Teaching several children of different ages and grade levels will take some extra planning, and on some days may seem impossible, or overwhelming. We homeschooled our eight kids, so I can relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed!However, with some planning and preparing not only is multi-level teaching possible, but you can also help your kids progress academically, while still keeping a semblance of order in your home.
Here are some tips for managing multi-level teaching:
1. Remember what you are trying to accomplish.
For most of us the goal is to instill godly values in our children, and to teach them the skills they need to become productive adults. Sometimes we get so bogged down by all the lesson plans, curriculum choices, and books that we lose site of that goal. Don’t let academics take precedence over the goal of instilling godly values in your kids! Character is foundational to everything, and we must work on character before academics.
2. Get organized, and schedule your day.
Your home school will only be as good as your ability to discipline yourself is. Make a firm resolve to sacrifice your time and discipline yourself to give your kids the best education spiritually and academically. Set up a schedule/routine for your days so you will be in control, rather than the circumstances or mood of the day determining what is or isn’t done.
At the same time, realize that every day will be different. What works today may not work tomorrow, so be flexible.
3. Teach as many subjects jointly as you can.
Obviously, you can’t do this with phonics and beginning math. However, you can have Bible, Character, Science, and History together. Adjust the requirements from each child based on their age and ability. I might have my younger kids fill in blanks as I teach, while the older ones take notes. Or I might assign younger ones to answer multiple choice questions showing they have learned what was taught, while the older ones will have to write a paper about it, or take a test.
There are several different ways to teach subjects jointly, and you can (and should!) choose what works best for you and your family. It depends on the ages of your children, and what methods work best for them and you.
4. Teach them to be independent learners.
If you have different subjects for each child, AND you have to teach each one of them and work with them on their subjects, you aren’t going to last. The goal is to teach them to learn how to find answers, and learn for themselves. You are there to answer questions, and guide them, but you shouldn’t have to sit and do all their work with them. (Other than beginning students who are still learning phonics and early math)
5. Take advantage of educational DVDs and software.
You can get some great DVDs for Science and History. Your kids can watch them and learn while you are free to work with other kids, the toddlers, or fix a meal.
You can get also some fun computer games that are educational. We have used Quarter Mile math for their math drills instead of me doing flash cards with all the elementary kids.
For Phonics I used Alpha-phonics, in addition to our phonics lessons. There were also some Reader Rabbit games we used, that reinforced their reading and math skills.
6. Limit outside activities.
Realize that you are in a season of your life that is demanding, as you juggle being a mom with also being the teacher. If you are too busy running to extra activities all the time, you end up neglecting your priorities, as well as getting irritable from always being on the go. Things that are important to you get neglected, and then you feel guilty. Realize you can only do so much in a day, and choose wisely.
7. Break activities into small time slots for your younger children, and alternate it with sit down work, and fun active things.
Take short breaks to spend time with the baby and/or toddler. It refreshes you, and makes them feel included and loved.
In addition to these tips, probably the most important thing is that you take time to enjoy the kids! Don’t get so busy rushing from this subject to the next one, or this child to the next one, that you fail to enjoy the time with them. It’s easy to get so serious that we get stressed at anything that slows us down. As a result, we get impatient with them, and miss some opportunities to just enjoy being with them, and talking to them, or listening to what they have to say.
What are some ways you balance all the responsibilities you have as you are teaching multiple children and ages?