Teaching more than one child in a homeschool setting is not the easiest thing in the world. But, it’s totally possible for you and your children to thrive.
Homeschooling one child can be a challenge. It can make a mom shake in her boots to take on the responsibility of teaching her child at home. But, what about teaching more than one child? At the same time? Yikes!
Our family has begun our fifteenth 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 third grade to eleventh. Every once in awhile we examine other options and again decide that home education is still the best choice for our family. If it ain’t broke, don’t mess with it.
And so 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:
- Determination – the gumption to tackle such a lofty goal
- A Philosophy of Education – the ideas that will fuel your
- Teaching Resources – books and curriculum that help you achieve the educational goals you’ve set for your family
- An Awareness of Your State’s Laws – an understanding of the rules of the waters
- An Academic Calendar – a timetable for learning
- Tools for Schooling – some basics to have at your disposal
- Creating a Daily Routine or Schedule – how to structure the days
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.
It’s just on a smaller scale. My own kids. At home.
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 are studying the Middle Ages. We’re in our 4th rotation through the history of the world. Over the years we’ve used Story of the World and Tapestry of Grace. This year we’re using Story of the World, Beautiful Feet, and Omnibus 2 to approach the time period.
All the kids are studying the same general period of time, but on greatly different levels of comprehension and understanding. Currently, my high schoolers are reading Augustine’s Confessions, like the real Confessions. No Cliff’s Notes here! The younger kids are engaging with medieval texts that have been adapted for their own ages, like One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughren.
Yet, everyone is basically in the same era, so I don’t go bonkers trying to get people, names, and dates straight. 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.
We’re planning a big family trip to Ireland in the spring and will see the Book of Kells and all kinds of medieval ruins!
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 our homeschool assignment binders. I’ve gone through everyone’s curriculum for the year and prepared assignment binders. At any given time, a student or I can consult the binder and find out the next assignment. Each child has a master homeschool binder 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 or shelf 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 assignments, I will be a busy beaver. So, I have to manage my time well.
Now that everyone is reading independently, it is getting much easier. 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. 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.
Teaching more than one child is nothing new. Laura Ingalls did it in a one-room school house, and their education was pretty exceptional, given the limited days and hours and resources. We can certainly rock this in our own homes.
What are YOUR tricks for teaching more than one child?
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.
Up next – Our Curriculum for the 2016-2017 School Year
Originally published August 24, 2011. Updated September 17, 2016.