Most homeschool families have children spanning multiple grade levels.
How do you give each child the education they need, challenging them at their level, without juggling seventeen different teacher’s manuals and losing your mind?
It’s definitely doable! But you’re going to need a strategy.
If you are going to homeschool children in multiple grades, you’ll need to pick a curriculum that allows you to group some of your kids together, encourage older children to work independently, and then divide your time to give one-on-one attention to younger children, or those struggling with a new concept.
Think back to the one room schoolhouse of the pioneer days.
Somehow, one teacher managed to juggle up to 50 students, across twelve grades, and all subjects.
She must have had a few tricks up her sleeve.
As a homeschool grad and homeschool mom, I’ve acquired a few grade-level juggling tricks of my own, and I’m happy to share them with you.
IT STARTS WITH CURRICULUM
If you’ve been hanging out at The Homeschool Search for a while, you know I always encourage parents to prioritize math and language arts when they’re first getting started.
If it takes you a few weeks to get into a rhythm with those subjects, you can wait to add everything else for a little while. Math and Language Arts are the two subjects that really build throughout each school year, and from one year to the next, so I feel they’re the most important to keep up with and make consistent progress.
Your child’s needs or abilities may cause you to move slowly, but as long as you’re moving forward, you’ll get there sooner or later.
I hold to this same belief when it comes to homeschooling multiple grades at once.
Each child will need a Math and Language Arts program that challenges them at their individual level. If you have two kids who are close in age, or just close in abilities, you may be able to group them together. Otherwise, plan on a separate Math program and separate Language Arts program for each child.
That doesn’t mean that you, the parent, need to sit down and provide one on one instruction for Math and Language Arts, one at a time, for each child.
Instead, consider which of your children is already somewhat independent in their learning. I have found that I really can’t expect a child to do much of anything independently until they’re reading well on their own.
For your children who can be given a few assignments to do on their own, look over their curriculum each day or each week, and write them a note telling them what they need to complete.
Check in with them when you see them up and moving around. Have they completed the work? Did they get stuck and need your help? Do they simply need to be reminded not to leave the table until the assignment is complete? Look through their work at least once a day, to make sure they are completing everything and not running into problems.
Work with younger students one on one. Kindergarten and First Grade are the levels at which your child’s reading skills and number sense are being developed. Most kids can’t work independently until Second Grade at the absolute earliest. You’ll need to prioritize students in these grades as you decide how to divide your attention during the school day.
GROUP CHILDREN TOGETHER
Once you’ve found your options for Math and Language Arts, you’ll need to look for curriculum that allows you to group your children together for the other subjects.
Look for curriculum that was written specifically for homeschool families.
Programs like Abeka and Bob Jones were written for use in private schools. They’re great programs, and plenty of homeschool families enjoy using them.
If you choose these programs, or another curriculum which was written for use in a traditional school, then you will have to structure your homeschool as though it were a small private academy. Each child doing their own course for every subject.
However, if you go with a curriculum written by homeschoolers, for homeschoolers, you can often group several (maybe even all) of your children. Programs like Sonlight, My Father’s World, The Good and the Beautiful, and especially the new Gather ‘Round Homeschool all allow for some grouping of children across several grades and subjects.
Not only does grouping children reduce the amount of curriculum you as the parent need to manage, it also encourages a shared learning experience as a family. Personally, I feel this is one of the best advantages of home education, and something I wouldn’t want my family to miss out on by picking a curriculum designed for traditional schools.
If you choose curriculum designed for a public or private school setting, then each child is going to need to work on their own, independently, and if you’re helping one child, you’ll need the others to function without your help for a little while.
This might work if all of your children are older and naturally independent workers. However, if you have mostly elementary age students, or simply enjoy the idea of all your children learning together as a family, I highly encourage you to choose curriculum with this goal in mind.