Help for Homeschooling Multiple Ages
(How to make it work when there are more of them and only one of you.)
I’ve been getting our curriculum organized for school to start–hopefully we will be ready before the end of this week. So, how do I manage three different ages/grades for school when I’m just one Mommy? That’s the question of the century, but it is really possible! Let me share what we’re doing and some tips for homeschooling multiple ages.
Managing Homeschooing Multiple Ages
For the 2009/2010 school year, each of the boys will be doing a different level for language arts, math, and handwriting, but we will all be doing a combination of two levels for science and history. Now that all three of my boys are school age, I try to combine as many things as possible to streamline my planning and my time.
This year, we are using World Cultures and Eastern Hemisphere from Sonlight, two levels of Sonlight biology, three different levels of Sonlight language arts, Handwriting Without Tears, and Shiller Math for everyone. This will be our first year with Shiller Math, and I ordered both Kit I and Kit II. The boys are all taking placement tests to see where to start. I’m hoping it will be a good transition from the Miquon and Keys to… that we’ve been doing. (Math is a huge struggle for me.)
Other than curriculum and books, the only other school supplies we’ve had to purchase are new markers to replace the dried out ones, a couple of notebooks, a pack of white paper, and a pack of cardstock. We have enjoyed browsing through all the cool new supplies at Target, though.
The boys found some Harry Potter composition books and folders they just had to have, and they have all been making up stories and writing them down, along with lots of drawings. They are playing “newspaper office” almost everyday, where they all sit down at their desks and create newspapers on newsprint paper and then try to sell them to each other–all with a Harry Potter theme, of course. They have come up with some really creative and funny results. I plan to tap into their obsession with my language arts plans for this year.
How to Homeschool Multiple Ages
If you are homeschooling children in different grade levels, here are some tips to help you make it work:
- Combine as many subjects as possible. It really doesn’t matter what ‘grade’ you cover some topics. Look at subjects like science and history as topical subjects. Everyone can learn about the same topic together, with variations for age-appropriateness. For example, when studying WWII, all three of my kids will listen as I read aloud to them from the same chapter book, but they will each tackle different projects to reinforce what they are learning, ranging from essays to coloring pages.
- Complement subjects with other materials. If an older child is studying biology, younger children can do nature study activities that correlate to the older child’s unit on taxonomy. (Click here to see how my younger kids are learning taxonomy.) For foreign language, if an older child is learning vocabulary, younger children can listen to songs or look at foreign versions of familiar picture books.
- Do unit studies. Rather than looking at each subject individually, unit studies are wonderful for taking a topic and covering all subjects with it. The Prairie Primer is a wonderful prepared unit study on the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which covers ALL subjects as your family reads through the series. It is easy to create your own unit studies based on the interests of your kids by choosing some books on a topic and then following a Google rabbit trail for ideas to expand the study into other areas. Check out my thematic book lists here for ideas to help you plan.
- Read aloud. I mention this in number 1. Gather everyone together and read a chapter book aloud. Gear your book choice toward you oldest child and have the youngest listen in. The younger ones might not understand it all, but they will soak it in more than you think. And, you may be surprised if your little ones claim them as their favorite stories. This is one of the reasons I love Sonlight curriculum. My kids and I are making wonderful book memories together as we delve into great books.
- Scale back. No, you are not Wonder Woman and you can’t do it all. Your kids will turn out fine, even if you don’t cover every single page in all of the books. Nor do you have to include every single elective in your curriculum. Cover the basics, do some subjects 2 days a week and others on the other days. Find some materials that each child can handle independently, like a workbook or two, so that you can give them something to do while you are working with another child.
How many kids are you homeschooling? Please share your tips for making it all work.