Homeschooling is challenging at the best of times, but teaching multiple children who are all at different grade levels, can be particularly daunting.
ALthough this can be a little tricky I can tell you that it is possible for you to homeschool all of your kids together.
There are no hard and fast rules on how to teach children at different grade levels effectively. This will look differently on every household due to different lifestyles.
Over the years I have put together a plan that has helped me and many homeschool moms keep themselves organized and successful at homeschooling multiple children.
Here are tips and tricks to homeschooling multiple kids at different ages.
1. Make a plan
This goes without saying. If the educational needs of your children are to be met, you must plan for it. If you plan ahead of time, you’ll find that you will have time to spend with each child individually while being in control of the group as well.
You can use some free time over summer to get ready for the school year. You have to have a plan for the year, a plan for each month, and a plan for every week.
You don’t need to have it all done in one go, but it’s important to have a plan otherwise you might miss out on important work and that might be to the detriment of your children’s education.
I work by month. So at the beginning or end of the previous month, I sit down with my planner and plan the curriculum by weeks. This is the perfect time to buy anything for future projects. It makes a huge difference having everything on hand when you need it.
The I set up the weekly folder where I add everything that is going to be done day by day. This prevent me from going crazy in the morning or at night time asking myself what my child will be doing.
The kids will also benefit from knowing the expectations and what they are going to be doing.
Also, if go start a school day without knowing what you’re going to do, you’ll be met with chaos (and unhappy children).
2. Start the day together
I find this to be the best way to start your homeschool day.
I do group work in the mornings and during the times that the kids are sleeping its when I focus on having one on time with my daughter.
You can discuss what is happening that day and do some simple activities to mark the beginning of the day. This is a good time to do your devotion if you wish so.
It’s a routine that children respond to positively and it sets the tone for the day.
If you are teaching young children, this can be a time for reading from a book, singing some songs and reciting rhymes or poetry.
Young children love calendar time where they can say what the date is and the days of the week, and months of the year – you will come up with your own ideas that will suit your little ones.
You can discuss your older children’s assignments for the day over a cup of coffee and touch on any problems they might be experiencing or that you might anticipate.
The important thing is to create a predictable routine to get everyone settled and ready for the day ahead.
3. Use a multi-age curriculum if possible
A multi-age curriculum consists of homeschool books and programs that are not grade-specific textbooks. They are multi-age resources that you can use to teach everyone at the same time. With these resources, you’ll be able to work together on science, math, foreign languages, social studies and more.
Of course, you can also find resources to learn geography together and do crafts and life projects like cooking together.
Teaching one subject to everyone saves time and makes teaching easier. Electives like art and music are also fun to do as a group.
4. Use unit studies
Unit studies work well for homeschooling children across multiple age groups. With unit studies, you can teach the same subject to children of different ages and grade levels.
This is great because you can focus on one thing at the time. I love unit unit studies to me it just makes teaching so easy.
Through this teaching approach, children develop critical thinking skills as they figure out how different components fit together to make a whole. Children of different ages benefit from and are challenged by a unit study that presents a topic in an interesting way.
Unit studies work wonderfully for teaching children of different ages the same lessons. With a unit study, you cover the same material but you present it in such a way that each child can learn at his own level.
Afterward, older students can do advanced assignments while the younger ones work on easier assignments.
5. Use workboxes
With multiple children, the more organized you can be, the better and workboxes are the way to get there.
What you do is you put each child’s assignments and books in each of the workbox drawers the night before and let them work through it at their own pace the next day.
You could also put the whole week’s work out for them in different drawers of their workbox. In this way, your children always have something to work on while you are busy with another child.
This method also encourages independence and responsibility. Everybody can see how much work they have for the day or the week.
For the most part, the older children can work through their boxes on their own and just call on you when they need help.
6. Encourage independence
Teach your children to work independently from a young age. Your aim should be to teach your children how to learn on their own – that’s a skill they will need throughout life.
You can’t possibly teach them everything they need to know, most of it they will have to discover on their own.
To encourage independent learning, teach your young children to finish their work when you can’t be with them because you have to pay attention to someone else in the class.
If you can teach your children to continue working on their own when you can’t be with them, you are setting up a situation where everyone accepts that you will be moving from one child to another throughout the teaching period.
If you do this right, you will have little teaching to do by the time your children reach high school because they will be mostly independent.
You’ll still be needed in a supportive capacity and to explain concepts and answer questions and to make sure that they do all their work, but you will also have more time to devote to your younger children.
7. Combine close ages when possible
If you have children that are one or two years apart consider teaching them together.
It saves you time and simplifies your teaching to combine the teaching materials for children who are close in age. It also saves money when you’re buying a curriculum.
If you plan it right and have a good curriculum, you could teach three children together if their ages are not too far apart.
You could, for instance, teach three children with a three year age gap together. Look out for a curriculum that offers different activity pages and worksheets for different levels.
Keep in mind that not all learners learn at the same pace. If you teach siblings together who are close in age and one catches on quicker, it can lead to resentment and feelings of inferiority. When that happens it might be better to consider a separate curriculum for each child.
8. Work one-on-one with each child
Plan to have regular one-on-one time with each child. Every child needs one-on-one time with you.
Plan your teaching day in such a way that you have one-on-one time with each child while the others work independently. Especially with young children, you need to focus on one child at a time to make sure they understand basic concepts that their education is being built on.
While you are busy with one child, the other children can do silent reading, or do revision sheets.
It’s also an opportunity for older children to read aloud to a younger child. One-on-one time builds strong relationships that will last beyond school years.
9. Keep your lessons short
Make sure you have a realistic expectation of how long a child can concentrate. According to childhood development experts, a child can be expected to concentrate on a task for two to three minutes per year of their age.
That means the average attention span is for each age is:
- 2 years old: four to six minutes
- 4 years old: eight to 12 minutes
- 6 years old: 12 to 18 minutes
- 8 years old: 16 to 24 minutes
- 10 years old: 20 to 30 minutes
- 12 years old: 24 to 36 minutes
- 14 years old: 28 to 42 minutes
- 16 years old: 32 to 48 minutes
If these times seem to be too long for a child, break the session up in two or three shorter time slots.
When teaching new concepts, do it on a one-on-one basis, and if the child doesn’t grasp it in 15 minutes, stop and go back to it later. Try to avoid frustration setting in.
10. Teach each other
One of the best ways for anyone to test their understanding of a topic is to teach it to someone else. Right when you start your homeschool, let your children know that you’ll be expecting the older children to teach their younger siblings.
There are many benefits to this. The “teachers” can test their knowledge, their “students” get to learn from a different teacher, and you get a break.
11. How long should I teach my children?
A full school day is different for different ages. 1st to 3rd Grade will have school for about 2 hours a day; 4th to 6th Grade will have school for about 3 hours a day; 7th to 9th Grade will have school for 4 – 5 hours a day and 10th to 12th Grade will do an average of 7 hours a day.
It’s tough to teach multiple children who are all different ages and at different levels in their schooling. However, teachers have done it over the ages and so have many homeschool moms.
The tips we have shared with you, will help you on your way. For more advice and support, turn to other homeschooling moms and consult your local homeschool co-op.
Also, keep an open mind. If something doesn’t work for you and your kids, be prepared to change and try something new. Homeschooling successfully is always a work in progress!