I have the blessing of having three children ages nearly 11, 7.5 and 3. With this age span, I have learned a few tricks along the way to help me school multiple ages at one time. Some days I feel like the one-room schoolhouse teacher from yesteryear, with multiple ages pulling at me all at once. I am hear to tell you that it can be done despite the seemingly difficult task. Creativity, patience and consistency are some of the keys when working across large age spans. I have to take into account learning styles, attention spans, growth and development and many other factors when planning my school day. Over the next five days, we will discuss:
- Combining subjects
- Learning through Music
- Field Trips
- Letting the older teach the younger
- and Incorporating a group time each day
These five things have helped me school my kids together effectively since we began homeschooling 8 years ago. Today lets get started by talking about combining subjects.
What subjects can be easily combined?
When working with elementary-aged kids, I have found that combining subjects such as history, science, Bible, Read-Aloud time and life skills are easy to do. I find that my children do better if I school them separately in the subject areas of phonics, math and spelling. These areas are so content specific to the individual grade level that it is more difficult to combine them in my opinion. This is not a hard and fast rule, just what we have found to work in our house.
History – We started out reading Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer for history when my oldest was in first grade. My then preschooler listened in to some of the reading and he enjoyed participating in lots of the hands-on activities we did to accompany the reading. My preschooler was learning by osmosis. I was focused on the older child’s abilities and allowed the younger one to just jump in where he liked. He doesn’t remember much of the stories now, but he does remember the hands-on projects we did. Last year with a 5th grader and 1st grader, we started diving into American history using Sonlight Core D. We fell in love with this literature approach to learning and are continuing with this curriculum this year. I love that I am able to take the history readers and gather my kiddos around me and we discover the past together. If the accompanying enrichment activities are too difficult for my middle child, I let him skip them or I create a simpler version for him to do. My preschooler listens in and plays with blocks or colors. Sometimes we do this while she is napping.
Science – During the elementary years, science is about exploration and discovery. We aren’t worried about a scope and sequence as much as exposing our kids to as much in the natural world as possible. By doing this, I hope to excite my kids about science and develop a love for learning. We have caught caterpillars from our parsley plants and placed them in a butterfly habitat and watched them form cocoons and transform into butterflies. We have caught a flying squirrel in our house and let it go back into the wild. (Yes, this really happened and you can read about it here.
We purchased an ant farm and received mail order ants to place in said farm. We bought a frog habitat and grew tadpoles and watched them transform into frogs. All of these experiences were appropriate for all ages and provided a learning experience unique to the child. I know that these experiences will be remembered long after the textbooks have been put away and forgotten. We do use traditional or real books curriculum for science, I just find that combining my kids for experimentation and learning makes it more memorable and fun. I could just purchase grade specific science curricula and give each child their own workbooks and read the lesson to them each individually, but why do that when you could be learning together, saving money and time? Here is a picture of one of our science experiment from this past year.
Bible – I have found that Bible is my favorite subject to do together with all my kids. We have recently begun using a marvelous curriculum that helps me teach the same biblical content to all my kids at the same time, individualizing it for each age level. Look for my upcoming review on Bible Study Guide For All Ages in a few weeks. Scripture memory can be done with all my kids together and prayer together is another important part of our Bible time.
Read- Aloud Time – With the discovery of Sonlight curriculum, we rediscovered the importance of reading great literature aloud together. This is a treasured part of our day now and we include classic literature, great award-winning children’s literature and biographies of great Americans and great Christians. When the preschooler is interested we include a board book or children’s book for her as well. I sometimes engage the emerging reader by having him read the story to his little sister. Killing two birds with one stone, accomplishing phonics and read-aloud at the same time.
Life Skills – Teaching my boys to put air in the tires, make toast, cut the grass, sweep the floor, hold the door open for ladies, etc. All of these tasks can be taught together and make a great impact on the people my kids will one day become. If I fill their head with knowledge, but do not equip them for real life, I am falling down on my job.
This year, I will have a 6th grader, a 2nd grader and a preschooler. With the advancement of my oldest to middle school age this year, I will probably have a few electives that we will do separately. For instance, he has developed an interest in computer science, and this will be something we work on together during our preschooler’s nap time. All of my kids have their own level of math and usually work at their own level in grammar and reading. I hope this has given you a few ideas that can help you see the potential of combining subjects, working together and making your multi-level homeschool a success.
This post has been part of a 5-day blog hop. To read more great posts, click the graphic below.