Managing homeschooling with different grade levels (and therefore different materials they need to work through) is not just dilemma that newbie homeschoolers have! I think it would be fair to say that the particular ways you manage multiple grade levels worth of curriculum can be continually changing as your kids gain more independence, and as you figure out what routines work best for your family. There’s no one right methodology, but I’m going to share some things that have worked well for us!
Work Together on As Many Subjects As Possible
Subjects like History, Science, Geography, Health, Art, Bible can be taught to multiple ages at once! While some curriculums break these down into entirely different courses for each grade level, I specifically sought out a program that would allow me to teach them as a group. We use The Good & The Beautiful which allows me to present a topic to all my kiddos together but also has age appropriate assignments. (There are other companies that offer this style as well, you just have to find what fits your family best!) So if we were to do a unit on Whales, for example, my preschoolers might be coloring a whale after the lesson, while my 5th grader is writing a report about them.
Utilize Supplemental Online Programs, Videos and Games
I had a whole post dedicated to our love of ReadingEggs & MathSeeds. These aren’t just great for helping our kids learn these topics, they’re also great for helping me manage our daily schedule! There are lots of other free online educational game sites like Fun4TheBrain, or educational tablet apps that can be used as well – not to mention YouTube!
So when we’re ready for Language time, I might have Hayden (5th) working independently while I sit down with Audri (2nd) to help her with her lesson, meanwhile the younger four kids (kindergarten & preschool) are doing a ReadingEggs Lesson. Then we can rotate to me working with Will & Zoey (K) while Audri does her ReadingEggs lesson and the twins (preK) watch a Letter Playlist I have ready to go on YouTube. Then Repeat for Math. I find that Language & Math are really the two most difficult subjects to manage multiple grades for, since they require a lot more one-on-one time.
Rotate Subjects Throughout The Week.
Every subject does not need to be covered every single day, or even ever “semester” necessarily. For example, we do science & history twice a week on alternate days. Some families do a more focused approach and do science one semester and history the next. There were a couple of years I even alternated days for math and language – it worked well at the time, but with the curriculum we use now it works better to just do a little bit each day for those subjects. I understand feeling like you’re “not doing enough” if you’re not trying to teach all the subjects every day, but I have found over the years it’s much easier to spread it out than to feel rushed through each day.
Make A Busy Basket for Littles
Sometimes the difficultly in focusing on helping one child with their work can be their younger siblings just wanting attention! Even with the subjects that are meant to be combined, sometimes a history lesson just doesn’t keep the attention of a preschooler (ok, most of the time it doesn’t.) For these times if simply telling them to “go play” isn’t enough, it’s helpful to have a collection of things for them to work on. PlayDoh, watercolor paints, coloring books, cheap stickers, puzzles, crafting, and even preschool workbooks so they can “do school” too are all great! The main thing is to plan ahead to have a few things to keep littles busy for the days they’re not wanting to listen to the lesson or play on their own.
Involve Kids in Picking Their Next Subject
This tip has more to do with motivation, but when you’re trying to manage multiple kids, cooperation is quite helpful! Reading and Math are topics we do daily, so often I’ll ask each kiddo which one they’d like to do first. A lot of times when they “don’t feel like” doing school, this can help them feel like they have a choice and a way make things easier on themselves. Both subjects still get done, but in the order the kiddo is mentally ready for them.
Find Ways to Motivate Independent Work
In theory, the older a child gets, the more independent they can be in completing their schoolwork. However, sometimes personalities can play a big role in motivation. My oldest is naturally very independent and is content to work on her own when possible, but her next younger sister requires a lot of “pushing” and encouragement to keep moving through a lesson. This can be draining when one child requires your full attention to painstakingly move through each problem because they can’t focus. With these kids it’s very helpful to set specific goals and provide a “reward” to look forward to. For example, my kids know there will be no technology “fun time” (watching shows, playing Roblox, etc) until all schoolwork is done. This is a huge motivator for them! Audri also likes to know exactly how much she has to do, so she can check it off as she goes. Any little thing to help keep them focused can make a big difference.
What ways have you found helpful in managing multiple grades and/or kids through homeschooling?