Guest post by Shelly of RedHeadMom. Check out her website here: There’s No Place Like Home
As a mom of 11 kids, one of the most common questions I get asked is, “How in the world do you homeschool all those children?” I’ll admit that the task surely can seem daunting to those unfamiliar with a home education setting, but even those who have been living this lifestyle for years sometimes can’t seem to get a good routine going. Believe me, I get it. Until I learned to let go of the public school model, it was quite a struggle for me, too. And I really need to point out that this wasn’t something that came naturally to me. Finding a routine that worked took a lot of tweaking, a lot of prayers, and a good bit of grace.
So today I’m going to try to save you the trouble and share the three key tricks that have helped me homeschool my large crew while keeping my sanity (Yes, it is possible!).
Three Crucial Tricks for Homeschooling Multiple Ages: Combine, combine, combine!
When most people picture what a homeschool day looks like, they’re likely to imagine a group of children all working quietly at their desks on their own respective textbook lessons. While this may work for some families, I’m going to say that those families are in the minority. If only homeschooling were that peaceful. Sigh.
One of the best ways you can save time and create lots of bonding experiences for your children is to teach them as many things as possible together. Some people do this with unit studies. Others use read-alouds to cover entire subject areas. Still others will adjust their curriculum to meet the needs of a few different ages at once.
No matter which method you choose, one thing is for certain: you must rid yourself of the notion that learning only happens with textbooks and worksheets. It just isn’t true.
Besides combining children, consider combining subjects, as well. Think about it. If your children are reading and notebooking about Nikola Tesla for history, is there any reason they must go on to complete additional assignments in language arts and science? If your teens are balancing equations in chemistry, doesn’t that adequately cover math?
Homeschooling your children is a fantastic opportunity for you, the parent, to learn to think outside the box and realize that real life isn’t broken up into subjects, so why should your children’s education be?
Group your children.
Teaching children together can be a wonderful time saver. However, if you’re the mom of an extra-large family, that might not always be feasible.
Sometimes you really can have too many children together at once, and what can result is chaos, tears, and meltdowns (Believe me, I know…).
One simple trick I came up with during my own difficulties with this was to break my children up into groups of three or four children. At the time I started doing this, I had four children in my “Littles” group (ages 3 to 7), three children in my “Middles” group (ages 8 to 13), and three in my “Teens” group.
I still do this today, although the groups have shifted a bit. I start each day with the Middles, then move on to work with my Littles, and since my Teens mainly work on their own, I set aside some time each night to help them in any areas they need assistance with.
It works out beautifully.
Take advantage of interest-led learning.
I know there are a lot of parents out there who are uncomfortable with the notion of allowing kids to follow their own interests, but this is one of the most effective and most natural ways for children to learn.
It’s what they’re good at. Another tool I’ve learned to keep in my homeschool toolbox is a plan for days when my children will work on the three Rs — reading, writing, and arithmetic — and then will be given the freedom to pursue things on their own.
This can be any number of things. Some activities my children partake in on these days are:
– nature study
– outside play
– playing board games
– watching nature videos
Once you’ve come to the realization that life itself is educational, learning to let go of the need to schedule every aspect of your children’s learning experiences becomes that much easier.
I’m not going to lie. Homeschooling multiple ages can be tricky, and it certainly has its ups and downs, but with a little experimenting, a bit of flexibility, and a lot of love, your homeschool is bound to become exactly what you and your children need it to be.