Teaching one child at home while running the household, keeping a budget, and taking care of everyone’s needs is not easy. Homeschooling more than one child at different grade levels turns the difficulty up several notches. Homeschooling any number of children successfully requires patience, planning, and a lot of knowledge and research. It is not a task to be taken lightly, but if you are already doing it, you know that the reward is worth all the work.
So how do you tackle the impressive job of single-handedly educating two or more children of different ages? Most likely, you have taken it on in a trial-and-error sort of way. Learning the hard way what works and what does not work is one way to get to homeschooling success. If you are just considering beginning to teach your children at home, here are some tips, methods, and strategies for creating a way of educating that will benefit each one of your children and leave you sane in the end.
- Teach everyone together. Granted, this one won’t work in many situations. But, for some topics, there is no reason why you could not teach, lecture, or discuss all together and then send each child off afterwards for a customized assignment/project. History, social studies, religion, and Bible studies: these are topics that can be taught in a group. After an initial lesson, the youngsters can read a book on the subject that is at their level, while older children can do extended research or write a paper on the topic. The more often you are able to do this, the more time you will save.
- Try self-teaching with older kids. Self-guided instruction can be very valuable, and not just because it saves you time. Your older children are capable to some extent of learning through reading, online activities, projects, and research, rather than through direct instruction by you. For instance, you would not tell your six-year-old to go online and learn about how flowers grow. But you could create a self-guided project for your fourteen-year-old for using research materials to learn the biology of flowering plants. Self-guided teaching is valuable because it allows your older children more freedom, it gives them the chance to develop skills and knowledge on their own, and it allows you to be more efficient with your educating time. Just be sure to use it only with material that you know will not be too difficult for your child to understand. And always have that child give you at least a quick oral report on what they learned so that you can check their learning.
- Turn your older children into teachers. Not in child labor sort of way, of course. But your older children can be great instructors for your younger children. Doing so benefits both of them. If your older child is able to take a concept and make it understandable to their younger sibling, it means that they truly understand it. Teaching is actually the best way to learn something. Use this method when appropriate, but be careful not to take away from your older kids’ instructional time.
- Schedule, schedule, schedule. Make your daily school routine highly scheduled to maximize the efficiency and success of your home school. Make a schedule every weekend for the week ahead. With a mapped out schedule, you can be sure that you are not forgetting anyone or any important lesson. Schedule your lessons so that one child is working with you while another has his own independent work to do. For instance, if you have an hour of math instruction scheduled with you and your second grader, make sure you schedule something for your older child for that hour. It should be independent work that will not require him to interrupt the math lesson for help. You can reverse this as well. When you need to instruct your older child, that time should be scheduled for quiet reading or crafting for your younger child.
- Be flexible. A schedule is a great place to start, but if you are rigid about it, you could be headed for disaster. Scheduling your days is crucial to using your time well and making sure that everyone is included. However, it needs to be a fluid tool. When you are schooling more than one child, things happen. The best-laid plans sometimes go awry. You need to be able to go with the flow and change your well thought-out schedule as necessary. If your youngest just can’t focus, maybe it’s time for everyone to take a walk for an impromptu and unscheduled nature lesson.
- Make mandatory one-on-one time. One part of your schedule that should not be changed is the time you spend one-on-one with each child. This time is essential. It keeps you connected with each child, what they are learning, and how well they are learning. Schedule in time each school day that absolutely must be kept. The time of day may change, but do not go to bed at night without having this time with each child. It is too easy to put it off until the next day. Be vigilant and don’t let it slide.
- Mix up teaching time and chore time. Your kids should be doing chores around the house, not only to help you, but also to learn about responsibility and to develop certain life skills. Use the time when one child is working on chores to spend one-on-one educational time with another. Then switch. You can also use chore time as education time. Everyone can work on the same chore at once while discussing an educational topic. For instance, talk about shapes, geometry, and colors, while folding the laundry together. Make use of every minute you have!
- Purchase a curriculum. Teaching your children without any prepared materials requires a huge amount of planning. If you can afford to do so, purchasing a set of curricula and materials for different grade levels and subjects can be immensely helpful. The more you can cut down on planning time, the more time you will have to spend actually teaching your children. If prepared materials are not within your budget, consider talking to other homeschooling families. They may have purchased materials that they have outgrown and could sell to you at a very discounted price.
- Work with others. Sometimes, you just can’t do it all yourself. Consider teaming up with one or two other homeschooling families. Try to find families with children that are about the same age as yours. You can schedule occasional days on which you all work together. For example, you could have a math day. You might use that time to teach the youngsters basic arithmetic, while another parent takes the older kids to work on algebra. Together, you can be more efficient. If you have larger homeschooling groups in your area, you may be able to create lessons on an even larger scale.
- Don’t be afraid to use the weekends. If you run out of time and fear you might be getting your kids behind in lessons, use the weekends to catch up. If you feel you need more time for certain subjects or lessons, use the weekend to do some of the more enjoyable projects. This will free up more time during the week for mandatory lessons and practice work.
Homeschooling is rarely easy. Surely there is never a day when you sit back, kick up your feet, and think, well that was easy. However, with the right amount of planning, scheduling, and tips based upon other homeschoolers’ trials and tribulations, you can do it. You can give each one of your children the time, attention, and education that they need to be successful in life.
©2012 Off the Grid News