Teaching Multiple Ages? These Tips Will Help You Keep Your Sanity

Parents who have begun the wonderful journey of homeschooling one child often decide that it is the best option for their family, and therefore, plan to homeschool all of their children – often from preschool through high school.

Often, this requires teaching several grade levels or ages at the same time and can become a bit overwhelming as the kids get older and take on more challenging material. Teaching children of differing ages can be a daunting task, especially for those who are fairly new to homeschooling.

The good news is, creating a consistent homeschool day without losing your sanity doesn’t have to be difficult – and it will strengthen your family bonds in the process.

Planning, routine, and creativity are the three most important aspects of making your school day successful and stress-free. Planning and routine do not mean that you must plan out every activity for every minute of the school day for each grade level. But having a general plan of action and some backup ideas for times when things don’t go as scheduled will help tremendously.

Begin and end each school day with a general idea of what needs to be accomplished, and build in plenty of time for the little distractions that can sometimes come from working at home. Having a general routine will help the kids know what to expect – when they must work quietly, when they will have a break, or when their favorite subject will be worked on.

You can even allow your child to help plan the day, and make a fun chart for each child to help guide them through their tasks.

Is your preschooler sick and cranky, or throwing a tantrum while you are trying to teach your sixth grader algebra? You can avoid the stress of a younger child seeking attention while you are occupied by planning to have a few extra activities on hand.

Busy boxes with matching games, puzzles, or other educational activities can be kept on hand for times when you must work with an older child individually. Your younger ones will look forward to these special activities that are only brought out occasionally.

The internet is full of ideas for keeping kids busy and engaged while you are involved in a one-on-one lesson. Learning games, worksheets, and activity pages can be kept as a backup in a folder in your home classroom.

No matter what ages you are teaching, there are many portions of the day that can be done as a group. Begin your day sitting together, allowing each child to say what they learned the day before and what they are looking forward to in the coming day.

Group activities are especially easy to incorporate with reading, Bible study, and science experiments. Even if younger ones may not understand an older child’s reading assignment or the science behind an experiment, they will be engaged and interested in activities they can participate in with their older siblings.

If there are independent activities that each child has assigned to them as part of their day, designate a space where all ages can sit together quietly and work on their projects at the same time.  This can be a special reading nook with beanbags, a light-filled window seat, or even an outdoor playhouse on a nice day.

Kids love to feel they are needed; that they are being good helpers. Allow older children to help the younger ones during “buddy time.” This gives older children a sense of responsibility and gives younger ones attention from their sibling.

Joy In The Home has some other great tips for keeping things running smoothly while teaching multiple ages:

Set Up a Routine That Naturally Flows for Your Family – Once I realized that a schedule with set times were only stress increasing things, I switched my focus to finding a routine that could work for my family and have adjustments based on the seasonal changes that occurs in our home. Once my children, even my youngest children, learned what our homeschooling routine looked like, our days became easier and more productive. I truly believe that a natural flowing routine is one of the best things a homeschooling mom can do for herself and it will pay off so quickly.

Recognize Training Opportunities for What They Are – Each homeschool family has issues that arise in our children that can quickly cause our homeschooling days to become unglued and stressful. We need to recognize these times as training opportunities and understand that when this happens, it means we haven’t been consistent in setting up our routine, implementing consequences and even overlooking praises where they could have been given. I like to identify the key things in our home that gets me stressed out, whether it is disobedience or unmotivated children, I can recognize that these are trainable opportunities that will help me reach my goal of homeschooling multiple ages and to do it well.

Teach Several Subjects as a Family – If you aren’t taking advantage of teaching several subjects as a family, you won’t believe the freedom that comes with this one key element to teaching multiple ages in your home. The key to doing this successfully is to expect different things based on the ages and skills of your children. Young children will only be listening, where older children could be given assignments that could last 15-20 minutes or even longer for high school children.

Encourage Independent Learning – Implement independent learning early on…this not only fosters a love of learning, but also opens up my day to work with those who need more teaching to learn the basic skills necessary to be an independent learner, including accountability.

Create Learning Centers for Your Family –Planning ahead for these activities are really important but worth the time! These learning centers are key elements to getting even the youngest child in your home to be doing something when you have to give your attention to another child.

Homeschooling multiple ages does not have to be a stressful experience.  By working together, doing a little planning, and being open to the joys (and sometimes unexpected distractions) that each school day brings, your family can enjoy an amazing journey together.

Do you homeschool several different ages?  What are your tips for making things run smoothly?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

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