I used to review curriculum, now I create it

What Homeschooling 5 Kids Really Looks Like

Let’s put aside Pinterest and Facebook, even Instagram! Let’s put aside the bright photographs of smiling children and talk about reality. Homeschooling 4 children with tornado toddler hanging off my legs is far less glamorous than I would have you believe. I wish I had it all together, the perfect children with the perfect curriculum with the perfect balance between home and school and work! [tweetthis remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]I wish I had it all together, but alas, I am but a floundering fish in the sea of my own chaos![/tweetthis]

If you are looking for a little reality, grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and join me on my sofa. The leather one that is a bit worse for the wear as I take you on a walkthrough of my home… my life… my chaos.

What Homeschooling 5 kids really looks like: homeschooling | homeschool | large family homeschooling | unschooling | relaxed homeschooling | real life homeschooling


Welcome to my house!

I welcome you in my front door which is so narrow you can hardly rotate your body to close the door behind you. There is sand and grass and dirt lining the stairs that go to the main floor and basement (split level entry). Yes, I vacuum them every day, but my front grass is a marsh and we live on the ocean where sand and mud are our constant companions so the grit has become a sort of begrudging associate in our lives. I usher you up the stairs, hoping–praying even, that you won’t want to see the school room in the basement. My kitchen counters are full of dishes, my table has been colored on, the finish is wearing and it feels permanently sticky. My chairs are guaranteed to have some forgotten morsels from breakfast or lunch clinging tenuously between the bars. I will try to avoid the kitchen area and bring you directly to my living room.

My couch, the nicest piece of furniture I own, is relatively new. We bought it about a year ago and it is a nice chocolate brown leather sectional. I am proud of it, until you sit down and I see the pen mark behind your right shoulder and the sticky fingerprints just a little to your left. I try to navigate through conversation while these remembrances of my children scream like a siren in my ear, trying to throw me off course. I hope desperately you won’t release the footrest on your side of the sectional as I try to remember the last time I went treasure hunting under the sofa. Mere minutes after sitting down, my delightful children begin to interrupt. My toddler waddles in and wants to be held, she’s going through some sort of shy season in her life. I pick her up and hold her on my lap, feeling any sense of control over our afternoon visit rapidly slipping through my fingers. She pacifies herself by pushing the button on my Fitbit while contentedly sucking on her thumb. I try to remember if I put on antiperspirant this morning.

We begin talking about school, and I feel myself turning on autopilot. I can do this! This is my happy place! We discuss curriculum and you ask me what my school day looks like. I see your hopeful eyes, looking for me for the answers. I know you want to hear about my rigid schedules and accomplished day. I feel like a huge disappointment to share my reality and yet I know that is what you need to hear. No, our days are not super structured, some days we don’t get a whole lot done! Some days are hard, my school room is such a mess right now we can hardly navigate through it. It’s chaos speaks to the fact that we have been sick for nearly a month. The room has become a dumping ground of sorts. The kids have been making crafts and coloring pictures while mommy cares for little ones or sleeps off a fever on the couch.

What does a school day look like?

My kids watch movies, quite a bit I might add! They play their iPads, they play outside in the forest and build forts. They jump on the trampoline and ride their bikes. They play Minecraft and make believe with their siblings. There is a lot of freedom in our house, and a HUGE lack of structure. I have enough books and curriculum and resources to start a small school and yet many of them sit untouched as we just live life together as a family. We do school as it works, when we are healthy and the sun is hiding behind clouds of mist. But when the sun comes out, we hop in the van and take off to go treasure hunting for agates on the beach! We explore, we live, we laugh, we play, we grow and learn together and nearly all of that happens without any curriculum!

You see, when I was homeschooling 1 child, it was very different. I had all the answers and I played school. It was fun for me, but it was not fun for him. I watched the light die in his eyes a little bit each day. I started off the year with my little boy so eager to do school with mommy and I ended it with a boy who hated school. I fought him to do his lessons and was hard on him when he made mistakes. I had high expectations and pushed him to his full potential and though he learned much and he learned quickly, he did it only because it was required of him. He did it to please me. He didn’t own it, he didn’t find joy in it, he didn’t choose it. Find out what changed our minds here.

So what does homeschooling 5 kids really look like? It’s messy! It’s chaotic! It’s highly unstructured! It means a lot of discussions in the car or while watching a movie that interests us and a lot of freedom to make mistakes and learn through life together. It means sticky fingerprints and felt marker stains on my table. It means artwork proudly taped up all over the house that my kids are free to create at any time. Often it looks like a busy, frazzled mom with a toddler on her hip and the kids simply have to create their own fun together! It means listening to them play make believe games with their made up characters and hearing them whisper and giggle throughout the house. It means exploration and self-discovery. And it means more love and a deeper relationship as a family than I could have ever imagined for us!

What does homeschooling look like for you? Comment below!


  1. I remember the days of having 5 homeschooling. It seems such a long time ago as we’re down to our last 3 (older 3 all done!!). The days rarely went to plan, although as a compulsive planner, there were always plans! Even now, with only 3, life happens. Our eldest and her husband recently received the blessing of our first grandchild, so when she comes to visit, regular school stops. Instead, our boys are learning to care for someone so much smaller than themselves. The older ones obviously all had a younger sibling to cuddle, but for our baby (who is 8 now), it’s a real joy to cuddle his niece.
    But back to the days of 5. We’d straggle out of bed, time depending upon who had been up during the night and for how long. We would technically ‘do school’ between 9 & 3 but that’s purely arbitrary. In reality, I’d work one on one with whoever was still learning to read while supervising the independent learners. We’d watch a movie together after lunch, our creative daughters would create some new art work and our art loving boys would fill up page after page of painting. They were hectic days. My only regret is that I was quite driven to stick to my plans even though I knew it would never happen. I’m much more relaxed these days and have a lot of fun with the boys.
    My advice to anyone starting out: don’t be too concerned about how much you get done in a day. Work an easy plan, keep things flexible and record everything you’ve done (that’s a requirement for where we live) from hanging out the washing (lifeskills) to price comparisons at the supermarket (maths). I’ve found for my older children their academic training has set them up well. Our daughters have gained professions (teachers aide & butcher) and our eldest son entered university (studying Science, majoring in Photonices) here in Australia without completing past year 10 at home. The education you give your children at home will always be enough for what they need. Enjoy it to the full!!

    • Gwen, your response is a breath of fresh air! What an encouragement to other homeschool moms out there who are trudging through the chaos of life with little learners! I hope my readers see your comment and take it to heart, as someone who has been through it and come out of the other side (with some of them at least). Thank you SO much for taking the time to comment and share your days both before and after! I hope you all enjoy snuggling that little newborn and get in lots of Health and CAPP and whatever else you can get out of it 😉

  2. I am smack in the middle of homeschooling our seven. The eldest will be 13 soon and the youngest is just days away from 1. After six years of doing this I feel like I should know what I am doing…but I soooo don’t. In fact I feel less competent now than ever. The game keeps changing, and I’m not keeping up. Our days are beyond chaotic and I find myself wracked with guilt over the lack of structure. I too have books of wonderful curriculum that we just don’t get ’round to. And I desperately want to get back to the “order” that we used to have. But it’s the days that I let it go and just go with it, that really shine. It’s so easy to imagine that everyone else has it together, and it’s so encouraging to hear that others days are full of mess too .

  3. Even with 3, our days, too, are filled with discoveries and discussions, messes and things lying everywhere. It makes a life and it makes a “school”–a joy-filled one, at that! I think I’ll stick with it…thanks for the peek inside a life with a few more kiddos 🙂

  4. With three boys it’s still messy and chaotic. We take off on lots of field trips and we live life to it’s fullest whenever we can… squeezing in schoolwork when we need to.

  5. Thank you, thank you for sharing! This was a gift from God. Of all the days and years (8 years total) I’ve homeschooled – today was the day I felt beyond a “loser”.. “Am I ruining them”? Aww those voices, but your post reminded my heart that we are learning so much from each other. Yes, my three boys are wild, love to laugh, are sooooo curious and I almost “killed” their love for learning! I’ve become a witch and only have glimpses of how truly wonderful they are. I’ve been to caught up in “school time” too busy “making things right” that truly it has not been fun!
    But one thing I know our kids can’t get enough of us! They always want to be around us and have learned that family is so important. Yeah, the house is a disaster, there are busy, greasy hand prints on walls and doors, food crumbs in most places, but on the mantle there’s a wooden sign that reads “FAMILY” and our homeschooling journey has allowed our bond to become strong and evermore so in the future. It’s all worth it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I used to review curriculum, now I create it!