Share this page:

The Washington Times
January 6, 1998

As number of children grows, so does challenge

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
January 6, 1998

A few weeks ago, I was on a radio talk show in Northern California talking about the future of home-schooling.

A mom called almost in tears. She and her husband had been planning for a long time to home-school their children beginning next year, when the older of their two children will turn 5. But she had recently discovered that she was pregnant with twins. She no longer believed that it was possible to home-school with so many little ones to care for.

My wife should be writing this week’s column to give advice and encouragement to moms with a lot of children, but she’s too busy home-schooling the five of our 10 children who are of school age. Two have graduated; three are preschoolers.

Let me try to share with such moms what Vickie would say if she had the time to write.

First of all, moms should remember that children in first to third grades need only about an hour or two a day of formal academic instruction. There is an enormous amount of wasted time in the classroom setting. Public-school visiting teachers, who help children with long-term illness, greatly reduce the number of school hours, as do hundreds of thousands of home-schoolers.

Their experience proves that in the early years, one or two hours a day will get a child through all the necessary instruction.

A friend of mine who is a principal at a public high school has a daughter who was homebound for about six weeks because of an illness during her first-grade year. Every day he went to her classroom and got the assignments from her first-grade teacher at the public school.

He kept track of the time it took him to teach her the public-school first-grade curriculum. It averaged four minutes a day. Yes, that is correct. Four minutes.

Our children have all been taught on this kind of schedule, and our oldest daughter has a college grade-point average of 3.97. Our second daughter (who skipped three grades) graduated from high school as a National Merit Commended Scholar.

Even if you have three preschoolers, including twins, you can find an hour or two a day to concentrate on academics.

This means, of course, that nap time for the babies is going to be a primary instruction time for your 5- to 8-year-olds. Even as your twins become toddlers and a little older, a mandatory nap time—whether they sleep or not—is a great way to give you the time to concentrate on academic instruction.

If you have children who are 10 or older, they can become a resource in helping you clear some time for academic instruction. We have our older-but-still-at-home children take one 30-minute turn each day to entertain and supervise the preschoolers while mom is giving instruction in an adjoining room.

As our children have gotten older, they have created very interesting art and music projects for their younger siblings during this time. But much of the time is simply supervised play. Children do need time just to be children.

Finally, I would say to let the housework take a back seat during the school hours—at least from mom’s perspective. Children should still do their chores.

When dad gets home, housework can become a whole-family activity with dad, not mom, taking command of the children.

Home-schooling with a large family is not easy. It requires both discipline and sacrifice. But it can be done.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at