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Home » Homeschooling

Homeschooling Question For My Readers: How Do You Manage Multiple Grade Levels?

Submitted by on August 31, 2014 – 10:50 am 34 Comments
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Okay homeschooling mamas of multiples, I’ve got a question for you.

How do you find the time to school multiple ages/grades at once?

Now that school is back to full-time, and I have three doing bookwork this year, I’m really struggling to find the time to get it all done in a day. (Hence the lack of posts lately.)

I don’t know how you amazing ladies do it. For some of you, teaching three grades at once is no sweat. How do you do it?

I’ve tried to sit them all down at once to do their books, but it can be overwhelming when they all have questions about their work at the same time. I feel like I’m being hit with a billion different questions coming from all sides.

I’ve tried working with them separately, but then it’s like my entire day revolves around schooling, and nothing else gets done.

I’ve tried letting the older ones do lessons with the younger ones, but the children lose focus quickly and require my guidance, which kinda defeats the purpose.

I would love to know how other homesteading mamas of multiples manage school.

Do you sit them all down at once, or do them one at a time? Do you have a rigid school day, or are you more of an unschooler?

How do you manage school as well as all of the other chores that need to be done?

Do you do lessons first thing in the morning, or do you and the children get the farm work done for the day and do lessons in the evening?

I’m so grateful that I’m able to homeschool my children, but there are days when I long for the times of one-room schoolhouses. It can be a struggle to try to do it all by yourself.

I’ve been looking for curriculum which can be taught at multiple grade levels. I actually just ordered The Story of The World, The Nature Connection, and Spell to Write and Read, all of which I can do with all three kids at once. Hopefully these will help. I welcome any other suggestions for multi-grade curriculum.

If you’re homesteading on any level and homeschooling multiple grades at once, please tell me what you’ve found to work best for you. This mama could use some advice.

34 Comments »

  • Em says:

    The more grade levels the harder it is to cover everyone.
    One suggestion is to pair two to teach each other something while you are working with a third.
    An advantage is that the info is re-inforced for the teacher and it tells you if they really know the material if the learner understands.
    This works just as well for a younger teaching the older since it makes the older remember and catch “mistakes”.
    It is also a good exercise for working with difficult people or subjects outside the family such as work later.
    Since not everyone learns the same way, it is also an exercise in problem solving for the teacher.

    Em

  • Jenna says:

    I’m a homesteading, homeschooling mama of 6. My 3 oldest are doing school, 2 preschool age, and a 16 month old. I’m still getting into the swing of things this year. I have found what works best for our family is to try to stick to a routine (not a schedule girl, myself). We have a basic list of chores, housework, and schoolwork to do each day. For school, math and language are by “grade level”, the rest I try to incorporate all of the kids in the learning at one time. It is working well so far. Best thing is being relaxed and getting the necessities done and if more gets done that’s a bonus. :)

  • joanne says:

    I thought I’d chime in here and say that we must be careful not to have the ‘school at home’ mindset. The public school system does not work, so why try to replicate it at home?

    I took my children out of public school when my oldest just finished 2nd grade. I was atheist at the time, so my motivation certainly was not to provide a God-centered atmosphere at home but one in where my children were free to learn and grow at their own pace. I also encouraged them to pursue what interested them. We had a very relaxed home environment and did mostly ‘child-led learning’ and ‘unschooling’. A lot of hands on things, time in nature, field trips, etc. Yes, we had textbooks sitting around, but mostly the children used them for reference. At times we would use a grammar or math book to teach specific skills that were lacking, however that was not the norm.

    We have the blessing and the ability (and the love!!) to be able to teach each child in the best way that suits him/her. For example, some are ready to learn how to read when they are 4 years old and pretty much learn on their own (my daughter), however some are not ready until they are 9 1/2 years old (my youngest son). It’s ok!! My youngest is an excellent reader and no one would ever know he was so ‘old’ when he learned how to read. Some children are super good at math at a very young age and only need a few ideas to get them going (my youngest son), while some struggle a little more and find it easier to put off more difficult math concepts until later (my daughter). My daughter did NOT understand fractions in a dull textbook, however she is a wiz at cooking and can reduce or multiply any recipe you put in front of her.

    They are all older now (17, 19 and 21) and it is a blessing to be able to look back and know that we did the right thing for them. I did a blog post a while ago about ‘what I would do differently if I could do it all over again’. Here is the link if you are interested:
    http://fewtherebethatfindit.blogspot.com/2012/10/homeschooling-if-i-could-do-it-all-over.html

    I pray you find what works for you and your children. Are you married? If so, have you spoke to your husband about this? He might have some great ideas for you.

    Blessing,
    Joanne in SW MO

  • Jenn Dana says:

    My Father’s World!!! Best curriculum out there, in my opinion, and allows you to teach multiple grades at the same time. Good luck!

  • Amy says:

    Kendra, I’ve been homeschooling/unschooling for almost 20 years and 3 of my 5 children are now happy, successful adults. At the beginning, I fretted that I wasn’t getting it all done. But then I adopted the philosophy that if my children have the basics of reading, writing, and knowing basic math, they can learn anything they need! We always provided lots of freedom within strict parameters (e.g., no TV or video games–those were twice-a-week rewards for memorizing scripture!). This philosophy has served to keep me relaxed, and has proven true over the years.

    My husband used to be a high school band director, and when my oldest son reached high school age he wanted to be in the band. So we enrolled him in school for one year (after that, he came back home because my husband got out of public school teaching). The administrators gave him a standardized test and he was able to be placed in AP classes. That was very reassuring to me–I had not messed him up by unschooling! :)

  • Libby T. says:

    Kendra,
    I was homeschooled growing up, am just starting my eldest in Kindergarten,and I still am trying to wrap my head around what it’s going to look like for my family and how I’m going to make sure they are learning everything they need to learn. I had planned on leaning on my mom heavily in the beginning for guidance, but we moved to a different state so my husband could start a business with his brother. Thankfully one of my sister-in-laws is homeschooling her five girls and we are starting a weekly homeschool group with them and couple of other families. Everything I’m hearing is to do as much together as well.

    I’m following along reading the comments to glean as much as I can.

    Thanks for posting the question! We have four (Almost 6, 4, 2, and 9m) so this will be us in just a few years. Actually, my 4 and 2 yr olds insist on doing school with the kindergartner so I’m getting a taste of it already!

  • Amy says:

    Kendra, you are so right. Why do we moms think we have to do it all by ourselves? :) I watched a wonderful documentary with an Amish family (they were allowed on camera) a few years back. The mother and father both said that they used to wear themselves out trying to do everything themselves, but once they took the extra time to teach their children how to do some of the farm and household tasks, their days became so much easier and more rewarding because those were things they could do with their children. A better-quality use of quality time.

  • Bruce says:

    Kendra, I hope how proud you have made many parents that read your blog. It takes a very special person to ask for help. Many don’t and struggle and suffer..Bravo to you.

    I’m not sure how helpful this will be, but have you contacted any other homeschoolers to see if you might be able to co-op different grades or curriculums?
    Basically, one home handles first and possibly second grade, and another handles third and forth..etc.

    Hang in there… :)

    • Thank you for your kind encouragement, Bruce. I did try to find a co-op to join, but couldn’t find one in my area. All of the homeschoolers we associate with live a fair distance away (we do field trips together). Traveling once or a couple of times a week could get costly though. I love the way the Amish do their schooling. Makes me wish we lived in a small community where the kids could walk to school together (like a one-room school house). At least I know it will get easier as the kids get older and more independent. :)

  • Amy says:

    Oops, sorry about that last post of mine, if it went thru, I hit Enter instead of Shift, sorry! What I meant to say was, Really it was much harder for the one room school teacher, who had ALL grades to teach at once. Not just three. As a former classroom teacher and wanna-be homesteader, if I were to fully homestead, my children would have to be in public school if they were to get a complete education. There is no way I could do everything by myself AND give my children a quality learning experience. All you can do is take it one day at a time and do your best. :)

  • Sally says:

    Dear Kendra,
    After 14 years of homeschooling and homesteading, I still don’t have it all balanced out the way I’d like it. But, oh well. Remember to focus on the basics.

    When our sons were very young, all we did was read and inspire a love for reading…which inspired a love for learning…which helped them become self-learners…which took the pressure off me.

    I read aloud to them–a lot. We read living history books, historical fiction, for as many subjects as we could. And, we did a lot of unit studies, watched quality, relevant films, and took trips whenever possible. We were never good at doing “book” work. But, of course, math was book-focused and systematic.

    When they are young, keep it fun! High school (and college) is tough!

  • Rhonda says:

    I would like to recommend two books to you. You can probably get them used on Amazon or Ebay fairly cheap or buy them new. Managers of Their Schools and Managers of Their Homes, both are written by Terri Maxwell who is a Christian mom. She has many good scenarios and sample schedules for different sized families. It really helped me when I started homeschooling all three of mine. It helped me to have the kids all in the kitchen at the table doing the same subject even though it was a different level. That way I could make lunch or start dinner or wash dishes. During the day I would just recommend reminding each one to pick up after themselves. Particularly pay attention to the room where the front door is located just in case someone came, like the delivery man or an unexpected visitor, it would be somewhat decent. I also was able to find YouTube videos for extra help if necessary that freed up my time to help someone else, maybe a younger child who was not so tech savy. If your children are real young and have toddlers or babies to care for, I remember doing school in the living room floor on the coffee table so I could still watch the baby and do school. Start early with a quick pick up right after breakfast that would make beds, clear kitchen table, brush teeth, pick up toys and shoes, start a load of laundry and then start school. Another pick up is scheduled after school work is done before hubby gets home. Perfectly tidy….not always but it showed that an effort was made. Limit the amount of toys and unrelated items allowed out during school time. Hope this helped you some. It has been the things that we have done for over 12 years that have worked.

  • Shelly says:

    Hi,
    I have been home schooling for 22 years.
    First point, I heard many years ago from my Mom, “You aren’t Superwoman. She’s a fictional character & no one lady can do it all!” As women we think we have to do it all perfectly.
    Second point, With several kids combine whenever possible. For my 5 that meant unit studies. You can make your own like we did using the library or internet. Combining helps the kids help each other, & keeps Mama from getting confused. lol I used Spelling Power. I also used Math that was self teaching like Teaching Text Books.
    Third point, our goal as home schooling Moms is to install a love of learning. Create a spirit that hunters for knowledge. Some of the ways I have done this are simple. When a child asks how to spell a wordmy response is to show them how to use a dictionary. Teach them to use the library. The internet is amazing, but I think it makes it too easy sometimes.
    Fourth point is that once a child can read I helped choose their books. When we checked out books each child needed a book about history, science, a good classic, & one for fun. Good readers spell better too!
    Fifth point, teach them to write clearly in their handwriting, & in papers. My kids learn to write cursive simply because I believe you have to write it to read it. Early on they may write, & revise a lot.
    Sixth, everyday living is learning. In our house that means we do everything together from feeding the critters to cleaning!
    The more independent learners you help develop the more they search out knowledge for themselves. The side benefit it becomes to Mom.
    Lastly, relax & enjoy the journey. You only have one chance to guide your child’s heart. It is a Moms most important job.
    Hope it helps! God Bless

  • Pam says:

    I am in my 16th year of homeschooling. I have 1 graduate, 7 schooling, and a 4 yo. We are working on 12th, 11th, 9th, 7th, 5th, 3rd and 1st grades. The high schoolers are using Switched on Schoolhouse for history and science, Math U See, and I am pulling several things together so they can work on grammar and composition together. The middle 3 are working on Trail Guide to Learning which includes everything but math. There are 3 different levels but we read the same living books and study history and science together. The 1st grader is on her own using several different books to cover math, science, health, phonics, and italics. I usually work with her first while the others do their math and penmanship, and anything else they can do independenty. We get up at 7, eat at 7:30, then they do a.m.chores, the oldest ones take turns playing with the 4 yo. Bible time is 10:30, lunch 11, they go outside until 1 pm. I use this time to get some chores done, correct what was done that a.m., run errands, ect. At 1 we work on Trail Guide. I begin supper at 3, we eat at 4, send hubby off to work at 5 (he works 6pm to 5 am) then finish up. Some days we are done before supper, somedays it is much later. Little kids go to bed at 8:30 and the oldest go to bed at 10. Does everything flow well each day, no. Some days we have to decide to just do some of what Mom has scheduled. Sometimes God brings a different lesson plan. You can do it! Give yourself some grace and be sure to give those little blessings some extra hugs because they grow up way too fast. May each of you have a blessed year.

  • Hi Kendra! We homeschool our four (9th grade, 6th grade, 4th grade and 3rd grade) and let me just start by saying it WILL get easier as they get older. :-) We teach much the way Mary Keane suggested in her comment. The oldest is largely on her own right now, and as they get older, I find more independent programs for them. For instance, starting in 7th grade we do Teaching Textbooks for math, which is a computer program complete with “Instructor Guy” doing the teaching unless they can’t understand it the way he’s explaining it. But TT can be started at any age. It was hard for me to let go of doing the actual teaching at first, but it’s been good for me and good for the kids too to learn to work more independently. Second, we do things like Geography and History together, using a lot of (documentary type)movies, books, field trips, etc. Some of this stuff is a bit over the heads of the younger kids, but by challenging them in this area they have become much smarter. Third, we force them to do some stuff independently. As soon as they have a math concept down, we make them do their practice pages (We use Singapore math for the elementary years)on their own. Same with spelling: if part of their lesson requires them to write their list words, I leave them on their own and go help someone else. Also, we do make the older kids teach the younger. Kid #1 is more patient with kid#3, so they are school buddies, and kid #2 is more patient with kid #4, so they are school buddies. And as far as housework/chores, I do what I can in between the schooling, and we do our group stuff after the kids are done with school. I am a morning person, so I try and get all of the school work done before lunch. We don’t have an extensive amount of work, either. This is where I see so many homeschool moms get burnt out and give up: they’re trying to do too much and they’re exhausted. We stick to the basics (math, reading, writing, art, geography, history) and do a lot of it via reading and field trips. Anything they learn is much more than I took away from my public school education (I grew up in a lower-income class part of the city) so I figure we’re doing well. :-) Also, remember that all of those life skills things you’re doing with the kids (in the kitchen, in the garden, homesteading stuff) is a major league benefit to them and should be counted as homeschooling. Sorry to ramble, if you have any more questions, email any time. I’ve learned a lot after 10 years. :-)

    • Thank you so much for sharing how your family does schooling, Laurie. My Jada is doing 6th grade, and does almost all of her work on her own (with a question every now and then). I love Singapore Math, which is what I’ve been doing with her since 1st grade. We do read history books together at night when the little ones are in bed, but I want to start doing it together with all of them. We’re going to be doing a lot more field trips for science and history this year, which I think will be fun.

      I’m grateful for all of the encouragement I’m getting here :) I grew up in public school, so it’s easy for me to doubt my homeschooling abilities- especially on the more difficult days. But even though I struggle at times, I know without a doubt we’re doing the right thing. I just want to give my kids the very best I can give them.

      Thanks again for the guidance.

  • Holly says:

    I read a book called Large Family Logistics that REALLY helped me. My older children help with chores and inside work during the day. I try to keep the younger children on the same grade level until they are more independent and able to do a lot more without my help. My main focus with them is phonics. Once they are good readers they are ready to be more independent. We read a lot and listen to a lot of audio books. When Daddy gets home in the evening we shift gears, spend a little time having some fun and go outside and do evening chores together. I know what I’m gonna cook each night and I’m training my kiddos to help so we usually have it prepped and ready before dad gets home so I can go out and have fun too.

  • Jody S. says:

    This year my 4th began kindergarten. And let me tell you, I’m feeling overwhelmed. The things that have helped me are to do the history and science with everybody. And read alouds and memory work. And whatever else you can manage.

    However, there’s no magic answer. You just have to make it work for you and yours. A wise one once said something to the effect that you can be a great homeschooler, but your cooking and cleaning will suffer. (Or a great cook, but the other will suffer.) Or you can do a passable job on all three. Or something like that. I think that is key.

    You simply can’t do it all as well as you want to be able to do. You do what you can do, and let God take care of the rest.

    (We love SOTW!)

  • Mary Keane says:

    Hi Kendra, I do not have any first hand experience with this, since my eldest is only four. BUT I have eagerly listened to the other more experienced homeschooling mothers at my church have conversations on this very topic many times. Here’s what I’ve gleaned:

    1. Teach children together whenever possible. This might mean having one child work over the summer to be a grade level ahead in some subjects so he and an older sibling can be together. Other subjects like history or some of the sciences can be taken in mixed order, e.g. it doesn’t matter if you do biology or physics first. Or you can teach one subject on multiple levels. E.g. do a unit on the Civil War with some teaching or a field trip together and then make assignments for each child at grade-level. Or study a Bible passage all together, expecting different levels of comprehension. This one takes creativity but is worth the effort in planning.

    2. Have older children teaching younger ones sometimes; it’s good for both. Examples: Have fifth-grader do a “weekly review” of math with her second-grader. Or even reading stories to a preschooler at a set time frees Mom to teach a third child.

    3. Stick to a schedule for when Mom teaches which subjects to whom, and when children are expected to work independently or together. Post it where everyone can refer to it until it becomes automatic. Also have a plan for what to do if they get stuck and Mom is busy (like do a workbook assignment or read for a book report) so that time is not wasted.

    4. Mix chores in with the school day, rather than try to do all the chores in the afternoon when you’re tired from school or on Saturdays. Your results may vary, but the consensus of mothers at church is that children concentrate better when the book work is broken up with physical activity. Cleaning the bathroom is kind of a break! You will probably still have to catch up on weekends, but the regular cleaning tasks/taking care of chickens and gardens is less stressful when you know it will be getting done at a certain time and by whom. The schedule thing again.

    Now that you have a book on the subject, I hope that gives you some ideas to get you going. Also, a lot of your chores are educational! Do you have 4-H in your area? I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to join!

    I’m always so inspired by all that you manage to accomplish on your homestead and how much energy you have. I’m sure you’re doing a fantastic job with homeschooling!

  • awake says:

    I did not take my kids out of public school and bring them home to homeschool until they finished 5th grade. One child was 16 months older than the other (making her one grade ahead of her brother.) Who wants to create multiple lesson plans? Not me!

    At the end of 5th grade, I told my youngest “Congratulations, you’re now a 7th grader” and I taught the two kids together. There really is not that much difference between 6th grade math and 7th grade math, etc. Grade advancing solved the problem.

    The youngest rose to the challenge and did great and graduated one year ahead of his peers.

    Both kids started college as soon as they turned 16 (the earliest age that someone can start college in our state) and their ACT scores supported entry. I sent them to the community college (which we can see from our second story windows so they did not travel far geographically).
    Scholastically, they went far.

    So college English Composition counted as both college credit and high school credit killing two birds with one stone. We double counted multiple subjects. The college awarded amazing scholarships. God provided funds as we had no college savings for either kid. God will make a way when there seems to be no way. Both kids graduated debt free and have remained debt free in their adult life.

    Both CLEP’ed college algebra and college trig, saving us time and big money. Daughter was college valedictorian and son top male graduate.

    My advise: Teach as much of the info to as many of them as possible.

    PS: My friend had many kids of various ages. Every morning the family said the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of their homeschool day. One day the 2 year old said, “I will lead the pledge! I will lead the pledge!” and DID! The little ones are learning more than you realize. Just present the info and even the smallest ones will learn right along with the older kids.

    Blessings on your little school!

  • Tami S. says:

    I would say that I am a relaxed homeschooler. I like the idea of unschooling but I just can’t let it go. I use Story of the World and Mystery of History together for history. We use Dr. Wile’s new science course Science in the Beginning. For math the kids use Teaching Textbooks, extramath.org for mastering facts and they are reading through Life of Fred for fun (just for another perspective). For language arts we use Learning Language Arts Through Literature. My oldest two are on the same level and my youngest will be doing the lowest level/ learning to read. We also use Daily Grams just for a basic review/ keeping things fresh in the mind kinda thing. The kids do a lot of reading also. I check out books from the library to go along with what they are learning in history. They also watch movies from Netflix to go along with it. We do as much together as possible (history, science, LA) and then they do math on their own. It doesn’t take long at all for our school day.

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