Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Homeschooling Multiples

I remember when I first started homeschooling my older children my first question was, “How do you manage with more then one child let alone both in different grade levels?” I have heard this question many times from those considering homeschooling, or adding on to their families. I thought it would be fun to hear from Leah at Almost Unschoolers, as to how she manages her home with 6 children. If you have never been by Leah’s blog, I encourage you after reading her guest post to visit over there, she always has the most incredible, fun and interesting activities going on with her kids.

Debbie asked if I would post a little about the strategies, that work for me in teaching several different ages at once. Being almost unschoolers, a lot of what we do from day to day is somewhat fluid, and changes constantly, so what works for us one day, would not the next, but there is one method we return to often, and that is using learning stations.

I've never been very good at sitting all the children all down, at the same time for something like a math lesson. Trying to field all of their questions from different levels at once, makes me want to pull my hair out, and I'm likely to announce play time, and go running from the room.

Instead, I like to have different learning areas throughout the house, that the children can rotate through independently, while I circle around to see who needs help with what. So for instance, I might have:

  • A verse in cursive, in a notebook, at the kitchen table for the kids to practice copy work with.
  • The computer set up with an online math, spelling, or typing lesson, in the living room.
  • The piano with songs ready to be practiced.
  • A learn-German-at-home type CD ready to play in my bedroom.
  • Some kind of learning show (Liberty's Kids, Sid the Science Kid, Cyberchase, etc), on the television in the family room.
  • And, books for independent reading in their rooms.

Since, the younger children need me the most for individual teaching time, I focus on them, while the older children are getting showers, doing independent reading, or some other work they can do completely on their own.

And, because there tends to be a lot of noise, and distraction in our house, I like to use mealtimes, when I have a captive audience, with mouths too full to talk much, to teach group lessons, or play a learning CD, or a family read aloud book on tape (the car, and bath time with the little ones, works great for this sort of thing, too).

When it comes to science projects, and crafts, I gather everything, tell the kids what I'm doing, invite them to join me, and then work with the ones who are interested. Often, after the nonparticipants see the results of our work, they'll ask to join in too. So, we do a lot of projects twice. I throw all the big science words at all the children, as well as the simplified-for-little-children explanations of what's going on - they can pick what they take away from a project.

Finally, for keeping track of the general subjects we're covering at any given time, I keep a loose list on the refrigerator. Sometimes it gets specific with daily assignments for each child, but usually it's just a general guideline of the subjects being taught in public school each year, so I can see if we're missing anything big. And, if I notice any child completely lacking in something like spelling, or number recognition, I'll make note of it on my list too, so I know the sorts of games, and lessons to steer them toward.

So, there you have it - sort of. Basically, as I said, we keep everything very loose. As the children grow older, their needs, and the demands of what they are studying change, and so does our school time. What is working for us right now, might not be working by the fall, and then we'll rearrange, and change our format again.

For a front row seat to our organized chaos, I hope you'll come over, and join us at Almost Unschoolers.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

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  1. Thanks to both of you for organsing this post. I needed it today. My just turned 2 year old is definitely letting us know that he is and must be the centre of our attention and school time is often a near disaster simply because he won't allow me to spend any time with the other kids.

    I've tried hard not to split them up as I wanted to keep everyone together but after reading this post maybe I need to, at least until he is that bit older....more to ponder! Thanks :-)

  2. I tried reading to them at bath time, and just ended up with a wet book. That didn't work for me, but I'm glad to hear it works for someone.

    I love reading how you do this, and it gives me hope for how I can work with Princess more later, when I'm ready to start her on things she can't do with the boys now cough cough reading cough.

  3. I do the reading at meal times a lot! I use librivox often so I can eat too.

  4. I just discovered librivox and am loving it. Right now I'm mostly using it for myself but plan to use it in September for my kids.

    Because I'm teaching a lot of kids I tend too keep a very loosely structured kind of schedule (or something like that).

  5. I often wondered how Leah manages to teach kids of multiple ages, and now my questions are answered. I like the "organized chaos" definition - you really have to be a supreme multi-tasker to teach such a crowd. On the other hand, I am sure that kids get a lot more autonomy than an average school child can get. Thanks for this informative post, Leah!

  6. Learning stations, great idea! I look forward to utilizing the info and making it work for us. Thanks :D