Recently, a discussion ensued in my church’s homeschool Facebook group concerning homeschooling multiple ages. The thread was written by a church sister who has a background in education. Homeschool is a bit different from public schooling because it allows you so much more flexibility in how you school, i.e. finding the rhyme and dance that works for you and your children.
Before I get into the logistics on how to make this work, let’s talk about the benefits of homeschooling multiple ages. First of all homeschool is not supposed to mimic a traditional school setting with one teacher and twenty-five to thirty students. 🙂 So here are some of the benefits:
- Older students can work with the younger kids which can be a lot of fun and a bonding moment!
- Older children can work on patience. Let’s face it, being around multiple ages can do that to anyone!
- Children of all ages are learning in a more real to life scenario because when they leave home and get a job, they won’t report to building B with all the 20-year-olds. They will be working with multiple ages. This type of schooling can be an advantage.
- Learning together with multiple age groups helps to foster a sense of family.
- Family projects are so much fun!
- You don’t miss out on anything they are learning.
- Finances! This is a HUGE benefit. It is just more cost-effective to combine multiple grades in as many subjects as you can.
Those are just a few of the many benefits of homeschooling multiple grades. Now the question is how do you ACTUALLY do that without losing your sanity?
When we decided to begin our homeschool journey, my mom came out to Texas (where we were living at the time) and helped me get started. My mom began her teaching career in a one room school-house where she learned how to teach multiple ages at once. My oldest was only 5, and my middle son was 2, and my youngest was still a teeny tiny baby. Combining age groups wasn’t a huge priority at the time. However, I implemented story time with all three of them, but my oldest was the one learning to read, write sentences and all the other schooling activities. Once I added in my middle son, my primary focus was getting him to read and basic school. We also went to a homeschool co-op program that helped fill in any gaps once we moved to the state of Washington. It wasn’t until the last couple years that combining my kids actually became a must situation. We left the co-op because it became so common-core-aligned that it wasn’t for us anymore. Without the co-op to supplement my homeschool program, I had to figure out how to combine all three kiddos, as the youngest was now doing school, too. It took a bit of tweaking, but I am happy to say that I now have it all figured out! Well, as figured out as one could hope…LOL. It isn’t perfect, it may not be for you, but it is what works for us! So here are some tips:
- Science and History. Science and History are the easiest to combine. There are many programs that you can use to combine kids of multiple ages for both of these subjects. Some of our favorite that we have used are Sonlight, Biblioplan, Mystery of History, Story of the World, Apologia, Answers in God’s Design, Unit Studies, and Literature based studies like Charlotte Mason and Ambleside online.
- Bible. I also combine Bible together except for their AWANA. The Bible that we use daily here is E3 Challenge which is designed by our church, and also what is included in their History and Science text. Another great Bible resource that we use that combines ages is by Apologia. We generally use that throughout the Summer.
- Notebooking. This is easy to do and also very easy to make it harder for older kids if you need to do that. All three of my kiddos notebook at the same time.
- Music. Music is practiced daily in a chunk of time blocked off. All the kids practice at the same time. One may be working on theory while another physically practices piano.
- Math. Math is also done at the same time even though each child does their own level of math. My oldest works nearly independently on this unless there is a concept that he needs help with. I check it after he is finished. I will be honest, all three of my boys work very independently with math giving me time to walk around to each one and make sure they are grasping the concepts. We have an excellent math curriculum that I adore!
- Writing and Spelling. I didn’t think I would EVER find a program I could combine the kids together for writing and spelling until IEW. I am so thankful for this program because this year all three kids will be using their program. (Stay tuned for my complete review of IEW Spelling coming soon!)
- Independent Reading. I have a time set aside each day that each child is assigned books. Sometimes the books correlate to what we are studying or are recommended in our curriculum, other times they are books I would just like for them to read. I follow a lot of Charlotte Mason recommendations on reading books. I also use several book lists to decide which books would benefit the kids the most. The books I ask them to read during this time are often not books they would pick on their own, yet they usually enjoy them once they dive in! By doing this, my kids over the years have been able to get a wide education in a variety of subjects! This has helped them out a lot. It also has led them in developing interests they didn’t even know they had.
- Read-Aloud. Although all of my kids read well above grade level and quite well on their own, I read aloud to all three of my children every single day. My oldest was reading on a college reading level half way through 3rd grade. I believe reading aloud is an important part of any child’s education. When I am selecting a read-aloud, I pick from a wide variety of books. Sometimes it is geared more towards the younger two but my oldest will still enjoy it, while other times it is more geared towards my oldest and my younger two also enjoy it. I have found that by doing this, the younger two will still listen, and you won’t believe what they retain! It is a good trick that has increased my kids’ reading levels, their comprehension, and their vocabulary.
I know that this all sounds like it may take all day, but I assure you it doesn’t. Combining subjects saves me about 2 hours at least!
I hope the tips I have given help! You can always tweak it to what works for you! I will be sharing more of what we use and do over the next few weeks, so subscribe that way you won’t miss a single post!