Saturday, September 29, 2012

10 Tips for Homeschooling Multiple Ages

When we started this homeschooling journey, I was daunted by the task of educating my precious kindergartner all by myself. I spent hours researching, planning, scheduling. I recreated school at home, complete with desk and cubby. While this works for some, my intensity nearly gave me a heart attack. I'm not a super-structured person, by nature.
It took us quite awhile to find our groove, lighten up a little, discover each of the kids' learning styles (and my teaching style.)
Now, I'm teaching 7th, 5th, 2nd, and kindergarten!
It's still challenging, of course, but I've learned a few things along the way!
1. Pray.
A lot. All the time. And read His Word.
This isn't possible alone. Don't wait until the burden is too heavy to carry, and worry seeps out your ears. Just hand over the weight of it now, do your best, trust God to help you. Unfortunately, I often forget this basic and most-important rule until I'm on my knees with frustration...and then "well, duh, might as well pray while I'm in the right position!"
2. Grade papers daily.
Paperwork is my nemesis. It piles and piles, taunting me. I've learned to tackle it as soon as it comes. Besides, the kids want to know how well they've done on an assignment. It's not always possible for me to do it with them, or grade it immediately, but I do try to finish everything by the end of the day.

3. Do as many subjects together as possible.
We do all of our science and art together, and the boys all do history together, too. My kindergartner may not "get" a lot of it, but he participates, especially if there's a project or experiment that goes along with the lesson. My daughter (7th grade) is old enough to do most of her work independently. We use Teaching Textbooks for math, which grades and keeps records for me (YAY, TT!) She uses a completely different set of books than the boys, and comes to me when she's completed a unit and is ready for a test. Other than that, I grade her history, and just help where I'm needed. It's sort-of wonderful.
4. Create a Routine.
I'm not overly structured, as I've said. I get stressed when we've tried to stick by the 30-minute increment time schedule in the past. "Ahhh, we're not done with science, but the timer is about to BEEEEP!" Stress. Somehow the timer rules me.
But we DO have a routine that we follow. Wake up, Get Coffee, Read Bible (my time,) Computer Time, then we read the Bible together while they eat breakfast. Every morning the little ones and I go outside and watch the sun come up. They know what to expect, and when. We do this in other areas, too. For example, they know that at 5pm, they can turn on the TV and watch a show. They know that only Saturdays are for Nintendo. Knowing what to expect takes a lot of the Whine out of the equation!
5. Plan Independent Work.
We do a lot together, but they're also required to do some things alone. For training, if nothing else. By the time they're in 7th grade, I want them to be able to work as independently as their older sister. Which means they need more and more responsibility and discipline every year. Even my 5-year old can do his handwriting and addition without help sometimes.
6. Have a Meeting Place,
but don't make everyone work there. 
At one time, we had an actual designated schoolroom, which was wonderful in theory, but we just didn't use it like I thought we would. Now we have the kitchen table. There are lockers and bookcases in the playroom, for our books and supplies, but we usually do our work right at the dining room table. That is, the boys and I do work there. My daughter usually works in her room, at the counter, or anyplace that is far enough from her brothers to prevent distraction. Let's face it, boys are just noisy and active! At any rate, it's wonderful to have a central location to come back to, for group projects and art lessons!
7. Keep Each Child's Schoolwork Handy, and Separate.
If one child is going to work in a different room, it's convenient to just grab the tub of their stuff and move them along. If you decide to be a super fun (and maybe a little crazy) homeschool mama and do a School in the Park Day, each kid can grab their own tub and haul everything along. If you want to take it a step further, you can color-code. If a blue notebook is left out, I know who it belongs to! This "Tub-Method" has made my life infinitely easier!
8. Plan activities for the little ones.
When I'm grading, or working one-on-one with the older kids, the little ones need something to do. We keep a tub of toys ONLY for times when they need to play quietly in the afternoon. I rotate things out (when I remember.) For preschoolers and early elementary, you could include puzzles, lacing beads, pipe cleaners for crafts, toy cars, you get the idea.
9. Have the older ones help the younger ones.
It's been said, we remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we see and hear, 80% of what we personally experience, 95% or what we teach. I believe there's truth to this. Have your older students teach their younger siblings something they're learning about. It's a two-for-one!  
10. Relax.
Have fun. Remember to include Art (get messy!),
Nature-Study (play outside! Enjoy the world!),
Music  (dance with it!)
These things are just as important as math and history!
School takes longer when you're teaching multiple grades, but the younger ones still won't be working all day. Provide crayons and a steady supply of paper.
Nurture creativity and imagination.
Encourage group art projects. Take walks!! Dance. Play. Enjoy!
Don't lose sight of why you're doing what you're doing, by getting bogged down in scheduling and paperwork. Create a vacation day, if you need it, just to go hiking.

 Enjoy this time, because it really does go by too fast!


Amy said...

Oh, I LOVE this post! It's taken me years, but I finally figured out alot of the same things you did. I tried getting up early & scheduling, etc.....only to get frustrated when none of that worked. Took me a while to realize that I'm NOT replicating the classroom here at home......we are LIVING our life & learning along the way. Has made things a lot less stressful for me. We've been spending A LOT of these gorgeous fall days doing 'school' outside on a quilt under our Dogwood tree. So much nicer that way! ;-)

Jenny said...

Great post Wendy! I'll add a sub-note to #1 - yes depend on God daily but don't forget to take advantage of other homeschool moms as well. I could not have finished homeschooling without them.