Thursday, July 23, 2015

10 Tips for Homeschooling Multiple Grades

   I sometimes find it is a struggle to homeschool multiple children.  There is nothing that stresses me out more during a homeschooling day then being pulled in three different directions all at the same time.  The constant "mom, what is... ", "mom, can you come here?", and "mom I need your help!" are enough to drive me up the wall sometimes.  However over the past three years there are some tips and tricks that have helped keep me sane:


1.  Teaching the Same Subjects Whenever Possible: Even though my kids range in age and are at different grade levels we can still usually cover the same geography, history and science lessons.  Sure my youngest son will not pick up on as many facts as my oldest child but they are still getting exposed to new ideas.  I plan lessons for the oldest and have the younger two children sit in as it interests them.  I don't force it, but I find if I'm reading a book aloud to one of the boys they all end up listening and chiming in anyway.  I always have enough materials for all three boys to participate in craft projects or science experiments and find that even if they say they aren't interested by the time we're immersed in the project their curiosity is peaked enough to watch if not fully participate.
2.  Setting Aside Purposeful Time to Work with One Student:  There are definite times that teaching the same subjects does not work; mainly math and reading.  I try to set aside time that I can work uninterrupted with whomever needs my help.  That might mean that while I'm working on reading with Evan that Ian and Alec are outside riding bikes or up in their room playing with their Legos but I don't mind if any of the boys take small breaks from school so I can work one on one with someone else.
3.  Staggering Schedules:  There are times when I don't want the kids to take long breaks from school and while I might not need as much one on one time with each student I do need some time to teach a quick lesson here or there.  On those types of days I might start by teaching a quick math lesson to my oldest son and getting him set up to continue working on his own and then I'll sit with the next and so on until they're all hard at work.
4.  Having A Mixture of Work: There are always a few things that every one of my kids can work independently on during a given week of homeschooling. I try to make sure each day has a mixture of work so that if I'm busy helping one person and can not be bothered by another there is something they can be working on without waiting for my help or constantly interrupting.
5.  Pairing Children Up:  I have often set Alec and Ian together playing a math game; one which might be reviewing facts for Ian and a new concept for Alec.  Other times I have asked one of the older boys to sit and read with their younger brother who is still learning to read; they can guide and help him through a story and Evan still gets his reading practice in.  Older siblings can make great teaching assistants!
6.  Foster Independence:  I have tried from the very beginning of our homeschooling journey to make my children as independent as possible.  My ultimate goal is for them to be able to complete most of their schoolwork with little to no input from me.  I have started seeing evidence of this already in my older two; they do most of their math work by themselves only asking questions when they get stumped.  They also do all of their own reading and their own handwriting lessons.
7.  Prioritize:  It's easy to get bogged down in the belief that I need to teach all three boys a variety of subjects every day but when I sit back and really prioritize what I think is most important for schooling I realize that we just need to cover math and reading every day.  If they can read they can teach themselves about any other subject that ever interests them and I don't have to worry as much about gaps in their learning.
8.  Play Games:  Most games are meant for a variety of ages and levels and playing games together means that all three boys get exposure to a variety of subjects.  We've played GeoBingo, Scrambled States of America, & Brainbox- the World for geography.   We've played Yahtzee, Monopoly, and Q-Bitz for math.  Those are just a few examples but we've found games for every subject and can usually modify them enough for all three boys to play.  Games are such a fun break from traditional schoolwork and allow all three boys to practice skills at their own pace.

9.  Breathe Deeply & Walk Away:  There are days it will not go well.  There will be days when you are feeling like you're being pulled in a variety of different directions.  When that happens I find it's often best to take a deep breath and usually we put the school work aside and go for a nature hike or an impromptu field trip to the park.  As long as you don't have to do this on a weekly basis, an occasional break is often just what we need to re-center ourselves and find our homeschoooling groove.
10.  Field Trips:  I find another great way to reach all children at their own level of learning is to take frequent field trips.  It often gets all three boys excited about the same subject and gives us a great jumping off point for a unit study in history, science or geography.  Field trips allow ample opportunity for all three boys to connect with an idea or subject in their own way and personalize what they are learning about.

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