Homeschooling is challenging all by itself, but add multiple children of different ages and grades and you have a recipe for high stress if you don’t work it right. I’ve collected some great tips and tricks from moms who have run the gauntlet.
1. How do you handle learning outcomes for multiple grades?
- We do most of our science and socials together, but to meet outcomes we do mini sessions of the topics that they need to cover for that year, by focusing on that topic for a week or two.
- If your kids are close in age (within 3 years), Sonlight curriculum actually recommends that you combine learning in a number of subjects. This has made our History/Geography and Science much simpler.
- Apologia science. I used the curriculum as is (although we probably won’t finish it in a year), and just added a few sessions of the other science topics to cover outcomes.
2. How do you manage multi-grade children during the day? How are you able to have one-on-one teaching time with each?
- I have 4 children – two school aged and two preschoolers. I read with the one school aged child while the other one does her writing or mapwork. My PreK and toddler listen to an old phonics tape that I used when I was learning to read. The two school-aged children also like to color, so when they are waiting for me, they sometimes pull out their coloring.
- Stagger subjects. Subjects that require more parent involvement (like math) should be done at different times – I like to have one child working on Math while the other works in a workbook (like handwriting or journal)
- Preschoolers have a big area to play in beside the schoolroom. They also join us in many of our schooling.
- Plan ahead for preschoolers. I have a stack of preschool workbooks, and toys that are just for school time. My son is easy for the most part – he plays by himself and his routine involves asking for a sliced apple halfway through the morning. He also loves to join us when I read aloud – another reason I love Sonlight is because the read-alouds allow the whole family to engage in the schooling.
- In our earlier years I had activity bins for each of the girls. they were filled with things that they could only use when I was with the other student. For K/1, I had a dish with cornmeal in it so that they could practice forming letters or numbers in the “sand.” Coloring books, activity books, special toys just for “school time”. Play dough for forming the letters. All quiet activities.
- One does piano, typing, reading, drawing, current events on the computer or self motivated subjects while I am working with the other child.
3. When did you do your planning and how did you plan ahead?
- I did a lot of my planning at the end of last school year as then I knew what had worked and what hadn’t.
- Because my children are in early grades, there’s not a lot of pre-planning required. I generally do my planning on the fly. Again, my curriculum choice has enabled me to do that – there is very little planning required. I would recommend that a parent planning to homeschool multiple children (especially if they have preschool-age children) in the early grades that they choose a curriculum with their time constraints in mind. While “designing” your own curriculum may be what you would prefer ideally, if you have small children, it may be impractical.
4. What has NOT worked well for you?
- Worrying that I am not doing a good enough job. I have come to the point where I am comfortable with what I am doing with my kids and I am sure that they will turn out decent ;-) Although it does sometimes worry me that I can only blame myself if they don’t turn out, all the public school moms can blame the teachers/schools.
- Rigidity. I need to feel “allowed” to digress from the curriculum, to have “light” days, to work a four day schedule instead of a five day.
5. What is the first bit of advice you would give someone homeschooling multiple children?
- Don’t get too stressed about outcomes!
- Do as many subjects together as you can. And do a lot of read alouds.
- Read books that help you keep your focus. I have a friend who is homeschooling three boys grades 5,3, and 1 and has a very active four year old. One child struggles with learning difficulties. Books by Ruth Beechick and Raymond Moore have helped her to know what to expect from each child at their level, and how to practically achieve the goals for each level.
- Staggering their teaching time vs. self directed time is necessary. A person has to sometimes prep materials ahead so that they can hand the older child something that they can do on their own while you help the younger ones.
- In these early years, focus on the Three R’s and try very hard not to compare to other homeschoolers. What works for them may not work for you - every child is different.
- My biggest priority for my children is to teach them to love learning. If I can give them a hunger for knowledge, they will be learners their entire life.
A great article called “Managing Little Ones While Homeschooling” is available in the Above Rubies magazine issue #74. You can check it out here.