Some of us begin our homeschool journeys with more than one little one in our home. I was pregnant with our third when we began to formally homeschool our oldest child and like many others I had visions of a happy houseful contentedly finishing their school work with little struggle. Alas, babies and toddlers add energy and distraction. Teaching elementary, middle school and high school at the same time is equally daunting. It takes time and practice to learn how to effectively manage a one room schoolhouse.
Tips for Homeschooling Multiple Ages
Check Out Multilevel Teaching
One of the best ideas I encountered as a beginner was multilevel teaching. Instead of teaching each child using his own grade-level textbooks, many homeschool parents teach all their children the same subject at the same time, but give them assignments based on their ability. We have done this for years in Bible, science, history, geography and literature. An abundance of resources are out there, many for free online. Lapbooking, Notebooking, Unit Studies, and Living Literature are all terms to look up online. This method has simplified our homeschooling and made it far more functional. My favorite hour of the homeschool day is when we are cuddled together on the couch reading while my children beg me to keep going. Learning happens organically.
Consider Self-teaching Curriculum for Older Children
Time is something we run out of so often when we are teaching more than one. Choosing a self-teaching curriculum frees you up from daily teaching but allows you to help when needed. We have used a DVD math program for our students. I even have them correct themselves once I believe they are trustworthy and not overly tempted to cheat and then I check up on them periodically just to make sure.
Take Time to Plan
Scheduling our school subjects became a necessity as my kids got older. One is ready for a spelling test, another needs help with grammar but mom can’t be in two places at once. When I schedule subjects, I stagger the times I know I will be needed with my various kids, that way each gets the mom time they need on a consistent basis. This lets them know mom will be available to them at certain times and to move on to something else if it isn’t their turn yet.
Use Assignment Sheets
In Oregon we are not required to keep track of hours or days like some other states, and I have heard from many moms that this can actually be a bit unsettling. They don’t always know “where” they are in schooling. Having a weekly or quarterly assignment sheet to track your student’s progress is a great way to have a visual on how you are progressing throughout the year. It can be a simple grid listing the subject with five empty slots that your students can fill with a fun sticker, check mark or grade from mom. Instruct them to share their completed assignment sheets with Principal Daddy at the end of the week. This provides Dad with an idea of what the family is doing and lets him give them incentive to keep going as well. Donnayoung.org is a great site for freebie planners.
Involve all the Children
Little ones can often learn far more than we give them credit for. Let them be part of what you’re doing. If they can sit still, hold them on your lap and let them hear what you are teaching. One of my younger children basically learned to read this way. If they are wiggly let them sit on a blanket on the floor with a handful of toys or coloring pages. Teach them to stay on their “boat” during teaching time and not fall into the water. Have your little ones show flash cards to their older siblings and then rotate the older ones to play with the younger ones off and on during the day. Don’t forget to use those older children to help teach the younger ones. This builds a lifetime of memories and relationships.
Make a Toy Rotation
I garnered this marvelous idea from “Managers of Their Homes” by Terri Maxwell when I had little ones climbing my legs while I was teaching my other two. Plan out 30 days of toy rotations, and set them aside. These can be very simple things, lacing cards, spools and yarn to wrap, beans and a slotted spoon, small cars and a hand drawn cardboard race track. Put them in Ziploc bags or in shoe boxes. Pull them out according to the date of the month and then use them only during school time. They really loved this and I didn’t have to think of something new to do to keep them busy or fall into the trap of just setting them before a video!
Find a Space that Works For You
We started at the coffee table in the living room and then moved to the kitchen table. As our children grew, our two kinesthetically inclined boys made it impossible for our auditory daughter to concentrate so now our children work in different spaces but come together for our unit studies. Older students can tell you where they work the best; let them try out a few spaces. It surprises me how well one will be able to work while laying on the living room floor while another sprawls on his bed.
Organize Your Tools
It is terrible to not be able to find your teacher’s books and the kid’s curriculum. Be very vigilant about making books go back to their homes. If you have a fun basket for the kids to put their stuff in, it is more likely to happen. One mom I know has a backpack system. Her kids put their books in this every day and if they need to go to karate, grandma’s etc. their stuff is ready to go at a moment’s notice. My son stores his school work under the couches in the living room rather than putting it in the cabinet just so he can find his calculator and ruler without a problem every time.
Maximize the Nap Hour for Concentrated Learning
For those of you with very young children this can be a hard quiet time to give up; but if you are struggling with a student who needs more one- on-one time this can be a blessed hour. You will be able to get a lot done in a concentrated period if you plan for it and your student will see it as a special mommy time with just you. I often used this time for reading lessons, allowing my new reader to have quiet to think and process.
This time flies by so fast. Too soon they will be in their teens and you don’t want them to remember their homeschool as “stress” rather than “bliss.” Have fun together as a family. Encourage them to be each other’s best friend and to seek what is best for all instead of self. Sharing life together is one of those perks you don’t want to forget as you focus on teaching. Remember this is a time to cherish.
This article was written for OCEANetwork by Christine Bullock. The Bullocks happily juggle homeschooling their houseful in Eugene
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