Homeschooling children of multiple ages can be challenging, however it can be done. In fact, it is done all the time. The vast majority of homeschool families are made up of multiple children and they manage to make it work for them. So can you! In fact, there are some advantages to homeschooling multiple children that you may not have considered. Read on to learn about some of these advantages, some of the challenges you may face, as well as some practical tips on homeschooling multiple ages.
Advantages of Homeschooling Multiple Ages
When you have multiple children, they are most likely each other’s first playmates. Although you will still likely look for ways for them to socialize with other children their age (such as joining co-ops, setting up playdates, and enrolling in extracurricular activities), you also always have the option of letting your kids hang out with each other – especially if there isn’t a huge age gap. This also helps to free up time for you because they can keep each other entertained while you attend to other things.
Stretch Your Money
When you have multiple children from different age groups, you can often get more bang for your buck by recycling your homeschool materials. Instead of using the materials once, you can often use them for multiple children – especially things like textbooks that are not consumable.
This is also a great way to save money. Rather than having to buy all new materials for every child, you can reuse them.
Although it is not necessarily a good thing to compare one child to another, there is something to be said about having a little healthy competition. Siblings can motivate each other to work harder and do more. They will also learn to support one another’s progress. Remember, even professional athletes cheer each other on, congratulate each other on their victories, and encourage each other when they stumble.
When siblings learn together, you might find that they end up helping each other. For example, if you are teaching a concept and one of your children catches on quicker than the other, the one who has mastered the concept might be able to explain it to their sibling in a way that you would have never thought to try. You might even be able to convince your older children to tutor the younger children. This achieves multiple purposes. First of all, the younger child is getting help with learning new concepts. Secondly, by teaching a subject, the older child will reinforce their own knowledge. Finally, it will give you more time to attend to other things.
Challenges of Homeschooling Multiple Ages
Time Management and Scheduling Concerns
One of the biggest challenges that you will face when homeschooling multiple children in different age groups will be making enough time for each child’s educational needs. It can be challenging to figure out all of the logistics. This is especially true when you add in extracurricular activities.
Different Learning Styles and Paces
Another challenge is that all of your children might have different learning styles and also might learn at vastly different paces. It can be difficult trying to simultaneously accommodate all of their learning needs.
Although it is possible to reuse homeschool materials, when you are starting out, it will likely be more expensive because you will have to gather materials for each child. It becomes even more costly if you decide to engage in various extracurricular activities.
Less One-On-One Time
When you have multiple children, it can be challenging to get one-on-one time with each of them. This is especially true if one or more of them requires more time because they are younger or are having difficulty with certain subjects.
Although a little competition can be healthy, there is also the possibility of more serious sibling rivalry in which your children feel pressured to keep up with each other or vie for your attention and time.
Tips for Homeschooling Multiple Ages
Although your plans may not always work out exactly as you envision, simply having a plan in place can make things move along so much more readily. This is even more true when you are homeschooling multiple ages. Not only can planning ahead make things run more smoothly, it also helps to ease your mind and make you feel more confident. Knowing what you will work on, what you will need, and what times you will do everything can be a huge help. Some people plan far in advance (sometimes even for the entire academic year) and others plan on a short-term basis (such as the week or night before). Some do a combination (having a yearly plan, but working out the details on a weekly or daily basis). Do what works for you!
Adapt Lessons to All Ages
Whenever possible, adapt your lessons so that all of your children can participate. You might need to get really creative with some of them, but it is possible to teach one subject to kids of various ages in a way that each one can understand. For example, if you are learning about dinosaurs, younger kids might color or draw pictures of dinosaurs while older kids might construct a dinosaur diorama or write a story about a day in the life of their favorite dinosaur.
Schedule in Mommy Breaks
More than likely, you will need to take breaks to either rest or attend to other things. Schedule in times when your children either work together or do some independent work.
Recruit the Older Kids for Help
Whenever possible, get the older kids to pitch in with lessons. As was mentioned before, one of the benefits of teaching others is that you are simultaneously reinforcing your own knowledge and skills. This also helps you to be able to get more done.
As you can see, although homeschooling multiple ages comes with some challenges, it is far from an impossible feat. Do you homeschool multiple ages? What are some of the things you do to make things run more smoothly?
Sara is a homeschooling mom of three who has been blogging since 2008 at Embracing Destiny. She loves to encourage other homeschool moms with ideas for creative, delight-directed learning. She is also the owner of The Homeschool Post. You can find her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.
In my years as a classroom teacher, I witnessed children of every age sit at the end of their seat filled with excitement when I pulled out Hands-on learning materials.
It didn’t matter if the level was kindergarten students or sixth graders, if there was something they could see, touch, or play with learning the content became so much easier.
It is for that purpose that I set the goal to design quality homeschool units that produce that same result. Below I have laid the ground work for a sound and music unit with ideas for those younger learners (Preschool-Second graders) and those bigger kids too (third through sixth graders).
AND THE BEST PART… Many of these ideas don’t require different materials, just slight adjustments or a range of reading material to make it easier on those who have multilevel or multiage homeschool groups.
To promote the highest level of learning, review key terms at the beginning of each lesson, choose an activity, and use a wrap-up before beginning the next lesson or moving on for the day.
*Printables of these terms available free to subscribers to my blog www.teachingtotwins.com* But you can make these interactive materials by writing keywords on flash cards or word strips and doing the activities below.
- Music notes
*Use pictures of clip art to demonstrate meaning.
In addition to list 1
- Culture- a group that have similar values, traditions, and behaviors important to their community.
- Rhythm -sound pattern in music
- Rest -a period of silence within music, or a note that means silence.
- Symbols- a song or image that represents special meaning of something else.
In addition to list 1 & 2
- Compose- to write
- Dynamic- in music this means to have a range of volumes from loud to soft
- Improvise- to create on the spot
- Duration- for the entire length of the song until the end.
Let them move! Come up with actions that children can do in response to vocabulary words. If you say dance, they demonstrate dance, for sound they can put their hand to their ear and lean like they are listening. When you say music notes, they can skywrite (use their index finger to write in the air) music notes. They can model beat, by clapping rhythmically. Say the word, and let them demonstrate their learning. If you need ideas, leave a comment below, I’d be happy to provide more actions for these terms. Some can be tricky like rest. In music this means silence so a good action can be putting the index finger to their mouth like they are telling someone to be quiet.
Letter of the Week Craft
For younger learners, Tie learning back to the letter of the week M is music. I kept my craft simple for this unit, I grabbed some music paper for 49 cents and we cut out an M and pasted it on.
Use, borrow, or make instruments to be used to help form an understanding of the key words in the unit. For more advanced learners talk about how instruments are used differently to show emotion. Often times when something is happy the music is composed to be upbeat and fast. Sad songs are often slower. Play a game where you read a passage and they have to model using the instruments weather the person in the story is happy or sad. You can read one paragraph or page at a time, and they can compose a beat that matches the emotion of the story.
Focus on a particular cultural group. Learn how their music is different or unique. Focus on how it is composed. Let childrenmake a small poster with a symbol of that culture (flag, marking, or picture). Allow them to learn and form a presentation on their cultural group’s music. This is a great way to pull reading comprehension and writing targets into your homeschool curriculum. Ask questions about the texts or books used. (IDEAS: Native American, Irish, Scotland, Mexico, The Netherlands, Hawaiian etc)…You local library will be a huge help in this project.
Seek live music opportunities locally, especially those that offer cultural education and exposure. Do an internet search for city events;you can often find live performances are fairs, festivals, and park events. My children love seeing live performances and nothing is more beneficial to their understanding.
Journey Throughout time
Learn about a time period of music (don’t forget to pull in those keywords). Make the day all about that time period. Encourage dress up, play, pretend performances, draw pictures of that time period. Use the writing activity below after:
I couldn’t believe it, I had traveled back in time to __________ during ___________. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Have them write about what they saw, how the music was, how people danced, etc.
Books for sound and music unit
- Pete the Cat
- Just a little music by Mercer Mayer
- Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreac
- M is for Melody by Kathy Wargin
- Ella Fitzgerald by Andrea Davis Pinkney
- Passing music down by Sarah Sullivan
- To be a Drum by Evelyn Coleman
Don’t forget to do a wrap up activity
Example: Today I learned…
I hope you have fun with sounds and music.
Dani Wilson holds degrees in child development and early childhood education, as well as master degrees in education and curriculum development. She is a certified reading specialist, experienced classroom teacher, and curriculum consultant. After the birth of her twin babies this year, Dani added Mom to her daily roles. She is happy to share her knowledge, resources, and positive attitude on the misadventures of parenting on her site www.teachingtotwins.com. Dani gives special thanks to her husband, who supports her in pursuing all her dreams.
You have your homeschool plans all laid out. You know what they day will entail, and are ready to go. And then…. life happens.
- Family emergency
- Kids get sick
- Power goes out
- Water leak
- Roof leak
- Heat pump goes kaput
- Mom gets sick
You know… life. When life happens school oftentimes still needs to go on. But how? Most if not all of these require attention from mom. They require us to rearrange our days and our schedules. They are genuine reasons to STOP homeschooling for the day.
But, we don’t have to. How? Utilize Plan B in your homeschool.
What is Plan B Homeschooling?
Plan B homeschooling is a way to get school done even when life happens. You know we all have our best-laid plans, but then they go awry we use Plan B right? We can do the same thing in our homeschools.
Why Plan B Homeschooling?
All of the above-mentioned situations? They happened to us in a months time. Seriously. Had I not had a plan b ready to go we wouldn’t have accomplished school at all. Here’s the thing, life will happen. Kids (and mom) will get sick. Family members will need us. Utilities will fail, home maintenance will need to happen, and sometimes plan b homeschooling can be a life saver.
What does Plan B Homeschooling Look Like?
That depends on. For us, Plan B homeschooling is a basket of educational books. It’s board games that the kids can play on their own. It’s a math program on the computer. It’s educational apps that teach states and capitals, math facts, grammar, and history. Plan B homeschooling can be workbooks that we only bring out when we have to or a backup curriculum that can be done completely independently.
Plan B homeschooling is flexible.
How do I utilize Plan B Homeschooling?
So, you want to have a Plan B ready for your homeschool? Here are a few ways to get started:
- Find educational apps that fit your child’s grade and learning needs. Download them onto your child’s tablet or your own tablet.
- Gather workbooks for your child’s grade level. These can be found at Walmart, Dollar Tree, Bookstores, or online.
- Have a basket or bookshelf set aside full of educational books. Find topics that your child likes, and that are high-quality literature.
Having a few things ready in advance will help you and your child be ready when life happens and plan b homeschooling needs to be implemented. Plan B homeschooling will look different in every homeschool. And sometimes when life happens we will actually need to STOP school. But, in other situations school can go with us, school can go on, and this can happen because we are prepared with Plan B!
Misty Bailey is a work at home homeschool mom to three active kids. She loves helping new homeschoolers and has a Homeschool 101 eBook for those getting started. She shares her struggles with time management, becoming unglued and finding joy in the everyday moments on her blog Joy in the Journey.
“Aren’t you worried that you are keeping him from really getting the help he needs?”
“You don’t want your son to miss out on the professional help the school system provides.”
“How can you possibly think that you are more qualified than someone who has been trained to help with autism and dyslexia?”
All three of these comments came from concerned family members and friends.
All three caused me a little bit of anxiety. A little bit of fear. And then a lot of ‘I just wish they could see how good this has been for my boys, how much progress they’ve made, how much this adds to their life (and to mine).’
We have been homeschooling now for five years. We began before we had a single diagnosis for either child, largely because school was a very difficult place for my oldest son. After two years in public school classrooms, it was clear that although he was in the top 1% of second graders in the school district and had perfect grades, my son was miserable every single day. Because he was so advanced academically, he was also not learning anything new at all.
It took seeing him painfully try to fit in, hearing kids tease him about his 6th grade reading level, having meltdowns every morning over having to put on shoes/get out the door, his teacher telling me that she didn’t need my input, the constant threat of bells ringing, crowded cafeterias, PE on the prickly grass – it took all of this to cause me to take a step back and say, maybe this isn’t working.
The sensory issues my son deals with everyday, are alone enough to make schooling at home a good choice for him. He could hear other student’s pencils writing on papers in classrooms, the whir of the air conditioner, the ticking of the clock. He could smell the sickly, sweet lunch boxes in the corner after lunch, the grass on the bottom of someone’s shoe, the markers used on the dry erase board. My son’s memories of school mostly revolve around the sensory overload he experienced every single day.
A year after we began homeschooling, he was diagnosed with autism and generalized anxiety disorder. A year later, we learned his brother is profoundly dyslexic.
In both instances, I was asked if, now that we had the diagnoses, I would be putting the boys back in school.
My answer was a very resolved, “No.”
One of the reasons I am so passionate about writing, is because I think there is a serious misconception that homeschooling not a viable option when your child has special needs. Moreover, there is also a perception that a child with special needs is missing out on valuable therapies and resources, when they are not a part of the school system.
The question I am most often asked is this –
Am I Qualified to Homeschool My Children With Special Needs?
My answer is, in short, “Yes.”
I Have Training
I do have some training. I actually went to school to be a special education teacher back in the day. I did my student teaching in special education classrooms. I studied book upon book about individualized learning plans, IEP’s, education law, and classroom management. As a result, I know a little more than some about what my children could expect in a special needs classroom. I also know that for my two guys, there is no way that would be an option. Both of my children have genius level IQ’s, but also have serious education deficits. This asychrony (also called ‘twice exceptional’) makes classroom placement difficult. For example, at home, my dyslexic nine-year old is reading at a 1st to 2nd grade level, but is completing 7th grade level science and history. This would be impossible to replicate in a school environment. (Please note: In my state, no special training or education level is required at all to homeschool any child, including those with special needs. Some states do require a little more oversight, but all allow parents to choose to homeschool their children, no matter what the diagnosis. I have some education and training, but it is not necessary or required.
Access to Resources
My children do have access to therapists and use outside resources(boy do they). My youngest saw an educational therapist for a year to help lay the groundwork for reading. In addition, I met with her once a month and she taught me the methods she used with him, so that I could replicate them at home. The same is true for occupational therapy and social skills therapies for my oldest. We are by no means doing this alone, and have plenty of experts helping to speak into my children’s overall development.
Every single mom I know with unique little ones like mine is an expert. I say this with complete confidence. We read more books, learn more online, ask more questions and try to piece together answers for our children beyond what the school system can provide. Children with special needs, whether in school or not, rely on their parents to be their most passionate advocates.This is true in IEP meetings, doctors’ appointments, therapists’ offices and parent teacher conferences, without fail. It is also true in homeschooling. I know my boys better than anyone else on the planet. I know what works and what doesn’t work when my oldest did not sleep and was anxious all night long. I know how difficult the last set of sight words were for my youngest, and can take the time to research the best way to help him proceed. I have the time and the passion that would be unrealistic to expect from anyone else.
I don’t think this is the right choice for every family, but I do think it is the right choice for mine. I care deeply about my children’s education. I have put a lot of thought into this. What I have found is that homeschooling is the best way to give them what they need to be successful in life. This is true academically, as well as socially. We have a supportive and loving community of friends who also homeschool. My children benefit from the opportunity to make friends in their own time and at their own pace, as much as they benefit from progressing academically at their own pace. Homeschooling actually gives them a social experience that makes sense for their needs.
Special education itself in America, began as a way to individualize learning for the children that needed it most. I think there are wonderful ways to do that within the school system. And I think there are wonderful ways to achieve the same objective at home.
The longer we do this, the more progress I see, and the more I learn that I am perfectly qualified to homeschool my children with special needs.
You are too.
And I am so grateful we have the opportunity to do so.
Bio – Shawna Wingert is a grateful wife and mother, an accidental writer, and a passionate speaker. She writes about motherhood, special needs, and the beauty of everyday messes atwww.nottheformerthings.com. She is also the author of two books, Everyday Autism and Special Education at Home.
The alarm goes off at 5:15 am. Within minutes I’m up and working as a VA. A few hours later the kids begin to roll out of bed and I start hearing the word “mom”. Breakfast needs to be made, and chores need managed. Before too long I’m gathering up the kids for school time. Hours later more food needs cooked and served, followed by more time teaching.
After school means piano and soccer, followed by yet another meal. The husband comes home and the role of dutiful wife is upon me. There are bedtime routines, family devotions and hugs good night.Throughout the day There had been boo boos that needed bandaged, foreheads that were kissed, animals that were fed and books that get read. I fall asleep exhausted knowing the next day will be the same.
The Role of a Homeschool Mom
The role of homeschool mom never ends. There are no yellow school buses taking our kids to school while we clean the house and run errands. I have said before and I still stand by the fact that our jobs are one of the only ones that are truly 24/7.
The many roles of a homeschool mom can leave us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. But, we don’t have to feel that way. Here are three ways we can embrace the many roles of a homeschool mom.
Count our Blessings
When I am feeling overwhelmed and underpaid (HA!) I remind myself of the blessing of homeschooling. There are no good byes at the bus stop. There is no homework at the end of the day. There is no wondering what our kids are doing if they are safe, or what they are being taught. I know. Homeschooling is a blessing and one that the Lord has called me to do. When I stop and count the blessing that homeschooling has given me I feel a lot less overwhelmed.
This is something that most of us don’t do enough off. However, I was reminded of the importance of rest this past school year. As I faced a year of burn out I realized that really the only person I had to blame for my predicament was myself. I said YES more than I said NO. I homeschooled out of negligence. I chose frustration over joy and all of these situations came because I was tired and hadn’t allowed myself to rest. Homeschool moms NEED rest and without we are not equipped to handle the many roles we face each day.
We don’t have to do it all. Yes, we face many roles, but how many of those have to lie solely on our own shoulders? Not many. Dad can help with grading papers, kids can help with chores, see if grandma can help with that errand that needs ran, and ask a friend if you can carpool to soccer practice. Too many times we carry a burden on our shoulders that we don’t have to face alone.
Moms, as we all start back to school chances are before too long we are going to feel overwhelmed and overextended. The many roles of a homeschool mom means we are running to and fro. However, we have a choice to make. Do you want your children to remember a homeschool mom that was too busy for one more book? Or one that said yes to what truly matters? Do you want to be an over tired mom who hasn’t made time to rest? Or do you want to be a mom who takes the time to care for herself so she can better serve her family?
This year I want to face the many roles of a homeschool mom head on. I want to embrace my role as a homeschool mom and not look at our homeschool day as another thing to mark off of my to-do list. I want to enlist help from others so I can face my roles with a smile. I want to be a joyful and happy homeschool mom. And that choice starts with me!
How can you embrace the many roles of a homeschool mom?
Author Bio: Misty Bailey and her husband have been married for over a decade and have three beautiful children. She shares her struggles with time management, becoming unglued, homeschooling and finding joy in the everyday moments on her blog Joy in the Journey.