I love homeschooling my kids – I really do! It can be work sometimes though. There is all that lesson preparing, documenting, and catering to each of your kiddos thinking styles. Then, it gets even more complicated as you have more children and have to tailor your lessons and time to a new person’s needs. Don’t get me wrong. Homeschooling with multiple ages can be a very rewarding and enriching experience, but it does require careful planning and creativity!
What can you do to make it easier with multiple ages?
Find a routine. This does not have to be a forced and exaggerated plan of attack. Something simple that designates a certain regular chunk of time to each child will work. This can include instruction, group activities, and independent work. Having a routine helps children of different ages know what to expect and helps you to divide time and attention appropriately.
Combine discussions and projects when possible. This is a life saver! If the topic can be talked about with everyone, then each child gets more of a chance to develop and pick up more of an understanding. Identify subjects or topics that can be taught together, regardless of age. This approach allows you to cover the material once while adapting the depth and complexity of the content to each child’s age and ability. For example, you can explore science concepts or historical events that are relevant to both older and younger children.
Use independent learning tools. Some resources just foster independent learning, like software, games, online courses, exploration, experimentation, collecting, or books. These resources can provide age-appropriate content and activities that children can engage with by themselves, freeing up your time to work with other children.
Engage them in cooperative learning. Encourage learning and teaching among siblings in a group setting. Older children can mentor and support younger siblings in certain subjects or activities, promoting collaboration and reinforcing their own understanding of the material. This approach gives a sense of responsibility and teamwork among siblings.
Individualize. Recognize and respect the unique learning needs and abilities of each child. Adapt your teaching methods, materials, and expectations to accommodate the different ages, thinking styles, and learning styles.
During group activities, focus on core skills. There are foundational skills such as reading, writing, and mathematics that can be broached together and offer multiple levels of each with the group. Seeing the older children work through problems can help encourage the younger ones to “get dirty and make mistakes,” as Mrs. Frizzle would say!
Use the art of distraction. Probably my favorite distraction tool is yogurt. Sounds weird? Probably! Whenever my younger ones would need to have something entertaining them, I would put them in their high chair or in the bath with a small amount of water, and put yogurt piles in front of them. Give them some brightly colored powdered herbs to mix with it (turmeric, spirulina, violet sugar, etc) or some nontoxic food dyes. They loved getting covered in the colorful yogurt and covering everything else with it too!
Be patient and flexible as much as possible, use tools available to you, and just let fun discussions and time work itself out. Sometimes, a kiddo or two may have a “wild time” in life, but homeschooling with multiple ages is always possible.
Over at Earthley, we have been creating study units with a variety of thinkers, learners, and skill levels in mind. Each unit has some cooking, sewing, medicine-making, and foraging help in it. We keep the main instruction very simple and easy to follow while offering ways to advance the learning and offer discussion topics.
We also have a variety of free activity guides and very affordable curricula such as Real Food, Real Nutrition.