I have been homeschooling since our oldest started kindergarten 10 years ago. Last year, we added our fourth child into the mix. One of our biggest challenges has been to homeschool multiple ages at once. Here are a few ways we make it work:
Guest post by: Jennifer Self
Think Outside The Box. Literally.
I like to choose or adapt curriculum to fit with families rather than classrooms. Four years ago, we began using My Father’s World. It includes a variety of resources, living books and textbooks from different curriculum companies and compiles them into one easy-to-follow curriculum.
Bible, History, Science, Music and Art are all related to one another and follow a chronological pattern over a four year period. All children can use the same curriculum and go deeper into the subject matter according to their grade level and understanding.
After breakfast each morning, we sit down at the dining room table and go over the lesson together. This is my favorite part of our school day. We often get into discussions we never would have had if we weren’t gathered together in that setting.
We do stick to our box curriculum company, Bob Jones Press, for all of kindergarten and Language Arts and Math for the elementary grades. They provide an excellent, concept-based curriculum for those subjects.
Next year, my oldest is beginning high school, so she won’t be officially learning with us. I chose Notgrass World History for her so she can use the same concept and combine Bible, History and Literature. She will be supplementing with a fun and quirky book I discovered called Loving Grammar.
Establish Learning Stations and Rotate Them
Once we are finished with My Father’s World, everyone rotates through four different “stations”. All four students need time to work with me. Each of them need to practice piano, and each of them has some written work to accomplish. All of them need access to the computer at some point as well.
The order in which we rotate depends on what activities must be done that day. I will send one child to the piano, one to the computer and one to do written work independently while I work with the fourth on whatever they need. When I am finished with that child, they move to another “station” and I find someone who is free and waiting on my help.
Simplify As Much As Possible
I simplify some subjects by using the computer, DVDs and other teachers. For example, I use Bob Jones’ spelling words, but we don’t do the workbooks. I bookmark the Spelling City website on my computer and let the 2nd – 6th graders do all their spelling that way. I type the words in for the younger ones, but I find it good practice for the older ones to type in their own words. They play games to practice the words and take their final test on the site. They just bring me the print out, already graded, for their folders.
We also simplified reading by doing away with reading workbooks as much as possible and just reading lots of real books. I also do not use a separate handwriting curriculum. I like to incorporate handwriting work into their other subjects so it doesn’t just feel like busywork.
Delegate What You Can
Our homeschool co-op has provided great enrichment classes for us over the years. I haven’t personally done art, physical education or drama with my kids for the four years we have participated in co-op. Next year, my daughter will be taking Physical Science and Spanish 1 for high school credit through the co-op and my 6th grader will be studying our state history as a full credit class.
Some technology works better than others for us. We used the Bob Jones DVD classes for Pre-Algebra last year. We found it too expensive for our budget to continue since we skipped a lot of the lessons that were quicker to do without the DVD instructor. She will be switching to Teaching Textbooks for her high school math.
We also tried Skrafty since my children love Minecraft. This completely automated their science for me, and the kids loved it. However, I felt I didn’t have a good grasp on what they had learned, and it doesn’t work as well for classes involving hands-on lab work.
Encourage Independent Learning and Teamwork
My goal for all my children is to make them into lifelong learners. Each year, students in our home school take on more of the learning responsibility themselves. Children 4th grade and above generally only come to me when they don’t understand something.
As we begin high school, I’m giving more of the decision making over to my daughter as to the classes she wants to take and how she wants to schedule her time. I become more of an overseer to make sure things are getting finished properly than an actual teacher.
I often have older children read to younger ones or help them with their work when I am busy. I tell each child to ask the person above them in age first, then work up the “ladder” to me if no one else can help.
I find when I relax and focus on the big picture, learning takes care of itself. Every child plays a part, and learning happens all around me every day.
Don’t tell my kids, but the one doing most of the learning is me.
Jennifer L. Self is passionate about educating, working and living well at home. When she’s not dreaming up new business ideas or spending time with her family, she writes about simplifying and enriching life for the work at home, homeschooling mom on her blog.