How We Homeschool Multiple Ages
So many people ask me how we homeschool with four different age levels. This year I have an 8th grader, 6th grader, 4th grader, and kindergartner. Over the years we have always managed to homeschool different levels quite easily. In fact, I usually tell people, “I only have to homeschool FOUR children…in school the teacher is responsible for 20+ students!” 😉
Homeschooling multiple ages isn’t a new concept. Since before the modern day public school, there were moms who taught their children at home or sent them to a one-room school house. It is actually a quite natural way to learn, and if we look at it with our traditional public schooling perspective taken out the equation, we can see why.
The easiest way to make homeschooling with multiple ages work is to combine as many subjects as you can together. For years, all of my children have done science, history, nature studies, art studies, read alouds, and geography together. We read a ton of living books(for most subjects) and I choose a wide variety of levels. It always amazes me how much the younger ones retain and learn. I also realize that my older ones never feel too “old” for a picture book!
For science, we have always used a curriculum that is designed for multiple ages. I give assignments on what we are learning based on each level, but the “meat” of the lessons are all done together.
As my children are growing, I have had to let my oldest do more independent work. She does, however, miss working with her siblings!
The Mentoring Model
My children have always worked together in many subjects and it is a great way for relationship building. The older ones can help the younger ones, and the younger ones can learn from the older ones. It is a way to learn to work with others and not just people the same age as us.
As my older children grew older, they became able to help with much of the school work, and not necessarily because it lightened my load (although that is a perk!) but because they were learning to mentor others and how to help and teach younger ones.
The little ones are learning so much from big brother and big sister. They are also fostering a relationship that definitely comes from living a homeschooling lifestyle. I see my little guy look up to his big brother so much- he adores him. It’s his best bro. 😉 I love the relationships that have been formed because they work together every day in some capacity.
Dividing Up Mom’s Time
One of the lessons I learned early on in our journey was how to divide my time appropriately. After our “together” work was complete, the children would work on individual work. Each child had work for their level in math and language arts. In the beginning, I would have everyone work on math at the same time, as I tried to go back and forth between everyone trying to help.
It was distracting for me and for them. Until one day, I set the new format that we have used ever since.
I work with the very youngest first on individual work and then I work my way up to the oldest. The key is though, that each child gets individual time with me. The youngest child will always need me most because there is much more “teaching” involved, especially if they are not yet a reader, so they would go first. While I work with that child, the older ones begin their work. They are to do as much as they can without me. If they finish and it isn’t their turn to work with me yet, the rule is to wait quietly…they can find something fun to do or color, read, etc. But they must NOT interrupt me.
When they know that they will get a turn, the desire to interrupt me goes away. They each can expect alone time with mommy so they don’t all feel like they have to fight for it. This has really made all the difference for many years. I am not trying to juggle each child at the same time. I generally spend anywhere from 20-40 minutes with each child individually.
It’s Not Always Roses
Is it always perfect? No. Like anything, there are definite struggles. Kids fight. Sometimes a child struggles and needs me more than usual, meaning I have to juggle times. Yet, I think homeschooling multiple grades can be doable and efficient. I wouldn’t have it any other way! The benefits of this lifestyle certainly have outweighed any of the cons.
Do you homeschool multiple ages? How do you make it work?
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