In our final episode of our Managing Multiple Kids series, we are chatting with homeschool mom of ten Heather Tully. Heather has taken the popular concept of a loop schedule in a new direction — instead of looping her subjects, Heather loops her kids!
In this episode, we break down why she teaches this way, how she plans the loops, and the results she gets in this unique method of managing multiple kids and levels.
Key Takeaways from the Episode
- Heather Tulley has been utilizing loop scheduling and homeschooling her children for 19 years.
- The morning is for individual lessons for each child, followed by the afternoon read-aloud loop.
- Activities should be added to the loop to emphasize any topics that need more focus.
- Moms should plan activities for the younger children and use a timer to keep to time limits for the loop.
Listen to the Podcast:
Links and Resources
- Heather’s Blog and Instagram
- Gather: Exploring the Wonder, Wisdom, and Worship of Learning at Home
- Innovative Loop Schedule Course
Pam: Heather Tully is a mom of 10 ranging in age from 22 all the way down to five. She enjoys learning alongside her children in homeschooling, which includes a local Charlotte Mason community. As a documentary photographer, she seeks to capture the wonder in everyday life. She is the co-author of our book Gather: Exploring the Wonder Wisdom and Worship of Learning at Home. And you can find her on her website heathertullyphotography.com or on Instagram at @Heathertullyphotography. Heather, welcome to the podcast.
Heather: Thanks, Pam for having me.
Pam: Love having you on. And you know, this is part of our series of how do you homeschool and juggle multiple children in your homeschool? And when I started thinking about this topic, I thought, I know just the person to talk to. How long have you been juggling all these kids in your homeschool?
Heather: Oh, let’s see. Well, Patricia’s 22 and we started way too early, but she was reading at three. So don’t start teaching her children when she’s three. But we did start kind of early with some readings. So 19 years.
Pam: Wow. 19 years. And you just kept adding and adding and adding. Yes. And then all of a sudden, you know, so how many, just how many did you officially homeschool at one time? I know they all count because they’re all in the house, but you know, how many were you juggling academically at one time?
Heather: So this year I have six students plus the toddler, and that’s been my biggest amount of official students at a time. There have been years we’ve had more toddlers, but six students and one toddler this year.
Pam: Okay. Okay. And so five, you’re still considering him, the toddler, right?
Heather: No, six plus the toddler. So six academic students and the little toddler this year.
Pam: Right. But he’s five years old and you’re still calling him the toddler?
Heather: You’re right, Pam. He feels like a toddler. Next year he’ll be a student and then I’ll stop calling him a toddler.
Pam: Okay. Well this is a good thing to know. So he doesn’t officially become a student in your homeschool until he’s six years old.
Heather: That’s right. He does our morning Gather with us. He’s along for the ride. He does nature study, but nothing is official until you’re six in our home.
Pam: Okay. Okay. And so that’s one of the ways where if you have a ton of kids and you’re dealing with a five-year-old and a four-year-old, take the pressure off yourself to do something with those children.
Heather: Yeah. And let them have those early years to play and to wonder without the pressure. So he often joins us, but he’s free to leave and go, hopefully not get into trouble, but go off and do something.
Pam: Okay. Love it. Love it. So first tip right there, bonus tip. But I really wanted to have you on today to talk about something that you do that’s interesting. So I talk a lot about loop scheduling, which is where you simply make a list of subjects that you wanna do and you have a certain amount of time each day to dedicate to those subjects. So you might have four or five subjects on the list. You start at the top of that list and you do as many subjects as you can in the allotted time. You close your books the next day when your loop time comes up again, you open up your books and you start where you left off until you finish the list, and then you loop back around to the top. So this is the way to never feel behind with subjects in your homeschool, but you do it a little bit differently. You actually loop the kids. So what does that look like?
Heather: So we loop our Morning Time, but then after that, because I have three students this year who need to work on work with me one-on-one, I loop time with them. I set the clock, it’s been 45 minutes this year with each student. And so I set that for 45 minutes. And then I work with the next student for 45 minutes and then the next student.
But there are days where one child needs a little bit longer of a time, and so I’ll pick up with whatever student I left off with the next day. That also helps so that if, if I always met with the youngest first, sometimes that leaves the older child feeling worn out when it’s their lesson time. So if I loop around and sometimes let a different child get to go first, it helps with their energy level and just it’s, it’s just worked really beautifully. So I loop kids, but then I do just what you said, we loop what we’re doing together each day, day, and I just work a certain amount of time with that child.
Pam: Okay. So it’s really a loop within a loop. Which we actually have a course on the website about advanced looping where we talk about loops within loops and multiple loops and all of that fun stuff. Looping can be so much fun.
Okay, I love this. So what are the, so you have six students that you’re teaching, but you’re only looping with three. How old are those three students?
Heather: So this year I have an 11, nine and a seven year old that I’m looping in the morning before lunch. And then we also do a loop in the afternoon after lunch when I’m reading aloud science or history. And again, that’s gonna depend on which child that day, I just go through the list of the loop so I’m not meeting with every child in the afternoon. And that will be children aged 12 to seven. In the afternoon and allowed a book together and then narrating it.
Pam: Okay. So these are your children who are at elbow with you. These are the children who need mom to be there helping them with phonics or for you guys written narration or math or something of that nature.
Heather: Lots of copy work, even sitting down and like doing a timeline together. They need help knowing how to do that process. So yeah, these are my children who still need some instruction one-on-one or at least oversight. And then my big kids during that time are off working independently.
Pam: Okay. Okay. And so next year when you pull in the, the brand new newly minted six year old, he will join in this loop time as well. Correct?
Heather: Right. He’ll join into that morning loop of individual lessons, and then after lunch that read aloud loop, which book can I not put on audiobook? Because sometimes they go off and do an audiobook, but sometimes they need me to read it in smaller chunks. So yeah, he’ll join that rotation and probably the 11 year old will be moving out.
That’s the goal that around usually between 10 and 12, they’re not looping with me. It just kind of depends on the kid.
Pam: Right. And so you base that like there’s no magic age where it’s like I’m kicking you out. You really depended on the child and their abilities.
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Heather: Yeah, their ability, their read aloud ability, their ability to do written narration, their math skill. Can they do the worksheet and the problems on their own, or do they need me sitting there to encourage them?
Pam: Okay. I love that. Not sitting there necessarily like teaching them the math, but just sitting there to encourage them, which people don’t realize is such a huge part. Sometimes the child is even perfectly capable of doing the mathematics. They just need the encouragement.
Heather: Yeah. Especially with math, math can feel so overwhelming. And so if mama’s just there close by and I’m not too far off, it really helps.
Pam: Okay. So being a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, this has come up a lot and we’re working through our Elevate Consistency course right now. And short lessons…you use short lessons, don’t you?
Heather: We do. We move, it’s short. Sometimes it’s just rapid, like it’s not rapid where the child feels rushed. You wanna take ’em to the point where just before they’re overwhelmed, they’re at that point where they don’t understand, leave them wondering and then stop the lesson, move on to a different subject. So our loop has a lot of little things in it.
Even with math in the early years, math is only 20 minutes. We’re not driving it out for a really long time. And then later in the day they’ll play a math game or, or maybe cook with me and we can pull out math there. But just very short copy work is five – 10 minutes. That’s it.
Pam: Okay. Okay. So we’re moving along fairly quickly for these and by doing that, so I, I know moms are asking, and we’re gonna be like bound by our, our short time limit here. What do you do if you get to the end of that time and they’re not done with the math sheet?
Heather: Just stop and pick up there tomorrow. That’s the Beauty of the loop.
Pam: Yeah. Yeah. That’s so freeing. Mamas hear that and it like, no, if you’re sitting there an hour and a half later trying to finish that math sheet, nobody’s learning math, so just stop it.
Heather: Yes. Yeah. Really pay attention to your time restraint with, with the loop. And so I have a timer go off on my phone. Okay. You have five minutes with this child so that I, I have to respect their time and I have to respect the other children who need me.
Pam: Okay. So how long does your school day usually last as a mom who’s teaching six children?
Heather: Right. That’s a good thing to remember because I’m always a little scared to tell mamas because I’m like, I have six students. You only have my day’s gonna be longer. Right. We start at nine, we do a morning of our Gather time, and then I work through the younger children, those three children that I’m looping. And that takes us up to one o’clock when we have lunch, we have a break for an hour. And then I have our read aloud loop for either a half hour to an hour longer after lunch. It just depends on the day. Sometimes we do a full hour and we do several read alouds. Sometimes we just do a half hour and we do one read aloud.
Pam: Okay. But that’s still five hours Heather.
Heather: Yeah, That’s, it’s not too bad.
Pam: That’s not too bad considering the sheer number of children you’re teaching. And I’ve had moms who are teaching two children who tell me, well, our school days are five hours long. And so, yeah, I think, I think those short lessons are the key. Any tips for moms who are juggling multiple kids before we finish up?
Heather: Yeah. Have activities for your littles? So my little children have different boxes. They pull down and they do a table time with me at the table while I’m teaching another child and then a big sibling will take them outside.
You gotta keep those littles busy, not with schoolwork because they don’t need their day to go five hours, but they need something to do. They go outside and play a lot. And then my other tip is with a loop add in things that you wanna do more often. So for my youngest who’s seven, we have poetry on the loop two times because I wanna hit poetry reading it to him more than once, and then it’s several days before we come back to it. So you can add things into your loop multiple times. Latin for my 11 year old is on the loop three times so that we’re hitting Latin more regularly.
Pam: Yeah. The more often you wanna do a subject, the more often you wanna get to it, the more frequently it needs to appear on your loop. Right.
Heather: Yep. Exactly.
Pam: Very much so. And then gather, bring everybody together cuz that is the most efficient way to teach everybody at once.
Heather: It is. Gather’s my favorite time and we loop our Gather things so that we can cover multiple subjects at one time altogether. It’s fun.
Pam: I love it. I love it. All right. Well you can find Heather and my book, our book Gather at the website, pam barnhill.com/gather. So do come and check that out so you can see what it looks like to teach multiple kids all at once in your homeschool. Heather, thank you so much for coming today.
Heather: You’re welcome. Have a good day.
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Do you have an example of what a loop schedule looks like and how to implement it? Like it’s mentioned poetry 2xs, do you write poetry in two different spots on the list or??