Does this scenario sound familiar? You have four children. One is learning quadratic equations, one is pulling his hair out with long division, and one is learning how to count, while the last one is still in diapers. How do you teach them all effectively when they are at such different stages in their learning?
Rather than feeling frustrated and asking, "How will I ever be able to teach all these kids at the same time," try these helpful ideas to make your homeschooling easier and less stressful:
Organize and multi-task - Maintaining your sanity while homeschooling more than one child requires organizing as much as possible. Designate a space for each child's workbooks and supplies and enforce putting everything away when the work is finished. Also, learn to double up on tasks, such as feeding the baby while reading together with younger children or washing dishes while memorizing poems and weekly spelling words.
Use unit studies - Families with multiple children of different ages are perfect candidates for unit studies. Children learn themes together at the same time through reading assignments, activity-based projects, field trips, and other hands-on instruction. Unit studies can be created completely from scratch around your children's interests, but they require an extensive amount of organizing and book hunting. Many parents prefer saving time with prepared unit studies like The Weaver Curriculum from Alpha Omega Publications, which makes lesson planning easier and includes Bible-based lessons geared to each child's age and grade level.
Trade work responsibilities - Here's a great way to stay ahead of grading papers. While your children are waiting for you to grade their most recent assignments, have them complete a job around the house for you, such as playing with the baby, organizing laundry, or setting the table for dinner.
Create a structured, yet flexible schedule - Although most homeschooling parents avoid having "school at home," teaching multiple children of different ages requires a basic structure to the day, such as deciding when you'll teach each subject and prepare lesson plans. However, make sure you still allow for spontaneous times of creativity and enjoy life's interruptions.
Buddy up younger children with older siblings - Every experienced homeschooling parent knows how to take advantage of this tip. Not only will younger children learn new concepts from their own private tutor, but your older children also will benefit by learning patience and reinforcing what they know. A word of caution: Your older children should only act as helpers. Remember, you're in control and responsible for educating the family.
Homeschool with student-directed curriculum - Student-directed curriculum like AOP's Monarch and Switched-On Schoolhouse allows children in grades 3-12 to work ahead without the need for continual supervision. As a result, with minimal teacher involvement, your children will quickly become independent learners, and you'll have more time for teaching younger children and getting chores done.
Save nap times for one-on-one instruction - When infants and toddlers go down for their regular naps, teach in-depth subjects that require more individualized instruction, such as math, reading, messy art lessons, and science lab experiments.
Set up play areas for toddlers - With a little forethought, it's easy to keep toddlers and preschoolers entertained and learning with their own special toys and projects used only during homeschooling hours. Short attention spans might include hands-on, fun-filled toys, such as puzzles, shape sorters, read-along picture books, toddler-sized kitchens and cleaning utensils, children's DVDs, and more.
Combined subject studies - If your children are closer in grade levels, a combined study in science, history, or another subject is a great way to save homeschooling time and energy. Much like teaching with unit studies, this method resembles the one-room schoolhouse of previous eras and works best by picking a central topic and developing assignments applicable to your children's ages.
Teach younger children to help - In addition to academics, a homeschool family still needs to eat, have clean clothes, and live in a semi-clutter free home. Since more children mean more messes, it also takes more hands to clean. While older children are working independently, enlist the help of your preschoolers to complete simple projects like folding clothes and picking up toys. Turn their chore time into school time by measuring, counting, and recognizing colors while keeping your house in order.
Homeschooling children of different ages can be exhausting, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. As most homeschooling families will tell you, multiple children also means multiplied joy and rewards.