Homeschooling Multiple Ages
There was once a time when I couldn’t conceive of how any person with more than one child could homeschool well. How can one teach multiple levels at the same time? Can you teach 6th grade math while teaching 4th grade math? I assumed someone would be neglected. This made homeschooling terrifying to me but I figured there are so many parents out there doing it there must be way.
I am the homeschooling mom to four children ages 10, 8, 5 and 18 months. I juggle 6th grade math, 4th grade math, kindergarten math, all right next to nursery rhymes. Plus every other subject I deem worthy of our time. Many days I feel like a circus act juggling balls with my hands while spinning plates on top of my head. While no day is ever perfect there are ways to make it work without making yourself crazy.
Setting the Expectations
I’ve found two essential ingredients to make homeschooling multiple ages work well. As a mom I have to keep our day simple, and I must be flexible. I have implemented two important elements into our day. We now have Independent Study Time and Group Learning Time. I will explain more about those in a minute but neither would be successful for us if I didn’t take the time to remind my children often of my expectations of them.
Independent Study Time
Independent study time is the time of day when my children are required to work on material completely on their own. During this time my two oldest work on journaling, copywork, typing, poetry memorization, independent projects, and any online curriculum that we’ve set up for them to do on their own. They are given a daily checklist of assignments to complete. At the conclusion of Independent Study Time I sit with each child and go over everything. If I discover a trouble spot I make the time to lend a hand.
Their Independent Study time gives me much needed one-on-one time with my 5 year old. As my budding reader she requires my direct attention. We will work on her math and language arts curriculum together and then snuggle up for a few minutes of read aloud time just for her.
Wherever it is possible my children and I explore as many subjects together as a team as possible. The key is setting different expectations for different ages. There are a variety of curricula available that can help you teach multiple age groups together. For example some companies offer two levels of their workbook that to go along with their main text. Unit studies, note-booking, and folder projects are other tools that can help make combined learning easier. Bible, Science, and History are usually easiest to complete together.
What About the Baby?
Yes I do have a toddler underfoot and she needs my constant care and attention too. I’ve been known to direct spelling while sitting on the floor rocking a doll to sleep. My main strategy for providing for my littlest homeschooler is to conduct school with all my together children in a room that is pretty baby proofed and safe for her. I keep a shelf of toddler toys that I rotate often to keep them fresh, new, and interesting. She toddles around, crawling under our tables, and dumping things out all around us. It works for now!
There it is… my tips for teaching multiple ages at once. Keeping things simple and straightforward keeps everyone in my family pretty happy. Of course all of this is subject to change based on anything from how many teeth the toddler is pushing to the weather. Remember be flexible and keep it simple.
Crystal Heft is a wife and homeschooling mother to four beautiful children. A former public school teacher, she took a dramatic turn in her life when her oldest was born. Now she stays home educating and raising her family while also running her own photography business. Crystal blogs about life, homeschooling, photography and more at www.crystalstarrblog.com.