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.