Homeschooling Different Ages in Different Stages
Written by Jordyn Coffin
This is just one (there are over 15 articles!) of the informative/important articles in Homeschool.com’s newest e-magazine–Back to Homeschool
It’s four o’clock, dinner is in the oven, the house is fairly clean and all 6 of my children have been successfully schooled for the day. Days like these are the norm now, but that wasn’t always the case.
After my 5th was born I started to feel like I was drowning and that my kids were not getting the education they deserved. In all honesty I was overwhelmed with the fact that there were so many of them to teach now. Each of them at a different level, each of them with different strengths, weaknesses and learning styles. I would sit down with the older kids and not five minutes in a younger kid would need something, or want to show me something, or just want to flail on the floor in a 10 minute tantrum for no reason.
It went on and on like this for months, and I really started to feel hopeless, lost and so very overwhelmed. Clearly I was not equipped for this homeschooling journey, clearly I was not supermom, and clearly I was a big, fat failure.
At the time this was all going on my husband traveled 50% of the time, my family was too far away to help, and I had no friends that homeschooled. I was truly on my own. I could let it overtake me or I could face the problem head on, find a solution and make this work. I chose the latter, I decided to implement some new routines, activities and solutions to this homeschool problem and I’m so glad I didn’t give up! I feel like I stuck with something and am now reaping the rewards. It would have been so easy to throw in the towel and just hand them off to someone else, but ultimately that wasn’t what I wanted for my kids.
So I’m sure you are wondering what life changing, earth shattering tips and tricks I have for y’all. I hate to disappoint, but nothing I do is at all that revolutionary or even very creative, but it does work and it has made all the difference in our lives.
My kids are 15, 12, 10, 7, 5 & 3. One of the biggest things I had to learn was to give up control and to stop being so hard on myself. My kids were going to be fine, I wasn’t going to miss something and even if I did, we could always go back and fix it. As long as they can read, write and do math, the rest would fall into place.
So let me break down a typical day for you, when we are at home (when we are on the road is a whole different article!). We have breakfast, get chores done, and my 15 year old gets her assignments from me for the day and vanishes to her room, only to be seen if Khan Academy or YouTube fail her. My 10 and 12 year olds aren’t quite that independent, they like to do school at the kitchen table so that I can be reached for quick questions or serious help if needed. While they are doing their independent study, I give my three year old something out of the Monday box (we have boxes for every school day of the week, more on that later) and I sit down with my 7 & 5 year old. They are both at the same level academically for the time being, so it makes it really easy to teach them. I read to them, they read to me, we add, subtract, work on patterns, (if I really feel like a hot shot mom I throw in a little algebra and trig), do a few worksheets, and call it a day. If my older ones seem to be sailing through their lessons, the littles and I watch an episode or two of Magic School Bus, Wild Kratz or some other educational show.
It’s now about lunch time so we all break for lunch and clean up. My littles go off and find something to do and it’s my time to go over assignments and offer help where needed with my older kids. It works almost flawlessly– my littles feel like they have had mommy’s attention long enough and are content to go off and play, giving me time to work with the bigs without having to deal with constant interruptions and begging to do school too.
Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always like this. We have days where everybody seems to be struggling and where everyone seems to be needy, and I’m pulled in 6 different directions. But I can handle those days so much better now that they are few and far between.
While I still don’t have it all figured out, here are the tips that have worked for me for the last 5 years while homeschooling children of all different ages:
- Have an age appropriate “busy” box for each day of the week for younger children. Having a different box for each day of the week keeps the content new and their interest lasts far longer. Garage sales and the dollar stores are great for filling a busy box!
- Have school with your younger kids right after breakfast. This helps them feel like their school time is important too and makes them less likely to interrupt lessons with the older kids.
- Have school outside or at the park. On particularly rough days when the younger kids just want to interrupt every five seconds, we call outside school day. Sometimes fresh air makes all the difference in the world for miserable attitudes and the “I’m boooooored” phenomenon.
- Don’t fight the digital age. I know that no one wants their children in front of screens 24/7 but there are so many educational benefits to limited computer/tablet time. My younger girls LOVE their learning apps and games and they have saved my sanity while helping my older kids more times than I can count. Reserve the computer and tablet time for when you are working with your older kids.
It is not always easy to homeschool several children that are different ages and levels, but it can be done without losing your sanity, you just have to implement a few strategies and you will be well on your way to homeschool bliss (okay not completely, but it’s a start!).
Written by Jordyn Coffin: I’m a homeschooling mom of 6 and Supermom in training. I am trying to do it all and most days failing miserably. Follow our adventures and misadventures at AlmostSupermom.com. You can also connect with me at http://www.facebook.com/almostsupermom, and http://twitter.com/almostsupermom.