-one time, I take one with me each time I need to run an errand. As soon as we walk out the door, I start to ask how they are doing, what they are thinking, feeling, and so on. We believe in doing things together as a family, so we don't run to different activities for each child. We enjoy music, play baseball with friends, and do other outside activities together as a family. Since I'm a night owl, I get my alone time with the Lord when everyone else is asleep, in the "night watches" (Psalms 119:148)
Q: Where do you homeschool, and how do you organize your homeschooling supplies, educational toys, and each child's daily schoolwork?
A: We have a schoolroom/playroom with lockers and storage bins for each child. Plus, computer stations are set up throughout the house for individual learning study with the children who use Switched-On Schoolhouse® curriculum from Alpha Omega Publications.
Q: How has Switched-On Schoolhouse benefited your family's homeschooling?
A: The information and instructions are presented so well in Switched-On Schoolhouse (SOS) that the older children can work independently and rarely need help or have questions. That frees up more of my time and makes teaching math easier now, too. Plus, the lectures and mini-tutorials provide clear and concise explanations of the concepts being covered. The children really enjoy SOS and look forward to doing part of their studies each day on the computer. My daughter Jessa has taken on the responsibility of administering and assigning the SOS lessons each day. Her siblings say she is tougher than Mom when reassigning lessons that haven't been completed properly.
Q: What's the most important organizational advice you would give to a first-time homeschooling parent?
A: Don't overextend and go easy on yourself. When I first homeschooled, I tried to set up a conventional classroom, but soon realized that wasn't going to work. Not everything is going to go as planned, and you're going to keep learning a better way to do things as time goes on. Most of all, have fun and just enjoy the gift of your children and the process of learning together.