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“How can you teach multiple subjects to multiple children all in one day? Especially since you work from home?”
I share lots of recipes, meal plans, and organizational tips, but I'm a homeschool mom first and foremost. Many of the questions I get here at workingathomeschool.com relate to homeschooling (which I love), and most of those questions relate to homeschooling multiple ages. I have five kids, ages 1-11, which means I'm teaching three of my kids (7, 8, and 11) and dabbling in preschool with my 3-year-old. My 1-year-old pretty much tortures her siblings and runs the house with her little baby bossiness. Our homeschool routine and curriculum has changed since last year, and I recently posted about my secret to a successful homeschool week, but I thought that it was about time that I answer this question about homeschooling multiple ages!
So how can a really busy mom run a one-room schoolhouse? I'll let you in a little secret:
I tried to have each child do each subject in their own grade, but after several years of frustration, we switched to a multi-age curriculum and never looked back. This basically means that for some subjects (memory work, Bible, history, science, poetry, art, etc), we try to combine everyone and do it together, changing the degree of difficulty for each of the kids. We can't do it for everything (like math and language arts), but it's possible to combine a lot, and it makes our days so much easier! Plus, the sense of community is great, and my kids challenge each other quite a bit. Here's what it looks like:
- We start our day with Morning Time (you can learn more about what morning time can look like here). For us, this includes prayer, hymns, poetry, and sometimes a silly dance party to get the wiggles out. We also do our memory work during this time. After we've recited whatever it is we're memorizing, we use Sonlight Curriculum for Bible and History. This means that every morning, I start reading while the kids are doing their after-breakfast chores, and we spend some lovely family time doing the assigned reading for the day. EVERY child is interested, because Sonlight does an amazing job of choosing living books that go extremely well together. Finding books that my 3-year-old, 7-year-old, 8-year-old, and 11-year-old are all interested in is no easy feat, but Sonlight has managed to do it well. We do use notebooking pages (the link can get you to a free trial if you want to try it out!) while we read, and this helps to keep the kids focused (and little hands busy) while we read.
- After our reading is done, we do art together. We either do Simply Charlotte Mason's art study, or Grapevine Stick-Figuring through the Bible (we mainly use Grapevine when it coincides with our daily Bible reading, and it's really fun! It's a nice break from more formal art study, and it helps the kids remember the Bible stories we read). About once a week we do something extra fun, like Art for Kids Hub videos on YouTube.
- On Mondays and Wednesdays, my two oldest kids will start writing at this point (we use the Institute for Excellence in Writing, and I can't recommend this enough. At the beginning, my girls balked at anything writing related, but now they are excelling after using this program. I have an in-depth review coming soon). On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we all do Apologia Science together. My older daughter uses the notebooking journal, and my younger kids use the junior notebooking journal. This way my oldest gets more in-depth, while the younger kids get introduced to a science topic on their level.
Of course you can't teach every subject together, so this is where we separate a bit for other subjects.
- I teach the math lessons for their age levels to my older girls (we use Rod and Staff math for them) then leave them to their lessons while my 7-year-old and I head to a different room to read (he finally learned to read using All About Reading – I'm really thankful that we found this program!). When he's done, and the girls are done with math, they all do handwriting (we use Bob Jones University Press handwriting because it was given to us and it works pretty well).
- When it's time to switch subjects, my girls move on to spelling (we use the Institute for Excellence in Writing's Phonetic Zoo, and they LOVE it! It works better than any other spelling program we've tried), and my son works on Math-U-See. I know people rave about MUS, but honestly, it hasn't worked for any of my kids until this one – my son is thriving with it, but the older kids just didn't click with it for some reason.
- We finish up our day with language lessons. We use Queen Homeschooling's Language Lessons books, and I think I've got most of my homeschooling friends using them, too. We've tried other books and keep coming back to these, because they are so good! They have a little bit of everything – art study, narration, writing, parts of speech, etc. My kids really enjoy these, and after trying a different language lessons curriculum this year, my oldest came to me and asked if we could switch back to these books. One of the best things about these books is that they do not require a lot of parental involvement, which is another sanity-saver for a busy mom!
That's our homeschool day in a nutshell, and my best secret for teaching my kids well – anything that can be combined and multi-age while still challenging each student is a GEM!
If you teach more than one child at home, how do you do it? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
P.S. – I've had a few people ask about how I keep all of this organized – I use the Purposeful Planner by Corie Clark. It's the first planner ever that I haven't gotten sick of; I love it! I don't fill out the hourly sections, but I do block off segments of time to get things done. You can read my review here if you want to see it up close. And for our school lessons I use the Erin Condren Teacher's Planner.