Welcome back to 10 days of Homeschooling the Large Family!
One of the most frequently asked questions I hear about homeschooling is how the actual day-to-day teaching of our many different ages is managed. In fact, it is a question that I am frequently asking myself! You see, homeschool needs and schedules are constantly changing. As kids move in and out of stages and phases and the household dynamics change, so do the methods that we use to teach.
There are several strategies that we have used besides buying a complete curriculum for each grade (which would be insanity just so you know!). Imagine teaching one child about the Civil War and one about Egypt and yet another about the fall of Rome. It would take hours of prep time just to organize the lesson plans.
Streamlining Grade-Level Subjects
Grade-level subjects are subjects like Math, Reading, Writing and Spelling. These are skill-specific in that each child will need to be taught at their current level, independently. A quick calculation will tell you that if mom spends an hour a day with each child on math alone… well words cannot really describe the anxiety that merely typing these words inspires!
There is nothing quite like the brains of a computer to teach and organize the homeschool. Beginning in 3rd grade, all of our kids use the computer for math instruction using Teaching Textbooks curriculum. (We use Math U See before that and yes, they are prepared for the transition.) They do still need some help at times despite the excellent teaching on the discs. This program has a video lecture followed by a few practice problems and lesson problems. The student types the answers right into the computer and are graded immediately. If the student gets the problem wrong twice, they have the option to see the problem solved immediately. Talk about a homeschool mom of many’s dream come true! I can’t say enough about this excellent program.
We also use the computer for spelling using Sequential Spelling on DVD. If you have been around Abundant Life for long, you will know that most of my kids are dyslexic. Spelling is one of the most difficult subjects for all of us. The Sequential Spelling program is ideal for the dyslexic thinker. Having the instruction on DVD so my kids can do the lessons independently is a huge time saver. Again, the program corrects misspelled words immediately which is ideal for meaningful and effective learning to take place.
This leaves reading instruction, grammar, and in the older grades, writing instruction for mom (or dad) to teach one on one.
If your kids can handle it, Switched On Schoolhouse has a complete curriculum on computer. Our kids have use individual subjects from time to time. It is solid teaching from a Biblical worldview though it tends to be kind of a loooong lesson in reading comprehension. Read the lesson, answer the questions; questions that are not always, how shall I say, relevant to a student’s understanding of the subject. It does have a built in text-to-speach function that has been very helpful for our dyslexic kids who learn better by hearing.
Another time saver for busy moms is having your kids take classes outside the home. For us this has consisted of classes taken at our local community college (called dual credit), with a local co-op or through our homeschool group’s yearly offerings. You should calculate the time it takes to get your child to and from class into your decision and how this will impact the rest of the family. It may not really save you any time after all! I do find that regular time out of the house during school hours is a killer to our homeschool productivity and so we only opt for this after careful, prayerful consideration.
We have only recently entered into the realm of the online class and so far we have really benefited from them. This option offers the help of someone else teaching your kids without the whole family having to leave the home. Many of online classes are also recorded so if you miss a class session for some reason, you can go back and watch it later.
There are sources like Bob Jones University that offer complete curriculums online. Since we tend towards an eclectic homeschooling style (using a little bit of this and a little bit of that from different methods) the complete curriculum option has never made its way into our homeschool. Some people benefit from this method, however, especially families with kids who have recently left he public or private school and are used to that type of format.
Another option for online classes is CurrClick. See my complete review of our experience with CurrClick here. They offer everything from clubs, to short term topical studies to full yearlong high schol-level courses in Biology and foreign language.
We are also using an online writing course for the first time that I will be reviewing this summer. It is called Fortuigence and it is an excellent and affordable resource for step-by-step writing instruction with feedback and corrections given (via email) from a highly qualified writing instructor.
All of these types of classes relieve mom from having to do the actual teaching while having her on hand to correct, guide and reinforce if necessary.
Subjects For Multi-Level Teaching
Now for the fun stuff! We make every effort to focus daily on the three R’s or what I like to call the ‘exercises of learning’. Reading, writing and math are the foundation from which most other learning takes place and so are necessary, much like physical exercise, although not always the most enjoyable part of our homeschool days. On our busyest days this may be all that we get done, or even started!
Subjects like Bible, History, Science, Art, and Music are ideally suited for teaching multiple ages together. Generally, we have used one of the following methods for teaching several ages and grades together.
- Modify an Existing Textbook or Curriculum
- Curriculums Designed for Multi-Level Teaching
- Unit Studies
For example, we teach History chronologically, meaning that we start with Ancient History, followed by the study of Rome to the Reformation, followed by Modern World History from about 1850 to the present. We use a multi-age curriculum like Story of the World or Mystery of History and cycle through these 3 stages of History every three years. When I had lots of little guys and little sleep, we would do less of the hands on projects than other times but we always read through (or better yet, listened on CD to the telling of History. By the time our kids are in high school, they have cycled through the entire flow of a History twice and they are better-prepared for the more in depth study of each time period associated with the higher grade levels.
With this method of multi-level teaching we would read the section of history or one of the suggested read alouds together as a family. The timing for this has varied greatly in our homeschool. At times we read after morning Bible study or at other times at night before bed and at other times during the little (loud) kids’ nap time. Read-alouds followed by relaxed discussion and/or narration is an excellent way to engage everyone in a subject. Read alouds can also be chosen at different levels according to the developmental stage of each child. Our weekly or bi-weekly trips to the library are often spent in search of read-alouds for our current history or science subject.
The Homeschool Schoolbus
I had the privilege of hearing Heidi St John speak on homeschooling multiple ages last summer at our annual homeschool convention. She had an excellent way of describing this system of adjusting the coursework according to each child’s ability. I believe she described it like driving a school bus where the youngest kids get off the bus first. So all kids listen to the daily reading. The youngest child might color a picture of a Roman soldier or princess, or what ever appeals, and then go play. The next child might draw a picture of something learned possibly writing a sentence about the picture before heading off the bus. Older kids are assigned increasingly difficult assignments based on their ability. I find history readings an excellent source for writing subjects for older kids. History lends itself nicely to interest-led research papers.
This would work similarly with Science. What ever is being taught, maybe from a science text book for a grade level in the middle of your kids’ ages, can be adapted easily for each child. We have enjoyed using the My Father’s World curriculum with multiple ages. This program includes Bible, History, Science, and Art and Music. You just need to add your own Math and Langauge Arts. The science projects are interesting and we often included our little guys even though their level of understanding is less and they may not fully understand every part of the eye, they are being exposed to the idea and if they are cutting and gluing, learning manual dexterity as well.
Remember that the younger years are about exposing kids to ideas, different time periods, scientific principles or cultures. Although I think kids should learn to memorize in the younger years, memorizing random facts about history and science are not what we choose to focus on. We want to cultivate and nurture a love of learning i our kids as much as possible. Memory work can be exercised by memorizing poetry or meaningful scriptures.
Benefits to Homeschooling With Multiple Ages
The picture I have painted of homeschooling multiple ages certainly does not look like traditional school where there is one teacher and 25 students. It is not supposed too! There are many benefits to this way of schooling. Often times an older child will teach a younger one, either out of necessity or just for fun. Remember last Friday’s post where my kids were playing school? Older children also learn patience and form close friendships with their younger siblings. As long as the little ones are reasonably well-behaved (character training is a subject you know!) they are a joy to have around. I have always said that there is nothing better for a prickly teen than a sweet baby or toddler in the house. Learning together fosters a stronger sense of family and has been the source of many happy family memories.
Linking up with the iHomeschool Network’s Spring Hopscotch:
Becoming Healthy & Fit | Alisha at Flourish
Teaching With LEGO | Amy at Milk and Cookies
New Experiences | Angie at Many Little Blessings
Homeschooling Tots & Preschoolers | Carisa at 1+1+1=1
Project-Based Learning | Cindy at Our Journey Westward
Electricity and Magnetism Experiments | Colleen at Raising Lifelong Learners
ABC’s of Journaling | Dollie at Teachers of Good Things
Boosting Brainpower | Heather at Cultivating Lives
Adventure Box Themes | Heather at Blog, She Wrote
Hopscotching Across the USA | Heidi at Home Schoolroom
Homeschooling for Free and Frugal | Jamerrill at Free Homeschool Deals
How to Work from Home and Homeschool | Jamerrill at Holy Spirit-Led Homeschooling
Sights to See in Washington, D.C. | Jenn at Daze of Adventure
Autism is… | Jennifer at Jennifer A. Janes
Raising Boys (By a Mom of Five Sons) | Kendra at Preschoolers and Peace
US Presidents | Lauren at Mama’s Learning Corner
Things You Can Do With A Can of Tomato Sauce | Laurie at Our Abundant Blessings
Learning to Exercise With Your Kids | Lisa at Chaos Appreciation
Understanding Your Anxious Child | Lisa at Our Homeschool Adventure
Homeschooling the Large Family | Marianne at Abundant Life
Screen-Free Family Activities | Michelle at The Holistic Homeschooler
Healthy Eating | Sarah at Sidetracked Sarah
Planning a Summer Garden | Stephanie at Nature Notebook
Tips for Selling Your House While Homeschooling | Susann at Mama Hopper
Gluten Free Recipes | Tabitha at Meet Penny
Cool Group Projects & Parties | Tabitha at Teaching With Cents
How to Use Coupons | Tabitha at Online Coupon Workshop
Using Games in School | Ticia at Adventures in Mommydom
You CAN be an Artist | Tricia at Hodge Podge