Homeschooling Multiple Ages Was Hard Work.
Homeschooling multiple ages can be an organisational nightmare. But don’t let it put you off. Once you find your groove it can work very well.
The family picture shown her was when I was I teaching ages 3 to 9. Back in those days homeschooling multiple kids went like this.
The Early Years of Homeschooling Multiple Ages
I was trying to be patient. I was pretending that my stomach wasn’t churning with anxiety as I tried to calmly explain a math concept to one child.
I was multitasking but trying to act focused as I gently pushed and shushed the other children into another room. I was trying not to think about the 5 loads of washing in the laundry. I was trying to be in the here and now. I was calming myself with chocolate and coffee. I was getting (got) fat.
I usually only lasted 45 mins before the guilt trip and self-talk began: –
“It’s impossible to homeschool. I am a failure! I can’t do it and stay sane. I’m not going to last. They’d be better off in school!”
And so, the emotional saga of homeschooling multiple children goes…
I had sent the two oldest to school for a short spell when the two youngest weren’t school age. School wasn’t the solution and I soon had them home again.
I was determined to make homeschooling with multiple children work – others do – right!
Finding A Method For Homeschooling Multiple Ages
1. Choose a curriculum for homeschooling more than one child
When homeschooling multiple children you need to think realistically about the type of curriculum you choose. If you choose a teacher intensive graded curriculum for all your children, you are bound to fail because you simply don’t have time to give each child the time that each resource requires for it to be done properly. This is especially true, if you use curriculum that is really a school resource.
I found this out early in my homeschool journey when working with a rigorous reading and math program that required lots of one-on-one time. It was a labour intensive style which probably worked well for a class but it didn’t work for homeschooling more than one child. It had games to set up, special hand movements to follow, flash cards and long spelling lists to do daily.
Each lesson took 30 – 40 mins and it required focused attention from me and my pupil. However, that was much easier said than done, aka impossible.
Everyday became a battle because I just found it distressing to ignore the other children while I focused on just one child doing one subject.
But I blamed myself for the failure – It took me a while to realise, there was a better way.
The first discovery was using the Charlotte Mason Method. It was much more family friendly.
2. Add structure so all can learn together
Teaching independence also helps your children take more responsibility of their study. One of my favourite ways to do this is using workboxes.
3. Work out how to do chores when homeschooling multiple ages
When you homeschool multiple ages your house looks lived in. You have mess makers 24/7 and you need some order. We all have different levels of “acceptable mess” but nobody likes chaos and cockroaches.
Learn to clean and do chores together. In our home everyone stopped to hang out washing.
Teach your children to make their own lunch and clean up after themselves.
Have a cleaning roster of set jobs.
If you can afford it – get a cleaner.
4. Set up good habits
Charlotte Mason was big on this. Here are two quotes I love:
“The formation of habits is education, and education is the formation of habits.”
“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.”
That includes good habits for yourself.
- Give yourself permission to take a break.
- Look after yourself so you can avoid burnout.
- Be gentle on yourself if you are pregnant or homeschooling when sick.
5. Combine When Teaching More Than One Child
One of the best ways for homeschooling multiple ages is to get a good routine going, that won’t run you ragged, is to combine lessons whenever possible.
Good lessons for homeschooling multiple ages are:
- Art appreciation and art classes
- Music appreciation
- Field trips – Nature study, nature journaling and geography
- Fiction and poetry read alouds.
- Reading the classics
- Physical Education (PE).
- Historical periods can also be combined if you are reading aloud their history spine.
- Science may require separate instruction depending on the complexity of the topic.
- Geography has many associated skills required with this topic so from Year 5 we don’t recommend combining this topic either except for the field trips.
- Lessons in Maths and English usually need separate instruction.
We encourage you to plan appropriate work for each child. Consider future planning when combining.
For example – If you are planning on using My Homeschool as your main curriculum, we suggest you consider carefully your approach to mix and matching resources as you may experience overlap in subsequent years. For this reason we recommend buying appropriate grades for each child so that you will have a sequential well curated curriculum.
What About Curriculum Gaps When Homeschooling Multiple Children
There will always be curriculum gaps no matter how you educate.
We know that combining is certainly a time saver and is appropriate for many lessons. However, it’s not a good idea to combine everything. Some subjects, particularly maths and English, gaps will occur in the curriculum if not taught at the appropriate time.
At My Homeschool we’ve tried to address this issue by giving you group and individualised lessons. We’ve made every effort to ensure that the My Homeschool graded courses meet the requirements of version 8.3 of the Australian Curriculum, the Western Australian Curriculum and the NESA Education Standards Authority Syllabuses. It is your responsibility to check the current relevant requirements for your State or Territory registration for your child’s grade.
Using My Homeschool For Teaching More Than One Grade
If you are teaching a few children we recommend you only use the group study/family time for one grade.
For example, if you have a Year 2 and Year 4 child doing My Homeschool, then we suggest you only follow the Year 4 scheduled group work, or the Year 2 group work. Don’t do both. Alternatively you can set some of the Year 4 work as independent work (if they are capable) and continue with the Year 2 group work.
Saving Money And Time When Homeschooling More Than One Child
When you are homeschooling more than one child the reason you often combine grades is to make it easier for you as the home educator and to save money on resources.
Combining grades can seem like you’ll save time as you only have one base curriculum but you also need to learn how to supplement and tweak the curriculum to make sure all your children’s needs are still being met. You will also have to prepare homeschool registration plans for the additional grades you are teaching. This will include finding out what is expected by your state expects for the relevant grade.
Luckily They Get Older
Each new year of homeschooling, brings a little more independence in your child. And believe me it gets much easier. Your role changes from the primary teacher to the coordinator and coach when they get to high school.
Homeschooling multiple children can be done but you need to work out a realistic plan.
The below picture is of my four children who all grew up and went to university and now have satisfying careers. The juggle seems hard when you first begin but persist and you will find your groove.