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5 Tips for Homeschooling Multiple Ages
Hello everyone. I’m Amy Roberts from RaisingArrows.net and I first want to thank Lara for having me here on the Cultivating Grace podcast. I really appreciate all that you do for homeschooling moms everywhere.
Today I want to share with you five things that I think will really help you in your journey of homeschooling multiple ages. I have a large family myself and that is one of the trickiest parts of homeschooling a large family, is that you have all these different ages and stages, and you kind of have to clone yourself almost to make sure that you get the little ones taught to read, and the older ones get their graduation requirements, and then everything in between, and it can be mind-boggling to try to figure out how to do that effectively and efficiently, and so I want to share some things that I have learned over the years that have really made a difference in this homeschooling multiple ages.
First of all, you need to anchor your day somehow. There needs to be a beginning to the day. This is when you call everybody together and you start your homeschooling day. The reason this is so important is that when you have older children, they’re typically off doing their own thing, working on other projects, and you need to have a start to their homeschooling day.
Likewise you have younger children running around the house, and if you bring them all together in one place, it signifies that this is the beginning of school hours and we are getting started, and this doesn’t matter what time you do this. If you consistently do this at nine o’clock, or eight o’clock, or whatever every single day, that’s great, but you don’t have to have a set time and that works great for us routine moms who need to not have a set time to our schedule, but more of a routine where we start here and we move through the things one at a time.
So if you’re anchoring your day, it doesn’t matter what time it is. Everything starts for your homeschool with a particular event, and that’s your anchor. For us that is morning time, that we use the Homeschool Garden Morning Time, we read in our Bible, we usually have a read aloud that goes along with that, and that’s how we start our day.
Back in the timeframe when I was pregnant a lot and dealing with morning sickness, our anchor was simply a Bible story out of one of those storybook Bibles. That was the most I could handle and that’s how we began our day, but it was an anchor. I called everyone together in the living room and we started our day there.
The next thing I found was that my little kids were always being left behind. I was forgetting to work with them, or by the time I got to them, it was afternoon and I was worn-out, and so I decided years ago to start with them. Work my way up by starting with the younger kids and then working up to the older kids, because actually the next point I’m going to make is that your older kids, you need to be training them toward independence so that you don’t have to micromanage their time.
So if you start with the younger kids, you’re doing their phonics, and their handwriting, and their math, and all of that with them around the table, and then that way when they’re finished, they can go off and play and you can go check in on the older kids whom you have been training to be more independent in their work, you’ve given them curriculum that is a more independent student-driven curriculum, and you are just checking in to make sure that they don’t have any questions, or maybe they need a little bit of help and you need to take some time helping them through some different problems that they’re doing, and that’s going to allow you to give what you need to to the little kids and then allow them to go play before you start in with the more intensive work of the older kids.
I would also highly encourage you to avoid any teacher intensive curriculum unless it’s something you really enjoy teaching. So for instance, maybe math is not something you enjoy teaching, so find a curriculum that doesn’t require planning and preparation from you for them to learn math. Computer-based programs are a really great example of not so teacher intensive curriculum, and then save that more teacher intensive stuff for the subjects that you actually want to be hands-on with your kids.
The final thing I would suggest is to work together as much as possible. We call this corporate homeschooling. This is the stuff that we do all together as a family. So as part of our morning time, that’s typically when we do all of those things that we like to do together. So that’s where our history, and our geography, our art study, and nature study, and all of those come together in one place. It helps to be able to do that with all the children and not individualize all of that stuff. If you’re afraid that your younger children are going to lose interest, give them a coloring page or something like that to keep their hands and minds busy while you’re speaking more to your older children.
The best way I have found to look for ways to work together is to write down each of your children’s names at the top of a page and then all the subjects that you would like them to cover, and then look where there’s overlap, where you could actually be teaching your eight year old and your 10 year old the same thing at the same time.
I know that we get kind of stuck on age graded material, but you really don’t need to do that. If you can be teaching the eight and 10 year old the same math program at the same time, you’re going to save yourself a lot of hassle, likewise with science. Can you be teaching everybody the same science class by reading out of the same science text? Or maybe you could hand them their individual science text and not even be very hands on with their science other than when they need to do some labs or something like that. History is a fantastic example of something that you can do with all ages and grades.
In order to make this work, I typically teach to the next to highest level of children I have in the home, that way I can add supplements and reading for my older daughter and also bring it down a little bit for my younger kids, but I’m teaching more at that upper level where my older kids are getting a lot of meat, and the younger kids are kind of getting the scraps that are coming off of that meat, because eventually they’re going to be studying that time period again, and they’ll remember a lot of the things that they did during the time period that we were studying with the older kids.
They’ll remember the activities, and the printables and things like that that I added in to help them to retain some of that information, but they don’t need to get it all right then when they are six years old. They’ll be getting more of it later on.
To learn more about how to homeschool multiple ages and to also manage your home and homeschool while you are pregnant or dealing with a newborn or a toddler, check out my book Large Family Homeschooling. I think you’ll find that it is full of information, practical tips and ideas to keep your homeschool running smoothly and to curb the chaos so that you can enjoy the journey.
Amy Roberts of RaisingArrows.net is a Christ-follower, devoted wife, homeschooling mother of 10, blogger, conference speaker, podcaster, and author. Amy inspires the hearts of weary, overwhelmed mamas across the world as she offers practical and encouraging advice to help simplify the path and enjoy the journey of homemaking, homeschooling, marriage, and mothering.
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