This post, How I Homeschool Multiple Grades, is part of a How to Start Homeschooling series. If you would like to have more help getting started with homeschooling, check out How to Start Homeschooling, a comprehensive guide to establishing your homeschool.
We homeschooled from the very beginning with my eldest. As a former education major, the logistics of teaching one child seemed pretty straight forward at first glance. However, as I added children year after year, I found that our daily routines needed some trial and error in order to fall into a good rhythm. It took me quite a while to figure out how to homeschool multiple grades.
At this time, I have a 3rd grader, 1st grader, a preschooler, and a baby who crawls underfoot and pulls papers off the table. I am still learning how to homeschool multiple grades well, and I still make shifts in our routine periodically.
It’s all about trying different things, finding what works for your stage in life and your kids’ personalities, and running with it. If and when something stops working, then you may need to do some problem solving to see what kind of adjustment would help things to run more smoothly.
Quite frankly, there is no magic formula for successfully teaching multiple grades at once. However, there are several strategies that can help.
There is no need to pick separate curricula for every child and every subject. We do history, science, reading aloud, and some writing together as a family. We do reading out of our history, science, and chapter books all together, and generally complete any projects together as well. If there is a writing assignment, I typically require only a sentence or two from my first grader, but perhaps a paragraph or two from my third grader. I encourage the preschooler to draw a picture or just listen in.
The key to making this type of schooling work is to know that you will circle around to these same topics again in more depth when the kids get older. (Public school does this too!)
For example, when my eldest was in first and second grade, we did social studies and cultural studies units. When he was in grade “two and a half,” we did a bird’s eye view of American history. When he started third grade, we began ancient world history. We will likely spend the end of this year and next doing world history into the modern age, then will cycle back around to social studies and civics as he enters middle school. By that time, he will be ready for more in-depth study, and the younger ones will be ready to hear it all again from a different perspective.
In this way, we are able to spend far less time each day on these subjects by doing them as a family. Plus, it gives the kids a unified “classroom” feel. It’s nice to hear them proclaim to the gift shop attendant at the aquarium that “we studied marine biology this year!”
In our homeschool, phonics, math, handwriting, and pre-k work are done separately. This is how this looks for us: I generally try to set one child up with work that they can do confidently on their own (like handwriting, for example) while I work with another child on math. Then we switch. I send my older child to work on a paragraph for language arts while I work with the younger one on math. After they are both done or wrapping up, I open up the preschool book with my four year old and we go through a few pages.
I will admit that it can be a juggling circus. Sometimes I return to check in on the child I left working independently to find them twiddling their pencil and staring at the ceiling with a blank page in front of them. Such is homeschooling! I just try to get them back and track and keep going.
Sometimes, I find it best to just let two of the children play, or use an educational app, while I work with one student at a time. It helps to keep me from going crazy and allows the one working child to receive my full attention for that time.
You don’t need to actually teach every subject. (Imagine that!)
Last year, I outsourced science for about two months while my son did a Harry Potter chemistry course on Outschool. I know parents who use online programs for math or language arts. It’s okay to teach some subjects on your own, and enroll in classes for others. In fact, some families thrive by doing complete online programs! Whatever works best for your schedule is what’s best for you.
It takes quite a lot of time and it’s never easy, but teaching independence to your kids will go a long way in helping you to homeschool multiple grades. Once a child can read and has a bit of an attention span, then you can send them off to read the directions and complete a worksheet.
My kids are relatively young still, so we still need a lot of practice in this area. This is the process I use to get my kids working independently:
- We read the directions together.
- They do two or three practice questions with me by their side.
- I ask them to complete another question or two on their own.
- I check for understanding based on their work, and help them if needed.
- If they understand, I have them complete the rest of the questions on their own.
In this way, my kids learn what they are supposed to do, they get practice, and I check in on them before they start wandering down the wrong path and need to re-do an entire assignment.
Teaching independence with outsourced programs might be easier, only because they have a teacher and/or a system that helps students to keep on the right track.
Find Quiet Spaces
I’ve found it incredibly important to find quiet spaces for my kids to work. When we are doing together time, or family school, it’s okay for all of us to be lumped on the couch or spread out with a project across the kitchen table. However, once we get to subjects that require more concentration, then everyone needs his own quiet work space.
I know this can be very difficult with a house full of kids. We are a family of six living in a 1200 square foot, two-bedroom house. There are no closets. There is no office. There is only one bathroom. (I don’t know how that is related to homeschooling, except that it makes it difficult when three of us have to pee at the same time.)
Usually, the most noise-sensitive and distraction-prone of my children goes to my bedroom to work. The second sits at the desk in the living room. The third sits at the kitchen table. I strap the baby into the backpack carrier to keep her from destroying the older kids’ scholastic efforts.
Having quiet spaces for each kid helps tremendously to homeschool multiple grades at once.
You can do it!
If you are looking to homeschool multiple grades, take heart. It can be done!
It can take trial and error to find systems that work, but it is totally possible. Don’t be afraid to try a schedule for a couple of weeks, then change things up if needed. Remember:
- Combine what subjects you can.
- Stagger the subjects you can’t do together.
- Outsource certain subjects if it helps.
- Teach your kids to work independently.
- Find quiet spaces for everyone when needed.
You can do this!
Do you have any tips for homeschooling multiple grades? Share them below in the comments!