Homeschooling your children of multiple ages can be overwhelming. Learn 5 tips to ease the stress and give you more time in your day.
It’s 11:30 am. You’re teaching your 9th grader how to graph equations.
Your 6th grader, who is supposed to be working on grammar, is sneaking upstairs to play Legos.
Meanwhile, your 3rd grader is fighting back tears and throwing her pencil in frustration because her cursive letters don’t look right.
Your preschooler is climbing in the fridge to grab a snack.
So you tell your 9th grader to work out a few problems on her own, holler upstairs to remind your 6th grader he’s not done with his schoolwork yet, and grab your preschooler out of the fridge while trying to console your 3rd grader. Then you hide in the bathroom, fighting back your own tears, wondering why you can’t figure this homeschooling thing out.
Why does it seem like every other homeschooling mom has it together but you? That other moms somehow get all of their kids to sit and do their work, and still have time for laundry and freshly baked bread. Yet you can’t even get your 12-year-old to sit still for 7 consecutive minutes to finish a grammar page.
Why does it have to be so hard?
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I’ve been the mom stress eating in the closet because everyone woke up in a bad mood. The mom trying to help one kid with math and another sound out a word, all while trying to find a lost pencil for a third child. The mom trying to read a chapter aloud, only to have to pause every 2.5 minutes to sprint after the 3-year-old.
Do you know what I realized? I was making our homeschool days harder than they needed to be. Trying to do too much and stressing myself, and my kids, out in the process. I realized I could simplify our homeschool day so that it’s more manageable. Which is also more enjoyable for all of us.
5 Tips to Help You Easily Teach All of Your Children
You most definitely can have enjoyable days when you are homeschooling multiple ages of children. Below are 5 tips to help you create the homeschool you desire.
1. Group as much as possible.
There is absolutely no way I would be able to get in all that we do in a school day if I didn’t combine the kids for some of their work. I have three kids I’m teaching and a two-year-old who tries to destroy the house on a daily basis! I can only be stretched so far.
Luckily there are so many subjects you can combine, even if your kids aren’t close in age. If they are close in age or developmental level, then you can combine even more.
Combine all ages for enrichment subjects.
I group all of my kids together for foreign language, artist study, music, a vocabulary word of the day, logic, U.S. geography, our read alouds, and a daily rosary/prayer time. Morning basket, or morning time, is the perfect way to include any subjects that you can teach all of your children together.
These types of lessons can easily be done with different ages together. Older kids can have more expected from them, such as a writing assignment about the lesson or further reading on a subject, while younger kids can just do the lesson itself. My oldest likes to do our read alouds, which gives me a chance to play with the two-year-old or monitor behavior while she reads.
Group kids close in age for some core subjects.
My middle boys are just under two years apart, so I group them for quite a bit of schoolwork. They do history, world geography, science, bible history, catechism, and some grammar together. I have been doing their work together like this for the past year or two, which has greatly shortened our school day!
Combining a couple or all of your kids can make your days run much smoother. It also helps you as the teacher be able to focus better on the material taught. It’s much easier to have everyone learning Ancient History, for example, than to have one student in each time period.
2. Teach your kids to work independently.
From early on, I taught my children how to work on their own. As they’ve gotten older, their independence has helped give me time to work with siblings as needed. One way to foster this independence is with a daily student planner.
A spiral notebook is how I do this. I got the idea from Sarah MacKenzie of Read Aloud Revival. When all the school supplies go on sale in the stores, I buy a few extra notebooks. Each day, I write the date on the top and write out each child’s assignments by subject. I put a star next to the assignments that they can work on independently, and leave the ones that they need to work with me without a star.
Using this method allows my kids to get started on their work if I’m not ready yet. You know, if the toddler decides to keep me up half the night or is trying to scale a bookcase at the moment. 😉 They put a check next to their work when it’s done. Then I know at a glance what has been completed and can be checked. Or who I need to gently redirect to focus on their work.
Have siblings help with younger kids.
Since having my toddler, I have struggled with trying to balance working with my older kids and keeping the little one entertained. One way that seems to work best is to have my older kids take turns playing with him. I can then give individual time to the others. My older kids get a little break from their work, my toddler gets attention from his siblings, and I get to work with my older kids without too much interruption. Win-Win-Win!
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3. Make organization a priority.
I am no queen of organization–by far–but I’ve realized that the more organized I am, the easier our school days go. When you are homeschooling multiple ages, organization is key. Over the years, I’ve found several ways to keep our days flowing.
Keep school materials in one area.
First, it is definitely not necessary to have a dedicated classroom to homeschool. However, having a dedicated space for your homeschool materials makes for a more organized day. If your kids are constantly trying to figure out where they left their math book, or have to hunt for a pencil, they are wasting valuable learning time. Keeping a shelf of a bookcase or a basket for each child’s work and supplies makes the day less stressful for everyone.
Spiral notebooks as homeschool planners.
I already went over this in detail above, but I want to mention it again because it’s a great organization tool. Each day after our schoolwork is done, I will spend 10-15 minutes writing out everyone’s lessons for the next day. I spend time each weekend writing out the week’s lessons in my own planner, so all I have to do is transfer each child’s work for the next day in their spiral notebook. I always put the notebooks in the same place, so my children know exactly where to go to begin their day.
Keep a daily routine.
It is hard to stay on a set schedule when homeschooling multiple ages. However, a routine can definitely add ease to your day. We follow the same general homeschool routine each day. We don’t have a set start time, but we try to begin between 9-9:30 am with our morning basket work, followed by group work. Since math is online, the kids work on that while I prepare lunch. We take a pretty long lunch break so everyone can relax, including time to play outside. After lunch the kids work on their individual work, and I hang out in the room in case they need me. A routine helps ensure we get all of our work done on a daily basis.
Our homeschools don’t exist in a bubble. Not only do we need to teach our children, but we have to feed them and make sure they live in a clean house! Trying to fit it all in everyday with the kids constantly underfoot can be overwhelming. Meal planning can help ease some of that stress.
4. Quiet time for everyone
Homeschool families are around each other pretty much all day, every day. That makes for some great relationships with siblings and parents. But a little time apart can do everyone some good as well. It’s important to split up and spend some time alone each day, on individual interests.
We try to get as much of our schoolwork done in the morning as possible. By the time my toddler goes down for a nap around 2 pm, we all need a little break. When the weather is nice, my boys love playing outside. My daughter usually likes to spend this time alone in her room, writing or drawing. Depending on the day and my mood, I may use this time to check schoolwork, to read or write, or just to relax. As an introvert, I need this time to recharge. I love being with my kids all day, but I do need a midday break from all. that. noise!
If you’d like to guide your children a bit on good activities to do during a quiet time (or any time), you might want to consider strewing. When you strew materials for your children to discover, it piques their interest in those activities. I know, for example, that every time I set a couple of educational games out my kids will pick them up and play. Occasionally I’ll leave out a new book, watercolor paints and paper, or magformers, and they will be noticed and used immediately.
5. Be flexible!
I saved one of my most important tips on homeschooling multiple kids for the end. Be flexible! Life is not always going to go as planned. What works one day will be awful another day. Just when you seem to have it all together, life changes. So don’t be afraid to change things up. Revisit your routine. Throw out the day’s plans and take a field trip instead. As homeschoolers, we have the privilege of having school fit into our life, instead of life having to fit around school.
As homeschoolers, we have the privilege of having school fit into our life, instead of life having to fit around school. Christy, Homeschooling in ProgressTweet
Sometimes it can feel impossible homeschooling multiple ages children. You have so much on your plate as teacher and mom. It’s vital to simplify as much as possible by grouping kids and teaching independence. Additionally, it’s important to be organized and make sure everyone has time each day to recharge. Most of all, realize how wonderful it is to have the opportunity to teach all of your children together. Your homeschool will not look the same month after month or year after year, and that’s ok. It will grow with you.