How to Easily Homeschool Multiple Ages

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Are you trying to homeschool multiple ages and going crazy? Here are some tips from an experienced homeschool mom!

For over a decade, I had four school-age children in the house.

Because of a large age gap, I had both teenagers and preschoolers to educate at times during this decade!

So I developed a few tips and tricks to homeschool multiple ages.

Because there really is a difference between homeschooling three children close in age and homeschooling kids with a large age gap.

Homeschooling Multiple Ages

My oldest three kids came back to back. Combining them was easy.

Homeschooling kids with a large age gap was a different kettle of fish altogether. Let’s just say it’s challenging to combine early elementary and high school.

Here’s what I did:

Divide Homeschool into Stages

One trick I used was to divide my homeschool into stages. By this, I mean the modern classical definition of stages.

Rhetoric, or high school teens, were grouped together.

Dialectic / middle school kids make up the second group.

The elementary or grammar stage kids were the third group.

I’ll be honest, people can talk all they want about combining 1st and 12th graders. But as I mentioned above, I found it challenging to say the least. When I taught at the 12th-grade level, my little 1st grader got bored and wandered off. If I was lucky. Or he’d just sit and play noisy games disrupting the entire table.

And when I taught at the 1st-grade level, my 12th grader listened to the information she heard many times over the years. Time she could have used to complete reading assignments or study science.

Even poetry didn’t work well. Some of my favorite elementary poems are ones my little ones still need to learn, but my high school teens memorized almost a decade ago!

So to homeschool multiple ages, I divided my 4 kids into two groups: the high school teens and the elementary kids.

If I’d had kids in middle school, I would have combined them either into a third group together or with the elementary kids.

The reason is that many science and history curricula are designed to be adapted for grades 1-8. But to complete high school science, you need math and maturity. Unless I had an advanced 8th grader or an 8th and 9th grader, I’d keep the middle school as its own group or fold a lone child into the elementary group.

Remember, it’s easier to deal with two or three different groups of children than it is to juggle 4 or 5 children.

So first divide your children into stages before deciding to combine or separate the kids.

Combine or Separate

The next question when you homeschool multiple ages is whether you should combine the kids or keep them separate.

I never, never, never combine skill subjects.

Subjects such as math, reading instruction, and Latin are best tutored individually. You can stop and review as needed or move forward at the child’s pace. In my experience trying to combine skill subjects such as math negates many of the advantages of homeschooling like individualized tutoring.

But I do combine the kids in each stage as much as possible.

As an example, one year I had two high school teens and two early elementary kids. My high school teens worked through Tapestry of Grace Year 4 (modern) at the rhetoric level together. This meant they had the same history, geography, literature, writing, and art assignments. I combined their science as well.

The only subjects they studied separately were math and foreign language.

And I combined my elementary kids for history, science, and art. I kept all language arts, math, and Latin assignments separate.

Now if you’re teaching two children with a large age gap, it may be easier to keep them both working independently for all subjects rather than trying to combine the two.

Although I would keep them both on the same topic.

For example, keep them both studying biology and work to sync the topics. This means they’ll both be studying animals, plants, and the human body together. But your older child can work through a science text at their level while your younger child works through an easier book.

This means you can do science experiments together. You can watch documentaries together. And you can even go on the same field trips to augment your studies.

This worked beautifully for me one year when I had two kids in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary.

I combined the middle school and 4th grader into Elemental Science’s logic stage biology. And I combined the high school teenagers into Apologia’s Biology.

Then I sat down and arranged our studies so the two courses overlapped as much as possible.

My life was simpler because all the kids were studying biology that year. But the kids’ needs were met because all the children were studying biology at their own level.

Combine children wisely so you both meet their needs and make your life easier.

Touch Base Daily

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I don’t care how responsible your high school teenager is. Touch base daily.

Touching base each day is easy in elementary school. Young kids don’t work well independently and still want mom’s attention. Nothing gets done if you don’t sit down with the kids.

Even in middle school, I continue to sit down for 30-45 minutes with each child to walk through their assignments and make certain they understand what they’re doing.

And be sure to teach their math assignments during this time!

I know people say that kids can teach themselves Saxon Math. They can’t. Kids get some of the strangest ideas and algorithms for solving math problems. Ones that work for some problems, but not all problems.

So either sit down to teach the kids math or use a good program such as Nicole the Math Lady or Mr. D Math.

Children need solid math instruction.

So when I homeschool multiple ages, I sit down with my younger kids for 30-45 minutes.

High school teens tend not to need the oversight that younger kids do. However, you still need to touch base.

Sometimes this means I sit down with the child for 30 minutes or so. But usually, it means I ask my high school teenagers how their schoolwork is going.

  • Where are they in their assignments?
  • What do they still have to do?
  • Do they have any questions for me to answer?

Also, I do not have older kids work with younger ones except in an emergency or spot situation.

First, it’s my job, not my older kids’ job, to educate my children. My older kids’ are responsible for their own education. Not that of a younger sibling.

Second, kids listen better to mom than older siblings.

Third, high school teens have a lot of schoolwork. They don’t have time to teach younger siblings to read, keep up with their own schoolwork, and have a social life. And a social life is important for a happy teenager. Everyone, even mom, needs friends.

So touch base with all your children daily and make certain their schoolwork is getting done.

Use An Open and Go Curriculum

When you homeschool multiple ages, an open-and-go curriculum will save your bacon! After a crazy weekend, you can sit down, open your books, and jump right into homeschooling.

But not all curriculum is open-and-go.

So one thing I do during the summer is to print and file all worksheets and papers I’ll need during the school year.  {You can see my technique here: How to create a Simple Filing System for your Homeschool}

One year I also created lesson plans for my high school teenager in Word. Basically, I wrote out the various assignments for all 36 weeks of the school year. Each subject had its own word document so all I had to do was copy the lesson and paste it into his weekly assignment grid.

If my son ran behind, I simply moved the unfinished assignments to the beginning of the next week and only cut and paste enough assignments to finish out the week. All completed assignments are in red font in the word document so I can easily tell what has been assigned and what has not been assigned.

It worked beautifully for my son. He used the same programs for several years, so I knew the appropriate pacing for him.

I tried the same system with my then 3rd-grade daughter and it was a colossal failure. The pacing turned out to be too fast and she needed to slow down.

The point is to make your curriculum as close to open and go as you can.

When you homeschool multiple children, you don’t want to spend hours creating detailed lesson plans for each and every child.

Easily homeschool multiple ages and have fun in the process All you need are these 7 simple tips from an experienced mom of 6 for a sane homeschool. These ideas work even when you're teaching multiple ages with a large age gap! #homeschool #homeschooling #multipleages #tips #ideas #largeagegap #fun #teaching

4-Day Week + Fridays

Another trick I used to homeschool multiple ages was to give my elementary kids a 4-day week. They got Fridays off! Or at least they had minimal schooling on Fridays.

See my little elementary kids needed me for almost everything they did.

They got the bulk of my attention Monday through Thursday. And I only touched base with my high school teenager to make certain all was going well and he didn’t have any questions.

But he still needed time with me. He still needed time for discussions, to go over math problems, and to review science together.

So Fridays were devoted to my high school teenager.

We discussed history and literature. We graded tests. His writing assignments were reviewed. And we planned out his next week of studies.

Devoting Fridays to my high school student created a good balance in my homeschool between meeting the needs of my elementary kids, my high school teen, and my sanity.

So if you homeschool multiple ages, especially with a large age gap, the trick is to remember to be flexible.

Try dividing the kids into age groups or stages.

Devote one day to your older kids. And combine the children wisely.

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