Joys and Challenges of Homeschooling a Large Family (with Heather Tully)

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If you homeschool more than one child, at some point you have probably wondered, “How do I balance the academic and emotional needs of multiple kids during the school day? And after I do all that, how do I keep the household running, too?” Heather Tully is a homeschool mama to 10 children from toddler to college age. The Lord has been faithful to teach her and grow her… and humble her… over her past decades of homeschooling, and she joins us today on the Homeschool Conversations podcast to share encouragement, practical tips, and grace-filled hope for the homeschool mama of many. This chat was such a delightful encouragement to me, and I know it will be to you as well!

Be sure to check out all the other interviews in our Homeschool Conversations series!

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Heather Tully Large Family Homeschooling Joys and Challenges Podcast interview

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Who is Heather Tully?

Heather Tully is a wife & mama to 10 children who’s age range span from toddlers to college age. She spends most of her time homeschooling (currently 6) students. A passion of hers is photography, especially in capturing the everyday, which helps to see the wonders God does in our ordinary days. She also loves a good book, coffee, time outside, and nature journaling.

Heather Tully Large Family Homeschooling Podcast interview

Watch my interview with Heather Tully

Show Notes {with video time stamps}

Heather’s family and homeschool

Heather’s children currently span from 3 to 20. Her oldest is a college student who lives at home and commutes. The high school senior is doing dual enrollment online. 16, 14, 12, 11, 8, 7, 5, and 3 year olds round out the family!

Heather and her husband wanted a family culture where they could teach their children throughout the whole day, not just in the evenings. They wanted strong family bonds and fellowship. So homeschooling is something they’ve always done.

When they first started, their homeschool was more based on a rigorous, history-based classical approach to education. “Through the years… we kind of made a turn and did more of a Charlotte Mason approach,”  Heather explained.

Heather mentioned that both Dawn Garrett and Karen Glass have been important influences on her educational philosophy.

Heather realized that Charlotte Mason education actually did not mean unstructured or unschooling! In fact, classical education and Charlotte Mason education are not at odds!

For more on this concept, check out previous podcast episodes with Dawn Garrett, Kathy Weitz, and Karen Glass just to get you started thinking!

Joys of Large Family Life {6:10}

“My favorite part is sometimes the hardest part, and that’s feeding everybody!” Heather laughed. She loves feeding big groups of people (including inviting other folks over) and discussing many things (often loudly) around the table.

She also loves watching the family dynamics of older siblings helping and growing relationships with the younger siblings.

“There’s a lot of forgiving that goes on when you’ve got a large family. That part is really hard, but it’s also really beautiful.”

Challenges of having many children {9:12}

Connecting with individual children can be hard, Heather said. Every morning she prays “Lord, show me who needs me today.” She wants to be really aware of every child and their needs.

Other ways they’ve found to connect with their children one-on-one:

  • Taking a child with them on an errand
  • Taking a child for coffee
  • Taking a child for a walk

Finding time for grocery shopping is also a struggle! “Amazon Prime comes a few times a week,” Heather laughed.

How do you balance the academic needs of multiple children during the homeschool day? {12:00}

Heather starts their homeschool day with Morning Time, and they’ve done this since their oldest was 3! It brings everyone together, builds family culture, and helps Heather cover many subjects at one time.

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Combining subjects is also helpful in a large family. For instance, this year everyone is studying Ancient history. Different children may have different books to read for their specific grade level, but they’re all in the same general area of study.

Heather sets blocks of time during which she meets with various children. She starts with the little ones. Throughout the day, she meets with different children in different blocks to go over their independent work and narrations. It helps to have that set time on the calendar, while also keeping flexibility in mind for the natural interruptions of daily life.

“A loop schedule saved me in the early years,” Heather added.

Heather also said that she does a lot of planning and pre-reading during the summer. Laying out the plans before the school year provides a lot of peace during the school year!

“If I can lay out the plans before we start the school year, there’s just a lot of peace. During the school year? It’s sink or swim! … It helps me to have it on paper, and then to hold it loosely. In the Lord’s providence and in His goodness, we may not get to everything and that’s ok. But you need somewhere to go; you need some kind of guidance.

Homeschool Planning

Parenting through the years {20:16}

I have learned through the years to pray a lot more,” Heather said, rather than jumping right into talking.

They’ve also learned the joy of incorporating nature journaling as a family and with friends.

It’s so much more of a peaceful place to be when we realize that God is the one at work in our children’s hearts!

Heather had so much wonderful encouragement to share in this portion of the interview; be sure to listen to or watch our full conversation!

Heather Tully Large Family Homeschooling Podcast interview

Strategies for keeping the household running while also homeschooling {28:10}

Heather smiled and said that she had to embrace the reality that it was going to be messier than she anticipated.

“I have a choice. Either I can have a really, really neat house where there’s no joy and no learning, or we can have peace.”

Every day everyone comes together and pitches in on chores at the end of the day to get the house in order.

Heather said that she’s also always doing laundry, often listening to narrations while doing it. “If you can keep laundry [going] and the refrigerator full, you can pretty much run a house,” Heather laughed.

Our attitude as moms has this rippling affect,” Heather reminded.

Mystie Winckler Homemaking Homeschooling Interview

Questions for each Homeschool Conversations Guest {32:00}

What are you reading lately?

What is one thing you would say to a new homeschool parent?

“Smile. Enjoy your children. You don’t have to figure everything out, especially if you’re new. Enjoy the process.”

“God loves you, and He loves your children.”

Find Heather Tully Online


Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

Homeschool Conversations Video Interviews Podcast Amy Sloan

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