Teaching Big Kids: 4 Moms, 35 Kids

I admit that when I thought about this topic my real motivation was hearing what the other moms of many were going to say.  I kinda forgot that I would have to write on this too.

Deputy Headmistress @ The Common Room
KimC @ Life in a Shoe
Connie @ Smockity Frocks

In our opinion the main difference between teaching big kids and little kids is the degree of responsibility and discernment between the two groups. (For the purpose of this post ‘big kids’ means children between the ages of 10 an 13.)  Our goals do not change and neither do our challenges.

It seems to me that when it comes to educating younger children there are two mistakes that we tend to make.   On the one hand, we realize that God has given children the ability and desire to learn and we neglect to consider that they have a sin nature.  In this error we think that if we simply provide the children with a fun, stimulating atmosphere they will learn everything that is needful for them to know.

The other error is that we realize that our children have a sin nature and we forget God’s common grace, that is, even though we are born with a sin nature we are not as bad as we possibly can be and God has indeed given children an innate desire and ability to learn about the world around them.  In this error we believe that we should sit our children down for hours each day and teach and drill so that they get as many facts into their head as they possibly can.

We believe that that the best way to educate young children is a balance between the two.  God has given children an amazing desire and ability to learn AND they tend to be naturally lazy when that learning gets difficult.  Here is our attempt to balance these two aspects of our children’s nature. ~copied from my post on teaching little kids

We teach our big kids in much the same manner that we teach our younger children.  It’s simply a matter of degrees.  We expect more of our older children, but our focus and methods remain the same.

To encourage our children’s natural love of learning:

I would encourage you to read my post about teaching little ones because we continue to do all of the things that I listed under this heading in that post with one difference.

Point #2.  As our children enter the ‘older’ stage (around 10 years) they begin some of the formal subjects that we delayed in the earlier years.  There are some subject that we do not teach “formally” to our children and some we continue to delay.

To help our children overcome their natural laziness:

  1. We provide ample opportunities for them to learn through hard work.  We extend our children’s responsibilities to areas outside of our home.  (i.e. They clean house, babysit, mow lawns, rake leaves and cook for families in our church and neighborhood.)
  2. We focus on character.  By now we find that our children are basically responsible and diligent in both their household tasks and school assignments and we focus more on service to others.   Most of this training comes not from learning to serve those outside our family (they do a lot of that, but that comes easily and doesn’t test their character), but rather learning to cheerfully serve their younger siblings.
  3. We require excellence and focus in all of their academic assignments.
  4. We require them to be responsible for their own assignments.  I do not hang over their shoulder and watch as they work.  Mark and I check at the end of the week to be certain that they have accomplished what was expected of them.

To build relationships as you educate older children:

  1. Big kids still need physical closeness.  Although they need less now than previously, it is not unusual for Mark or me to have one of the big kids on our lap.
  2. Encourage your children.  Remember, if you have your child’s heart they desire to please you and you should let them know that their efforts are pleasing to you.
  3. Make time for your older children. It seems that in many ways our older children need the interaction with us now more than they did when they were younger.  They talk with us more and have deeper thoughts, ideas and questions that they want to discuss with us.  This is a precious time, don’t lose it.
  4. While our children work on several things independently (math, Greek and writing), Mark and I still work directly with our older children on many subjects;  Bible, history, character studies, etc.  See point #3.  (We see specific commands to teach these particular subjects to our children in Scripture and we attempt to pattern our method after Deuteronomy 6. For more about how this works, read Our Methods and  6 Distinctives of our Homeschool)
  5. Don’t fill their academic schedule so full that they don’t have time for the important things in life.  Remember the goal.
  6. Give your older children the opportunity to interact with younger ones. (**In our family, we have chosen not to delegate the responsibility of teaching to our older children because we believe that responsibility is  given to parents. Besides, we would hate to miss out on that precious time with our little ones, whether it’s teaching them to read, working with maps or reading about mummies.) Since our whole family is studying history together, older children working with the younger children comes about very naturally.  The older kids love to read additional books on the topics/events that we are studying to the younger children and they beg to ‘lead’ the hands-on activities that I plan for the little kids.  (Yesterday Matthew helped the younger children make mud bricks like the people of Mesopotamia made.)  They also work together on many activities and I often find that when I go to instruct one of the younger kids in something that they already know how to do it because, “Alyssa already taught me how to make a salad, Mommy.”

As our children get older, these thoughts that Kevin Swanson shares about protection in his book  ‘ Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child‘ are things that Mark and I are considering more closely,

But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me – it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea! ~ Matthew 18:6

Such grim words coming from the lips of Jesus should cause any parent or teacher to stop a moment and ponder. Children are important to Jesus…..This timeless truth teaches that children must be protected from hinderances while they are shepherded down the pathway of wisdom.

Note also what it is that would merit the millstone treatment – placing an occasion to stumble in the path of a child.

But how do we determine how much protection to require for our children?  How much protection is too much protection?  The following wisdom passage provides a helpful standard to answer this all important question.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6

Swanson goes on to say,

The acid test determining whether a child is ready to be subjected to an environment hostile to his own world views and faith is found here:  the child must be prepared to confront the world, to wrestle with principalities and powers, to cast down imaginations that oppose the knowledge of God, and to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Many books, teachers and media expose our children “to an environment hostile to his own world views and faith”.

So what do you think?  Are we naive as we enter the teen years?  We’re still trying to figure this out and would love to hear Biblical advice and counsel from those who are ahead of us on this path.

**I know that a lot of homeschoolers do this and we’d love to hear the Biblical reasons and ideas behind it.

See what the other moms of many have to say:

Deputy Headmistress @ The Common Room
KimC @ Life in a Shoe
Connie @ Smockity Frocks

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6 Responses to Teaching Big Kids: 4 Moms, 35 Kids
  1. deputyheadmistress
    May 27, 2010 | 10:47 am

    Good post!

    Curious- are there any lessons you would outsource? Our 19 year old taught some piano to her two youngest siblings because she knows how to play the piano and I don’t.
    I wasn’t really missing out on anything because they were both right there in the living room.
    I let our second girl, when she was about 19 or 20, teach some logic to the middle girls because she wanted to.
    We also from time to time assign an older child to help a younger one with a lesson, or read aloud a particular book with them- we have found that this brings out character issues we might not otherwise see, is good hands on training for the older ones in learning to teach younger ones, and as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.;-)
    As you say, it happens naturally anyway. I don’t really see a difference between one of my teens deciding on her own to teach a younger child how to scrub the sink or discussing what happened in WW1 at Flanders’ Field, and me saying, “Hey, since you are so good at cleaning the sink, will you show your little sister what you do?” or “Since you love this part of history so much, would you tell your little brother what happened here?”
    I think it also gives them some early practice in communicating what they know to somebody else, which is good training for always being ready to give an answer.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Great point.

    I should clarify. When I was writing this post I was thinking more about older children bearing the responsibility of teaching a younger child to read or teaching all of Kindergarten. (Not saying this is wrong, just would love to hear others thoughts. We’re still learning.)

    We do assign small teaching tasks to our older children such as you describe. (Every Wednesday each of our big kids listens to one of the younger ones read and it is not uncommon for us to have a big kid do a task with a younger child so the younger child will learn.) I view that as part of life and being a sibling. I agree, allowing it to happen naturally and facilitating it is too fine a line of distinction. I think that the point is that we aren’t delegating the responsibility of teaching to our older children. Does that make any sense?

    As I mention we are really still learning and sorting this out and don’t really have an answer as to where the line should be drawn or what this should look like. Which is probably why I should have gone with my gut reaction to this post and that was just to say, that we’re still learning about this and that everyone should go read the other mom’s posts. 🙂


  2. Sara at Saving For Someday
    May 27, 2010 | 11:22 am

    I’m finally leaving a comment on your blog after months of reading it. I just wanted to tell you that this was a phenomenal post. Not just for larger families. I’m a homeschool mom of one (she’s 7) and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you offer. Of course I can’t delegate, but I often forget many of the things you mentioned – especially about placing the opportunity to stumble. Reading your post helped me realize it’s not about watching the child fail but instead giving them the opportunity to learn how to fail AND recover.

    I love reading your posts and it makes it even better because I met you at Blissdom and know what a beautiful person you are.

    You help me be a better home schooler! Thank you.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Sara, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment and for your sweet encouragement.

    I’m so thankful that we were able to meet at Blissdom. God bless you as you strive to educate your daughter for His glory.


  3. deputyheadmistress
    May 27, 2010 | 2:02 pm

    That makes sense, Kimberly. It’s hard to write about this stuff sometimes, isn’t it? I want to focus on principles, demonstrated by specifics of what we do, but then sometimes I want to add so many caveats and clarifications sometimes that my point seems to evaporate.
    If that makes any sense at all.=)


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    It is hard, especially when you don’t really know what is best. 😉


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