Though there are many instances of twins and even triplets out there, most of us have kids one at a time, and for homeschooling, that means learning to work with different ages and levels simultaneously. Whatever is gained in the reduction of students in a homeschool “classroom” versus a public school room is easily canceled out when you factor in the task of teaching multiple ages at the same time. Organization is a must, and while the task can seem daunting, there are ways you can ease the stress of this challenge. If you are currently trying to teach your kindergarten aged child while caring for their toddler or infant siblings, let me give you some reassurance that this will get easier with time as your children get older and begin school. The long days you are putting in now will pay off dividends later. But, there are some tips that can hopefully help you as you navigate your way through raising, caring for, and teaching your little family.
One thing that is important for any teacher is to encourage your students toward progress while acknowledging to yourself and realistically working within their limits, especially when it comes to attention span. It is no secret that young children have shorter attention spans than do older children and adults, so take some time to read up on childhood development, as well as assessing your children yourself, to determine what they are capable of in terms of focus and task completion. Your 8 year old may be advanced in this area while their 10-year-old sibling lags behind them. That’s ok, so long as you recognize it and work accordingly. Egg timers for each child are a great way to not only remind you that it is time to redirect them or give them a short break but to give them a visual for how much longer they are to spend on a task. Older students are typically better able to work independently, and can often spend hours on a task, so take advantage of their advancement in this area while you work hands on with their younger siblings.
Many subjects can be taught to all ages at once, especially when utilizing field trips and outings, with only slight changes for each grade level. A nature hike can be enjoyed by all, but the final assignment for each child can be differentiated according to age and skill. Similarly, reading time can be done by everyone, with age appropriate materials for your multiple students. Even projects can be completed as a group, with the older children simply occupying different roles.
As your children grow and develop, one of the most rewarding things you will witness is the older children teaching and helping the younger ones. While I am in no way suggesting that you depend on your older kids to educate the others, it will inevitably come to pass that the younger kids will look to their older brothers and sisters for help and guidance. This strengthening of family bonds is also teaching leadership skills to your teens that are preparing to enter the adult world. And, it will let you know that they really were listening to you all those years, even those rough days when you wondered if you were doing the right thing. The answer is yes, you were, and it was all worth the rough days.
Mimi Rothschild is a veteran homeschooling mother of 8, writer of a series of books called Cyberspace for Kids, and passionate advocate for children and education that is truly worthy of them. In 2001, Mimi and her late husband founded Learning By Grace, a leading provider of online Christian homeschooling Academies.