For the last two weeks, I’ve been discussing different aspects of teaching multiple ages of children. In part 1, I mentioned choosing curriculum that would assist you in teaching multiple levels by utilizing a combination of curricula that combined children and worked for independent learning. Last week, in part 2, I provided some basic philosophies of scheduling to plan your days. This week I’d like to talk about remembering the individuality of each of your children and how it relates to choosing curriculum.
You may be thinking, “Of course I know my children are individuals! That’s one of the reasons that I chose to homeschool!” And you are right of course. But I have found myself “forgetting” this when I’m choosing curriculum and you may also have unknowingly “forgotten” too.
When looking for a curriculum to combine multiple children, be sure to consider the aptitudes and learning styles of all your children. The problem is that if you have children with widely different ways of learning, you probably won’t find one curriculum that is perfectly suited to every child. Here’s where you might have to “tweak” the plans a little. For example, if you are using a curriculum that includes a lot of reading aloud, and you have a child that has problems sitting still, then you could give that child something quiet to do with his hands while you read. But if you have a whole house full of children who can’t sit still while being read to, then look for something that isn’t so reading intensive! If a curriculum requires a lot of reading by the student who finds reading difficult, you could search for audio versions of some of the required reading. When you are trying to combine students who learn very differently, be sure to look for a curriculum that contains activities using a wide variety of learning methods. Not every student will be happy with every assignment, but it isn’t a bad thing to stretch your students, making them do some things that don’t come as naturally to them.
When choosing curriculum, homeschoolers tend to be frugal. So when we see a spelling curriculum that is non-consumable and can be used for all our children every year from first grade through graduation, we tend to think that it’s a great deal. But this is another one of the ways we tend to forget the individual natures of our children. This type of curriculum that is a one time purchase for your whole family may seem like a great deal, but don’t be too surprised if the same phonics, spelling, or math curriculum isn’t very well suited to all of your children. Once again, there are ways to “tweak” a curriculum you already have to make it work with all of your children. Also, we don’t have to make every single subject perfectly suited to each child’s learning style. To function in the world, we need to be able to learn in a variety of ways. But, when you choose ALL your curriculum for your OLDEST child, planning on passing it down to the others, you could be faced with NONE of your curriculum being well suited for a YOUNGER child.
I have just finished the first grade with my second son. My oldest son just finished 5th grade and oldest daughter 3rd. I cannot imagine there being two boys who are any more different than my two. Their first grade years also looked very different.
- My oldest son was reading fluently BEFORE first grade. He completed through Singapore 2A in his math. He also completed First Language Lessons, having started the first grade portion in kindergarten.
- My younger son is still not reading fluently but has made tremendous progress this year. (We’re on our third phonics program with our third child.) He is working his way through Math Mammoth Level 1A over the summer. I didn’t even begin First Language Lessons with him this year.
Admittedly, some of the differences are a result of my not spending as much time with the younger son as I did with the older son, partly because of lack of desire on HIS part. But my boys are also extremely different in personality. The oldest is serious and exacting, while the younger is a ham that is a bundle of energy. My younger son just wasn’t ready to learn things at the same time and in the same way as the older. I can’t expect him to use his brother’s “hand-me-down” curriculum without some serious “tweaking”.
I shared this example to demonstrate how differences in your students should be taken into account when choosing curriculum. I urge you to think of the entire family when you make your curriculum choices. At least be willing to accept the possibility that the “perfect” phonics curriculum may not be so perfect the next time around.