Helen Helmers is a mother of 11 (yes, you read that right) who has homeschooled all of her children. Originally a British nanny, Helen married John Helmers, a principal cellist with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. When she began to homeschool she had seven children under nine years of age. “It was simply more efficient to homeschool with a large family.”
How hectic can life at the Helmers’ become?
Very! We get together every Sunday evening to go through everyone’s schedule, especially those in high school. If it is not on the schedule, if it is something they forgot to tell me – then it doesn’t happen.
What happens when the kids don’t get along?
If someone makes life difficult for another family member, they have to do that person’s job for them to make amends.
Why did you decide to homeschool all your children?
It is far more efficient. I never had to wake someone from their nap to pick people up from
school. Our schedule was our own not dictated by the school.
How do you and your husband share parenting duties?
We try to be united on consequences and what each child needs. Family life is like a can-opener – it exposes all our strengths and our weaknesses.
Any tricks for staying organized?
A place for everything and everything in its place. Laundry motto – clothing is on you, in the drawer, in the closet or in the wash, but NOT on the floor!
What is the best part of having such a large family?
Lots of love and, dare I say it, the noise! We can have two sports teams! And think of it, with 11 children, each one could live in different provinces and my husband and I could see Canada!
As of this issue, here are the ages and stages of Helen and John Helmers’ family:
Sarah, 24, has a degree in English from the University of Toronto. Sarah works at Queen’s Park as a junior analyst for women’s programs.
Andrew, 22, has a B.Sc, Masters and is now in his first year of medical school at McGill (he finished high school in three years).
Peter, 21, is working in Grande Prairie on a gas rig and loving every minute of it.
Miriam, 19, is in third year linguistics at University of Toronto.
Anna, 18, is in her first year at Humber College’s Culinary Management.
Alice, 17, is in Grade 12 and is very artistic and plays piano.
Frances, 15, is in Grade 10 and loves sports, ballet and is a fashionista.
Adam, 13, is in Grade 8 and loves woodworking.
Martha, 11, loves crafts, especially making jewellery.
Jacob, 9, does all the baking for the family (he makes great birthday cakes and gets plenty of chances to prove that).
Judith, 7, is the princess. She plays piano and loves to hang out with her sisters.