An interview with a homeschool mother of six.
Erin Parkinson is homeschooling her six children in Auckland NZ. We chatted when her youngest child was three months old.
ERIN: Hi Stephanie, Jeremiah is three months old now, and our oldest is nine, so life is very busy.
STEPHANIE: How do you get time to do things with the older children in such a busy family?
ERIN: I make the most of feeding times for reading to the other children. I have two boxes sitting in the lounge – one holds baby gear and the other holds books that we are reading at the moment. I have several books on the go for the children nowadays – at the moment we have Mr Popper’s Penguins, A Little Princess and A Door in the Wall. Picture books still live in their own shelf (since I have to read multiple numbers of these to the children especially the pre-schoolers each day too). I also have a book for me in the box. I’m reading Large Family Logistics – The Art and Science of Raising a Large Family by Kim Brenneman. It’s written by a homeschooling mum and it’s a really good guide. I would recommend it even to families that aren’t “large”.
STEPHANIE: Reading times are so good; I used to love reading to the children while I was breastfeeding the baby. What about subjects like history? Do you include them in your homeschooling?
ERIN: I teach history through reading history books like Story of the World or Our Island Story to the children while they draw pictures and I feed the baby. This works well as long as I make sure the children pack up their pencils and equipment afterwards. We did that today but DIDN’T pack up properly and now I can see pencils and paper scattered over my lounge …
STEPHANIE: You seem to be getting through a tidy amount of learning times for your children. What about written work? How do you manage that?
ERIN: Written work tends to be in fits and starts in our household when the baby is little. If I manage to get the house organized the night before then the odds are greater that we get a good half hour of table work in the morning. It doesn’t happen often, but when I do manage it, we have a successful day.
STEPHANIE: It sounds like organization and planning are key to success.
ERIN: Yes. I wrote down what I consider to be the top priorities for each child early in the year. My aim is to try and achieve one thing towards the top priority for each child each day. It doesn’t usually happen but I at least have a goal to work towards that isn’t too ambitious.
It looks like this:
Child 1 – Times tables. If NOTHING else is learnt this year I will be exceedingly happy if she has learnt her times tables.
Child 2 – This one needs work on spelling.
Child 3 – My most time-intensive one at the moment since he is learning to read and write. I can’t keep putting it off like I did during the whole pregnancy so he is my TOP priority for homeschooling.
Child 4 & 5 – Not school age.
STEPHANIE: So you’ve set realistic and achievable goals for your children, which means you are more likely to succeed. Have you got any other tips for mothers homeschooling with young babies?
ERIN: It’s just a matter of fitting things in where I can. For example, memory work happens when we are in the car; we do bible verses, poetry, counting in twos, threes etc. And I also like using audio books. That way, the children can be playing with Duplo etc while listening to somebody else read and I can grab a short nap in the day if I need to.
STEPHANIE: Thanks, Erin. It’s great to hear your good ideas and to know that you are enjoying Jeremiah while he is so small.
If you need help in planning your homeschooling you might be interested in Successful Homeschooling Made Easy a 26-week on-line course.