Getting Started in Homeschooling: Teaching More than One Child

Our family is coming up on our tenth year of formal homeschooling. It has been an amazing journey thus far. We’ve covered much ground and learned so much together.

This year I approach our school, trembling in my boots, as I teach five grades from kindergarten to ninth grade. We’ve examined all our options and decided that home education is still the best choice for our family. The adventure continues!

So far in this series on Getting Started in Homeschooling, we’ve talked about a number of different aspects of teaching your children at home:

What about teaching more than one child?

Today we look at the idea of teaching more than one child. It’s not impossible to teach more than one grade level or subject. In fact, in my public school teaching days I was often assigned three to five different preps in a school day — with thirty kids each. So, this is doable. Really.

Things do get a little tricky when you’re teaching more than one child because there are many personalities and needs to fold into your school day. With care, you can work it all in and still be sane at the end of the day.

Mastering the daily schedule of teaching many children is a challenge, but not an impossible one. It does require planning, flexibility, and a sense of humor.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Study the same subjects, but at different levels.

This year all my children will be studying Ancient History, using Tapestry of Grace. TOG is designed to help the family with many students keep mom from going crazy make good use of their time by covering the same time period of history in a way that is accessible to all age levels. It’s quite brilliant, actually.

For example, my kindergartener will get Ancient Egyptian crafts and picture books while my 9th grader will be reading things like Ancient Egypt. Likewise, my K-6 crowd will be using a Botany curriculum that covers a range of ages and abilities. In fact, finding common curriculum that can be adapted for a range of ages is not as difficult as one might think.

While each kid will be doing his own thing, we’ll also collectively be talking about similar subject matter. I will not need to be in five continents and time zones at one time, but our family can experience the same over all topics together, making for great dinnertime conversation that everyone can participate in as well as lend itself to family field trips that support each child’s studies.

Be organized.

Organization is vital when you mother many. You have to get your act together — just to survive. It’s no different in our homeschool than in our home. I have to be organized to stay afloat.

Some of the ways that I do this is through the planning sheets and binders I use. I’ve prepared assignment sheets to help us track everyone’s work. I put together a master homeschool binder for each school year that includes a calendar, course outlines, attendance records, assessment scores, and lesson plans.

Each kid’s books and assignment sheets are color-coded so that it’s easy to tell them apart at a glance. Each child has his own binder as well as a basket in which to hold his books for school. We put together paperwork in a systematic way that even a first grader or kindergartener knows whose is whose.

The Organizing Life as MOM Homeschool Pack contains similar planning pages to those described here as well as a host of other pages designed to help you keep your homeschool paperwork in order.

Manage your time well.

While none of my children will spend eight hours a day on school, there will be days when I might. From planning to teaching to running the carpool and then grading papers, I will be a busy beaver. So, I have to manage my time well. 

Believe me when I say I’m enjoying summer break immensely. Yes, the school year is busy, but if I budget my time well and not allow time wasters to suck my energy and attention, I know that I can do the things that I need to do in a day.

In her book, Organized Simplicity, Tsh Oxenreider, addresses time wasters. She suggests making three lists: the want to’s, the need to’s, and the what you really do’s. If there is something that is on list #3 that is not on the first two lists, then this is a potential time waster.

The illustration was not lost on me. Facebook came to mind immediately. Good thing it’s vacation! As home educators, we can’t afford to squander the precious minutes and hours at our disposal. We have to make every moment count.

Rest, relax, and enjoy your peeps.

That’s not to say that we don’t put up our feet from time to time or cozy up with a good book. Or cuddle with our kids to watch a movie. Or play a game of Boggle together. Rather, I look at it as the idea, “work hard, play hard.” Make sure that you’re taking care of business AND enjoying the people around you, namely spouse and children.

One of the biggest benefits of this homeschooling gig has been to know and relate to my kids on a deeper level than I might if they were gone from me all day. It’s easy to get lost in the shoulds of life.

About this series - If you’re interested in getting started in homeschooling, this is a series recounting our experiences in teaching our children at home, the things that I’ve learned, and some resources I’ve discovered along the way. But this way isn’t the only way. Your mileage may vary. Coming up next time – Our Curriculum for the Year.

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Comments

  1. I like how you are covering the same topic for all the kids when needed, that helps a LOT! Oranization is key too, this I have found! I have my 3 that will be starting soon, you certainly have your hands full with 5! I’m just not ready to tackle algebra!

  2. We are getting ready to start our FIRST year of homeschooling. First child/Kindergarten. I’m trembling in my boots too! Grateful that there are people like you who post encouragement and tips! Thanks so much!

  3. Thanks for this. I have 4 kids, and last year was our first year homeschooling–a 2nd grader, a kindergartener, and two little sibs. I was very concerned about how I was going to manage homeschooling with a baby, and was shocked to find that keeping the baby happy was NOTHING compared to how difficult it was for me to have two students at different grade levels (plus a preschooler in the mix).

    We’re still finalizing our curriculum plans for the coming year, and this topic is very much on my mind….thanks for the timeliness of this and the practical tips.

  4. Kara Noya says:

    So far I get it… but just have to ask – what about Homeschooling triplet boys? Mine begin Kindergarten this year, and we have a 3-year old boy at home. Any advice on a particular Curriculum (or not) with their 3 different learning styles?
    Thank you, I appreciate your advice. I am just beginning this process and hope to have my “act” together here before Fall! :-)

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I always wanted multiples and that never happened. ;) I’m not really sure, except that I’ve always looked for curriculum that can spam more than one grade level so that I can lump lessons together. I’m impressed that you know their learning styles already. I wouldn’t be too hesitant to stretch them into other styles of learning. While it’s good to tailor as best you can, it’s okay to try other things. As kids develop, things can shift. I really like The Well Trained Mind. Kindergarten is easy and fun. My baby is starting kindergarten in the fall. We’ll be doing reading and math with lots of exploration in other areas.

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  1. [...] Life as Mom has tips on homeschooling children of different ages. [...]

  2. [...] Labor Day, but I’ve been planning the year’s coursework, purchasing curriculum, and preparing myself for a busy, busy schedule. Yesterday when I mapped out the daily routine for our home school, I realized that I need to be [...]

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