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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Help! I'm Homeschooling Multiple Ages

Help! I'm Homeschooling Multiple Ages


Written by Jessica

Our homeschool days involve a lot of chatting, moving around, and doing things hands-on. There are definitely peaceful times of quietly working, but we don’t do a lot of silent and sitting-still here. While waiting for their turn to do a lesson with me or for me to check over their work, I don’t mind, and in fact encourage, my children to move around, to play quietly, and to pursue activities of interest to them. 

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And that works really well most of the time: looking out the window, bird book in hand, daydreaming….finishing a drawing started earlier that morning….picking up a book and curling up to read…piecing together a puzzle…designing a Lego creation

Yep, it works really well…except when it doesn’t. Sometimes the activity of choice isn’t quiet. Sometimes the activity becomes a distraction to that child and to everyone else. 

The Lego creation becomes a full-blown battle of knights and horses that moves from a peaceful spot in the living room to a racing ruckus around the dining room table… 

The “small set-up” that they’re going to start building upstairs in their room, to use later when they’re all done with their schoolwork, morphs into a giant fort involving every pillow, blanket, and toy bin in the upstairs… 

The brief excursion to go and see what the cat is doing evolves into taking photos of the cat and exclaiming over her antics so excitedly that everyone else has to come and take a look, too…

Does this sound like your homeschool on some days, too? (I hope so!). Let’s face it, homeschooling multiple ages and grade levels, and keeping everyone focused, is challenging. Over time, I’ve found some things that work for us:

Help! I'm Homeschooling Multiple Ages

Intentional independent work can create windows of time to work one-on-one

I like to work with my preschooler first thing each school day to give him some special one-on-one time before I begin the core subjects, and the morning seems to go smoother for it. While I work with him in the living room, my first grader and third grader move into the dining room and begin the day with independent work. I started using these daily review books last year. They are available in many subjects for most grade levels, but I have only used the math and language ones. There are five problems per day and the review is spiral. I put the needed pages in a page protector and use fine-tipped dry erase markers with them so I can re-use them. After completing their review pages, my children go on to their handwriting pages. My older two children are very solid in their manuscript writing, so that works for us right now as independent work. When my eldest transitions to cursive, this will change. 

Independent work can be anything. It might be assigning some problems from a text or workbook on a lesson that you did the day before. It might be having a child re-read an already-mastered story. It might be using a DIY/homemade review notebook – a spiral notebook where you write out X number of problems or questions the night before, and your child completes them independently the next day. 

Help! I'm Homeschooling Multiple Ages

“Strewing” learning games and toys can keep kids focused, not bored

I have a stash of learning games and toys that come out only during school time. I just grab an assortment of things and spread them out on the coffee table in the living room each day - simple. There’s no complicated system to follow. If anyone looks like they need something to do, I just casually say, “Why don’t you go and see if there’s something on the coffee table that you’d like to use for a little while?” 

Almost always, there’s something there of interest. Our collection includes the following:

learning games and toys 


building sets  



mind-bender puzzles  



We’ve built up this stash slowly over time; it wasn’t put together overnight. I’ve also found that I can extend the life of an old activity, somehow, by pulling something out of the closet that hasn’t been used in a long time. This always seems to renew everyone’s interest in it. The key is keeping the novelty factor going. At our house, this means that the learning games and toys only come out during school time and only four days a week.

Help! I'm Homeschooling Multiple Ages

Baskets of homemade games create quick, built-in review

I like having a small basket or shoebox-sized bin out for each child with some homemade games in them. Basically, the idea is to have a bunch of short and simple review games on already-mastered concepts at-the-ready for a child who is looking for something to do for a few minutes. Think clip cards, self-correcting matching games, file folder games, sorting mats, laminated handwriting pages, dot-to-dots (for younger ones), and the like. Review games can be found inexpensively or for free on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers and elsewhere around the web. Homemade ones can be made easily enough in MS Word or by using blank index cards, markers, and stickers. 

It’s always good to review previously learned skills, and the results can show me if there’s something we need to review later in-depth. It makes a child feel capable when they can complete a review game on their own. Confidence-boosting “Oh, I remember how to do this!” and “Look how fast I could do these!” moments are ones that every child needs from time to time.   

Help! I'm Homeschooling Multiple Ages

Siblings working together can lead to meaningful learning

My children love to work together and sometimes really special moments happen when they do. This works best in our family if it just happens organically - I don’t have a special system in place. When they take the initiative to work together naturally, often some real learning takes place and their sibling bonds are strengthened, too. 

Grace will always be needed

I vividly remember sitting tearfully at the dining room table day-after-day a couple of years ago, trying to work with my then first grader while my preschooler and toddler raced around us on their ride-on trucks. When I took the ride-on trucks and put them away, the two youngsters created a giggling, racing-on-foot game instead that was just as loud. It was all that I could do to keep their energetic, boisterous little selves quiet long enough to do school with my eldest. I had no idea how we were ever going to figure out homeschooling. 

If you have any number of babies, toddlers, or preschoolers in your mix…give yourself and all of your kiddos a whole lot of grace. Homeschool is just that – learning at home. It’s not going to look like school in a classroom, and it shouldn’t. Trial and error, patience, and perseverance will help you determine what makes homeschooling work in your family at the stage you’re in right now. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it won’t be. Remember to enjoy the blessings that are your children and to savor these precious and fleeting days – interruptions, distractions, squabbles, antics, and all!  


Would you share some tips from your homeschool for working with multiple ages and abilities that keep your children focused on learning during the school day? What works well in your family?



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