A common question that homeschool teachers are asked, is how they manage to teach all their kids at the same time. I think this question stems from a lack of understanding of how different homeschooling is from the typical public school classroom.
Two keys to teaching multiple levels at home are independent study and combining students. There are a variety of ways that these two principles can be applied, and the best ratio needs to be determined by your individual family’s makeup.
For instance, some families choose programs that consist almost completely of independent study. Some examples are:
- Switched on Schoolhouse
- A Beka Academy with DVD or on-line instruction
- ACE Paces
- The Robinson Curriculum
Any of these programs could be used in a family with multiple students with the parent assisting in each student’s learning, but leaving the main instruction to the computer, video, or text.
One the other end of the spectrum are homeschool families that combine their children and teach them all together. There are few families that are able to do combine all students for all subjects, because the students would need to have similar skill levels in order to learn together in skill subjects, such as math. I do personally know a family with 4 children who are quadruplets, and they are able to successfully combine everyone. However, that is certainly not the typical case!
Obviously, the majority of homeschoolers fall somewhere in the middle of these two ends of the spectrum. Most homeschool families employ a mixture of combining students for some areas, having students learn independently for other subjects, and providing individual instruction in other subjects.
When choosing curricula for your family, ask yourself these questions:
- In what subjects can I reasonably combine two or more children?
- Is this curriculum designed to be used with multiple ages?
- How teacher-intensive is this curricula?
Typically, it is much easier to combine students in subjects that are more content oriented than skill oriented. Therefore, subjects like history, Bible, and science would be easier to teach to multiple levels than math or English. Some areas, like learning to read and early handwriting, will necessarily be taught individually and be teacher intensive.
A few curricula that are designed to be used for multiple ages include:
- Tapestry of Grace
- My Father’s World
- Apologia Elementary Science
There are only so many hours in a day, and we need to seek to find balance when choosing curriculum. Too many teacher intensive subjects for individual students is a recipe for burnout. On the other hand, we want to be sure to take the opportunity we’ve been given to provide personal attention to our children. Two of the biggest benefits of homeschooling are the strengthening of family relationships by learning together, and being able to provide individual instruction at your child’s level. By choosing curricula wisely, your family can see both of these benefits.
In Part Two of How to Teach Multiple Ages, I will discuss Structuring Your Homeschool Day. Remembering Your Children as Individuals will be the focus of Part Three.
2 thoughts on “How to Teach Multiple Ages – Part 1”
I look forward to reading along on this topic. We combine history, science, music, art, bible and Spanish. Everything else is done on an individual basis. Of course, that wasn't possible when I had a high schooler and the younguns!
Edited by 4sweetums on Jun. 17, 2009 at 3:04 PM
Another curriculum that is terrific for combining ages is Sonlight. Most people do not use Sonlight as the writers of the curriculum envisioned, they choose a different level for each child. However, Sonlight was designed to use with multiple students on multiple levels.
I currently homeschool all of our school age children using ONE level of Sonlight. So we combine, history, literature, language arts, Bible, science and reading. I do have to adjust some for a few of the subjects as I have a 7 year old all the way up to a 12 year old who are working through Sonlight 5.
Next year I will be integrating Sonlight 1 and 6 and will have 8 children ranging from 3 up to 13 years still combined in the stage of history that they are studying and I will be pulling resources from both levels.
That was a very long way of saying that Sonlight is another resource for combining multiple grades and ages. In addition to Konos and other unit type studies.
Great post! Thanks for putting it all together.