How to Implement Family Learning

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Hey, homeschoolers! When you are teaching more than one child, one of the best sanity-savers is using a family-learning approach. I had to teach this way with six kids and I made sure that Grammar Galaxy could be taught to students at multiple levels. My guest Kathy Gossen gives us simple tips for getting started.

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Family Learning with Kathy Gossen

Guest Kathy is a good friend and a homeschool momma to three precious girls. She is the author of And the Word Became Flesh and Encompass Preschool Curriculumand is also the host of The Homeschool 5 in 10 podcast.  She loves researching and sharing streamlined homeschool tips, tricks, and resources at CornerstoneConfessions.Com.

Kathy and I discussed:

  • the best subjects for family learning
  • the subjects that aren't easy to teach using this approach, and
  • how to make the transition to family learning a smooth one.

I hope you enjoy our interview!

To read the transcript of our interview with links to curriculum, scroll down.

Have a happy homeschool week!

Melanie: Kathy, thank you so much for joining me again here on the Homeschool Sanity Show. I was hoping that you could tell us a little bit more about you and your family.

Kathy: Sure. I live in Oklahoma and I have three precious girls. They are 12, almost 13, 10 and 4. They are a bundle full of energy. The eldest is my musical guru; my middle one is the compassionate encourager; and my youngest is the “I just want to be a part of everything” person. So anyway, I write at and I blog on The Homeschool 5 in 10. I just have fun sharing tips and resources on homeschooling.

Melanie: Well, fantastic. I'm really excited about our topic for today, which is something that I have practiced over my many years of homeschooling and that is family schooling. So I am hoping that you can help us define that concept.

Kathy: Yes. So family schooling, some people call it morning basket or opening time or table talks. But family school is oftentimes a little bit more than just a morning basket, because it usually involves more subjects that you do together. You might think of it as a one-room school house kind of idea. So it's the concept of doing school together.

Melanie: And I already know what some of the benefits this are because I've lived them, but I would love to have you share what some of the benefits.

Kathy: Absolutely. One of the biggest ones that I noticed right away, whenever we first started out, living on a strapped budget is the monetary savings. You're not buying 3, 4, 5, 6, or however many student books. You have one book that you can all work from together. So monetarily, it's a huge savings.

It's also a great time saver because you're not having to take extra time to work with one child on a subject. You can all do that subject together once and be done. And so that's another great benefit. Future conversations is another benefit. I love the fact that when we do school together, we're sitting at the table and a subject comes up and we can talk about, well, hey, do you remember what we talked about in history or in science? Whereas if we were doing our own separate subjects, those conversations would never come up. And I think as a result, it also develops family unity. It gives them something to talk about and hang on to that, that they have as a special group.

So those are just a few of the benefits of a family schooling, for sure.

Melanie: Yes, definitely. I, I think it has saved my sanity.

Kathy: Absolutely. It saves my sanity every day. Right.

I know when I have talked with homeschooling moms about family schooling, one of their questions, probably the most asked question is what subjects can I teach with a family schooling approach?

Melanie: So what is your answer to that?

Kathy: Oh, my answer is most subjects. A lot of times, whenever you hear families that are doing like a morning basket, they'll limit their time together to maybe a poem or Bible verse time or a read-aloud book. And that's kind of the gist of their morning basket time, but there are so many things you can do with other subjects. So let's just talk about a few. One is history and that's my go-to. So we can read something about history, whether that's a spine book together or something else. And then if I want my different age children to take that deeper, then I can give them a book that they can read on their own to go along with what we're talking about.

But as a family, we are all studying the same time period at the same time. For those that like specific curriculum that would kind of fall along with this family schooling idea, I found that Story of the World works well for younger kids. And Mystery of History I would say is probably one of the curriculums that it is mostly adaptable to various ages because of the way it breaks it down. So that's something to look at for history.

Science is another great subject for doing with family schooling. My oldest can go deep into what's happening, but my youngest who's four loves to get it and see what's going on in the kitchen. So it doesn't matter the age group, they're going to catch onto different concepts. The older they get and the more they get dig into apologetics and something like Berean Builders. Those are both two curriculum that I really encourage. For a family schooling. I would say when they get in high school, it's much more challenging to do that for science as the subjects get harder. But up until about high school, I say science is a great way to go.

Bible worldview, that is another great subject to do together. This could be something as simple as reading a chapter at night together out of the Bible. The girls and I actually do that every night. We read out of the Bible.

I read a book about just simply reading the Bible with your children and showing them what a quiet time is can have a major impact on their life. And so that's kind of changed the way I looked at Bible, but doing worldview studies is also great because you can talk about the different sides and have discussions about that. Using Apologia is worldview study, too.

Art is also a great subject for doing family schooling. I love it the fact that it's a level playing field and everybody can approach it from their own level. But if they start with the same subject matter, it's amazing what they can turn that into. And that could be online art courses. It could be an art curriculum. It could be some videos that they watch online on YouTube. There are so many different ways, but art is a good level playing field that is really fun to do as a family.

And music right along with that. You and I both know Gena Mayo and she has online curriculum that she uses. And it's great because there are videos that can be watched and used and adapted to multiple age groups and they can do that together.

So that's really nice. Language arts–that's your specialty, but that's another one. A lot of people don't think of language arts as being a family school subject. And I would tend to agree with them except for a few situations. And that is if you have somebody that's just learned to read, and you have someone that is practicing spelling, for example, you could have them when they're learning to read, read to the person that is practicing spelling. So there are ways to actually use family schooling for language arts. My oldest two, even though they're several years apart in school, they have actually started doing writing together. They have the same subject that they're having to write about, but they can write about that subject on their own grade level.

And so that's something else–vocabulary. It could be something like a word of the day. You can all learn that one word of the day and see how many times you can use it. So there are ways to incorporate language arts in a family school setting, even though there are going to be some specific concepts that are grade level appropriate.

Nature's study is also great because you get out and you can all observe things again at your own level and what you know about nature. And that's a great way for the older students to teach the younger children about what they know about. I mean, I could go on and on about this, but you kind of are getting an idea that there there's a lot more, if you can start to think about each subject, really in a family unit and how you can adapt it to teaching, it makes it fun for older students because they can teach the younger. And it makes it fun for the younger students because they feel included and not excluded as sometimes happens whenever you're spending time with kids separately.

Melanie: Well, since you're saying you have so many more subjects that you could bring into the mix of being available to teach in a family schooling style, are there some subjects that you don't think work well?

Kathy: There are, and we mentioned it a little bit that sometimes like language arts, you have to be careful as you get older and science, when you get in high school. And I would say that in general, about high school, the more you get into high school subjects, the more specialized, those students will need to spend more time on their own.

And that's just part of the game as they're getting ready to go into college or life skills or whatever they're going into. But I would say math is probably the one subject that really is challenging. Flashcard games would be the one exception to that. And that also depends on the kind of flashcard game, because if you have somebody that's in sixth grade and second grade, and they're trying to do math facts and one could do it really fast and one cannot, then that's just not fun either. So I would say that would be the one subject that's best done individually.

Melanie: That's been my experience. I have been able to motivate my kids to learn their math facts very quickly by having them all have to get the answer correct on a set of problems within a short period of time. And they're not competing against each other, but against themselves. And everyone's sitting around to see if they can do it. And that works really, really.

Well, what about box curriculum? So complete curriculum that is available from some publishers. Are there any types of boxed curriculum that would lend themselves better to a family schooling approach?

Kathy: Yes. Most curriculum that you will see is actually either geared toward a co-op setting or it is geared toward the individual student. But there are a couple of curriculums I think work well for family schooling because they're not geared towards one age group. And that would probably be My Father's World.

And Konos. I've used My Father's World. I think it's a great ,solid program. I personally like to do my own thing, so I haven't stuck with it, but I've seen it in action and I have several friends, and family that use it on a regular basis. For their wide range of children and it's worked out really well. Konos, I don't have experience with it, but I have reviewed it. And it also has that same kind of concept where you can adapt it to older children and you can adapt it to younger children. I like the kinds of curriculum where they have it broken down with, you know, high school students, middle school students, older elementary students, younger elementary students.

So you're kind of just when you're looking at curriculum for family schooling, you're just trying to look for curriculum. That would be one that gives multiple age group options.

Melanie: Excellent. Okay. So I know that I have listeners who are thinking about this topic right now and they're thinking, okay, so tomorrow we're going to do everything family school.

Kathy: Oh my goodness. That would be totally overwhelming. So what should they do? Choose one thing to try it out with. And my go-to, like I said at the beginning is history. It's a great spine and you can adapt out from there. If you use history as a spine, you can give more challenging reading assignments to your older students that go with the same subject.

You could read a picture book with your younger child that goes with the same subject, but you would all be on the same playing field. So I would try that for before you tear off and do something else. The other thing I would think, kind of like what I said, is when you are looking at curriculum for next year, if you're wanting to teach more in a family school style setting, look for unit studies, those do really well.

And one-room schoolhouse kinds of curriculum. And like I said, multi-age options when you're flipping through a curriculum. If it says it's for eighth grade, it's for eighth grade and that's not usually very adapted. But if you look for some curriculum that just has an age group, then you're going to be able to adapt that a lot easier.

Melanie: All right. Well, that is a wonderful inspiration. Helps to hold us back from starting over with our homeschooling approach. We generally don't want to do that. We want to ease into it. Well, thank you so much for all of those tips, Kathy!

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