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Written by Alicia Hutchinson of Learning Well Community
I homeschool a freshman in high school. I also homeschool a preschooler. People ask me all the time how we homeschool multiple ages.
Hahahahahaha! I have no idea.
We just do. And somehow, the one-room schoolhouse thing actually works. I’m just going to be honest and tell you that we had a total groove thang going on with my then 11, 8, and 5 year old. But I went and threw another baby into the mix and yes, it’s been a little challenging learning how to mesh all these people.
Now, we have a 15-, 11- (will be 12 this summer), 9-, and 4-year-old residing in the Hutchinson Academy of Learning and yes! It can be done!
I’m not going to say it’s easy, because it’s probably been the hardest part of homeschooling since my youngest was two or so. But I’ve also been at this homeschooling gig for long enough to know that each year is different and current circumstances don’t mean forever circumstances. And choosing to press forward rather than throw in the towel has it’s rewards.
Tips for Teaching Multiples
Here are a few things we do each week to get things done with a houseful of very different aged kids:
- First and foremost, we do absolutely everything that we can–together! This is just imperative in our house because when everyone is working together, that means I can sit in one spot and help/assist everyone at ONCE!
Here are the things we work on together:
- Morning Meeting
- Language Arts and Writing (for my middles)
- Read aloud
Here are the things the kids generally work on independently:
- Math lessons
- Independent reading
1. For the combined subjects, I’ll just go more in-depth with the older ones – assign more challenging reading and expect a higher level of work. For the independent work, they’ll all work at the same time and I’ll just hop from kid to kid explaining their lessons and making sure they’ve got it.
- My kids each have assignment notebooks that they’re expected to follow if I’m busy with someone else. I typically will fill these out at the beginning of the week. So if I’m busy they can move on to their next thing without getting off track. We were having a big problem with kids sort of wandering off during school when I was working with someone else. If they know to follow the day’s plan, it’s been much less of an issue.
- Tame the Toddler. Haha! Just kidding, it’s impossible … it was just a clever alliteration. But since a toddler can be one of the biggest (albeit, cutest) interruptions of a homeschool day, it is a good thing to have a plan for her.
For us, I have a rotation of fun things for her to do for the first bit of our school day. We normally do school for about 2-3 hours. So I aim to give her things to entertain her for the first ½ of that time. We rotate sensory sand, play clay with cookie cutters, markers, used workbooks that she thinks are the real deal, and any other fun art supply I can get my hands on. (More ideas HERE in this post about homeschooling with toddlers.)
And here’s where the real truth telling happens: for the second ½ of our homeschool morning, I let Sesame Street teach my little girl.
Yes, TV. I know we’ve beaten to death the argument that screens are bad, nature is good. But sometimes you just gotta do what’s best for your season of life. And for me with a teenager all the way down to a very busy little lady child, PBS Kids is where it’s at.
TV time is limited and it’s never on all day or anything crazy, but I do turn it on almost every school day morning for my 4-year-old.
Does that make you feel freer? Yer welcome.
Managing Multiple Ages is Not Forever
I know when you’re in the thick of it, the daily struggles seem like they’ll never change.
But they will.
And even though I’m talking with one child about driver’s ed and sex (save me, Jesus) and wiping pee off the floor for the other one, I know my life won’t always look like this.
My natural-self would lament and stew about this juggle. But my wiser-non-natural-self told me to take a chill pill, light a candle and watch as all four of my kids sit at the table with their copywork books and copy passages from their current reads.
I can breathe deep when I see my 9th grader quiz my 3rd grader on her math facts and swap places while she quizzes him on his co-op science test.
The mixing of ages actually is a beautiful thing when I get over fretting about it.
As long as each of my kids’ physical and emotional needs are being met most of the time, I’ll call that day a success. I can’t be everything for everyone all of the time. But as long as I’m remaining conscientious of everyone and their needs, I figure everyone will get their slice of mama when they need it.
Hang in there, mama. Enjoy the season you’re in.
I know how great it feels to see how other homeschool mamas manage their days. For this very reason I created a weekly feature on my Instagram feed called Day in the Life of a Homeschool Mama. You can find us @learningwell on IG.
Each week we feature a different mama as she walks us through her day. Sometimes all we need is a little tip or an idea to implement in our own routine and that little thing can ripple effect to change things in a big way.
I hope you join us!
NOW, IT’S YOUR TURN. TELL US: Do You Have Multiple Ages you are Teaching? What’s your best tip?
Alicia is the creator and founder of Learning Well Community, a network for homeschool parents to be inspired and encouraged by one another. You can find out how other homeschool parents do it on their weekly Day in the Life takeovers on Instagram (@learningwell). Alicia has been homeschooling her four kids for 10 years.
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6 thoughts on “High School through Preschool: How We Manage Multiple Ages”
How do you keep your younger ones (ages 4-5) from watching TV with your little one (under 3) while you teach older kids? Do you put them in a separate room? Anytime the TV’s on here everyone wants to watch.
Good question! I second that.
Don’t do TV during schooltime. Have the little one in the same room you are, and give her special quiet toys that are reserved only for school. You can keep this in tubs – one for each day. I’ll put some ideas at the end. If she is able to sit still at all, have a seat for her at the table with paper and coloring supplies. Put these supplies in a special pencil box/container that is just for her and just for school time. It will make it special and more exciting. Teach her to use scissors, and she will have a blast cutting pieces of paper or magazines and gluing them to a notebook with a glue stick. Glue sticks aren’t very messy, but have a tub of wipes or a damp cloth for her to wipe her fingers when she’s done if needed. Have a drink for her in a straw cup so there is no reason for her to leave.
Here are some ideas for school time tubs. Fill them with blocks, puzzles, Duplos, Magnitiles, special picture books, dolls, felt board and shapes & pieces such as dress up dolls, Boogie board with shapes and letters to trace, little figurines, Playmobil 123, dolls, little dolls and action figures, toy cars, play food and a portable play kitchen, rocks (they can be painted too), playing cards, games, Kapla block sticks. Anything that keeps her attention for a long time-fill a tub with a variety, and don’t let that tub come out more than once a week. Add more challenging puzzles and developmentally appropriate toys as needed. One thing that is extra fun is to have a tub filled with sand, rice or a little bit of bubbly water. Place it on a waterproof mat near you so you can keep an eye on her, and let her create a scene with a bowl of supplies-pirates and gators or rocks and dump trucks or dolls and cloths in the sand. Floating toys or plastic fish and rocks in the water. Add food coloring and soapy bubbles to the water. Or allow her to wash play dishes and food in the water. Basically let the little ones know they are doing school too. They will be proud! In time they will get used to the routine and learn to respect that school time is special-and quieter…then have PE! 🙂
Thank you – Period. *deep breath*
I super appreciate your transparency! My spread is 14 (9th grade) down to 2, 4 total. My bottom two kind of wreck most of my plans 😉 so I end up having my big two (12 and 14) work independently as much as possible. I’m looking forward to a “one room schoolhouse” again but in the meantime, they’re learning their phonics via Leapfrog!
P.S. I want to add that I am not judging if your little ones watch TV because that is what you need. I just wanted to share another idea because someone mentioned the other siblings are distracted by it. That is exactly what would happen here if we were to have done that. So we have always kept a no TV during the day policy. It makes life so much easier because they don’t ask or want it very often even when it is offered. They say it is a waste of time since they would rather be playing. Also, TV makes our children grumpy. I know there are others who don’t have that problem, and TV works for them.