If you’re embarking on your homeschool journey, or you’ve reached the point where you have multiple children learning, it can feel a bit overwhelming. I’m excited to share some practical and simple ways to homeschool multiple children well.
I remember when my oldest was in first grade and I added in my son, a preschooler. I had no idea how I would make homeschooling two different ages, both of which needed my full attention, work in our home.
Somehow, with a little planning and organization, we managed to create a great routine where everyone thrived.
Now, I have four kids, all in different grades and were are thriving in our homeschool journey. Sure, there were growing pains and bumps along the way, but everyone is learning and growing every step of the way.
When homeschooling multiple ages, be sure to recognize what’s working and what is not. Do rush to make a bunch of changes, but don’t be afraid to switch things up if, after time, you see that it isn’t working.
I’m going to share some practical ways to homeschool multiple ages at the same time.
There are so many ways that you can facilitate wonderful learning in your homeschool journey while having your kids work together. Group learning gives them the opportunity to learn from one another as questions are asked and answered.
We did a lot of group learning when my kids were younger. We don’t do it as much now that I have upper elementary students and middle school students. I’ll explain why later, but for now I’ll share a few ways I consolidated our learning time when there were kids 5th grade and under all learning at the same time.
You’ve heard about read alouds before and there is good reason. If you are reading living books, a term coined by Charlotte Mason, then so much learning happens when you do read alouds. Each child takes in what is age appropriate. The younger kids might simply gather what the characters and setting are like, but the older children will take in so much more about the story- culture, history, and patterns, to name a few things.
Older children will be able to listen to you without much effort as you read chapter books to your kids. If the younger kids are struggling to not be a distraction, be sure to have things for them to sit on the floor and tend to while you read. There are lots of hands-on learning toys that are great for them to play with quietly as you read.
Unit studies are a great way to teach a wide range of ages at the same time. Just as with read alouds, different ages will learn different things, but it will be learning none the less.
Unit studies work so well because it allows your kids to discuss and learn outside of the classroom because their brains are all processing the same information. The younger kids will ask the older kids questions and both ages solidify their knowledge.
If you aren’t familiar with unit studies, it is a concept where you take a subject area and learn about it throughout all of the subjects.
For instance, if your child is interested in the solar system, you might read a book about an astronaut, study the sky, paint a paper maché planet, and study the history of Nasa. All subject areas are connected through this one topic and each child has different learning expectations throughout the unit.
A lot of homeschoolers doing a morning basket time together before independent studies begin. This was something we used to do and it was such a sweet way to start our school time.
For morning baskets, you will combine the things you can all do together and start your day with that before moving on.
Some ideas for a morning basket are:
- read alouds
- Bible verse memorization
- Hymn singing
- artist or composer study
- weather and clock study
- and character study are a few ideas for your morning basket.
Consolidating subjects and doing as much together as you can will help your morning to flow more smoothly. You won’t feel pulled from one child to the other as much if you can do specific subjects at the same time.
Some good subjects to consolidate are:
- Handwriting lessons
If you don’t want to combine the different age groups, and keep learning independent, that is fine! There are great ways to do that and I have used all of these at one time or another. Like I mentioned in the beginning, be flexible and willing to shift if something isn’t working.
When kids get older, it’s a good idea to begin creating independence. You don’t want to have to hold your 6th graders hand through all of his studies, so create independence by allowing him to stretch his brain in the younger years.
One way to do this is by having certain subjects that your child does independently. Maybe it is handwriting or spelling, and then he hands it in and you check it later to see if he is mastering the concepts.
When my kids got older, I often times had them do their history and science reading independently. I would ask them probing questions later in the day to ensure they were grasping the information. Typing and foreign language are usually done independent of my instruction.
If you decide to have your homeschool be centered around independent learning, here are some ways to make that more organized.
Interval or Block Learning
This is a system that we currently implement in our homeschool classroom. I create a schedule where I sit and teach each individual child during a specific block or time in our morning. When that block is over, I move to another child.
The great thing about block learning is that some of their studies are done independently and some are done with me. I get to teach and answer questions when it comes to the difficult subject areas, but they get to facilitate their own learning with the subjects that are easier to grasp.
It also works well because if one child has a question, he knows that there is a time slot where he can ask it, so he moves on to the next task and doesn’t feel the need to interrupt me when I’m with another kiddo.
This has worked so well for us. I, typically, begin with my little girls first and complete their schooling while the older two spend the first few hours of the day doing work they can complete, for the most part, without me by their side.
Once the little girls are done, they go play or do independent work in their rooms while I work the last several hours with the older kids.
Work boxes were such a blessing when my kids were in 1st through 4th grades. To use the work box system, you need to get a stack of drawers and each drawer will have a different task or subject area in it.
You fill the drawers with whatever they need to complete. The top drawer is done first and the child works his way down the drawers. This is a great system to teach independence even with the younger children.
For us, my kids would work through the first 3-4 drawers on their own and when they got to the bottom drawers, that was when they would work with me.
Utilizing online curriculum options are a great resource when teaching multiple grade levels, especially when getting into middle school and high school grades.
The only down side to this option is the cost. It is expensive, in most cases, to do online schooling. The plus side is you, the mom, know that your child is learning without you needing to facilitate any of it.
We are using our first official curriculum this year with our 8th grader. I am excited to see how it goes!
If you find yourself in a season where you have little ones who are needy and interrupt school time on a regular basis, try moving some, or all, of your school to the afternoon.
When you lay your toddler down, start the studies with the older kids while the little one naps. Does it seem strange to do this? Yes, it will at first.
But, if it makes school time run smoother, then it’ll be worth it. And remember, it’s just a season. I know several friends who did school during nap time because it was easier and faster without the toddler distractions.
Other Popular Homeschool Posts
Meet LIZ from This Little Home of Mine
One of the questions I receive often is How do you homeschool multiple kids? For me, homeschooling a growing family has, at times, felt like a juggling act! Different stages and seasons have required more adjustment than others, and yes, there have been times when just as it seems we’re settling into a nice, smooth routine, it’s time to adjust – again!
Over the years, I have put together a number of grade-leveled posts that provide a peek into the basics of what we do during each stage of learning but I thought it would also be helpful for you if I put together a post where I share my best tips for Homeschooling Multiple Kids.