Homeschooling: Teaching Multiple Grade Levels

I’ve received countless emails asking me how I organize our day, and how I manage to homeschool while teaching multiple students all at different grade levels. So today, I thought I’d share a little bit of how we do things over here…for what it’s worth anyway!



Being flexible is key, but not too much…or it just gets crazy:

First off, I’d like to note that so far each year has been a little different schedule wise due to the ages of our children, and what extra curricular things we are involved in. In previous years, we’ve done school primarily in the afternoons during the Teeny Tot’s naptime, we’ve done it in-between nursing when we’ve had new babies, it’s been done in the kitchen, in the living room, and at the library. I’ve learned to kind of “go with the flow” so to speak which hasn’t exactly been easy for me.

I like to be super organized, scheduled, and I don’t like change. Apparently no one ever warned me that maybe homeschooling wasn’t a good fit for me! And frankly I’m thankful that they didn’t, or I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be with my kiddos everyday!

As for teaching more than one student/grade level, it’s kind of a balancing act really, so I’m not sure I can give you a step by step answer. But I’ll do my best to explain our organized chaos.




Group Work:

I try to do as much together as possible to save time and make teaching easier. For us right now we do Daily Learning Notebooks, Bible, Science, History, Literature, Art, and Music as a group. It’s easier to teach one lesson with everyone obviously, and for the most part this works for more elective type subjects. We also do Calendar Time together, though it’s mostly Tinker Bell and the Teeny Tot doing it now.


Teaching Multiple Levels:

We also do math at the same time even though they’re working on different levels. I start off having my oldest watch her Math U See video, then she moves onto her worksheets, while Turbo watches his video. I have another computer at home, so Tinker Bell uses that and moves right to her worksheet. Then I stand by and supervise/help when needed.

It’s basically the same format for the other subjects. For example, I’ll do English together with the older two teaching the lesson together then they do their own worksheets and while they’re working independently I do the phonics lesson with my 1st grader. If it’s something each one has to have an individual lesson on, I’ll usually do a lesson with one then start them on their work, then move to the next for their lesson, then the next. And our day progresses like this as we go, alternating between me teaching and them working.

You really get more used to alternating between them as each year comes. The kids will also learn to work a little more independently as well.

Next we have lunch and a little bit of free playtime, outside weather permitting! Finally, we meet back up for about an hour of history, science,music, and/or art depending on the day. I save our “fun” stuff for afternoons. We get back together after lunch and that’s usually around 1:00 pm. I chose to do science and art things in the afternoons so I’m not stressed out and rushing them through an art project or science experiment.

And yes…I get tired and don’t feel like doing our afternoon school, but I do it anyway. Because my children’s education is important and it’s my job.

How long does school take?

A full school day currently takes us about 4 hours for the older kids (3rd & 4th grades), about 3 hours for my 1st grader, and about an hour to an hour and a half for the Teeny Tot’s preschool. Since she finishes earlier than the others, Tinker Bell usually plays with the Teeny Tot while I finish with the older ones. Click here to see a more detailed account of our daily schedule.


Most of you know I’ve used the workbox system for the past several years. And I have to say that it has been a LIFE SAVER! It seriously helps me stay organized during our day. The boxes allow the older kids to go through their boxes independently for the most part except ones that need me to teach an actual lesson. It also helps because I can tell them to move on to another box until I’m done helping a sibling. And it is easy to tell how much more work we have left, and when we are done. It’s also easier for me to see if someone skipped something, or didn’t do a lesson.




I would love to say that my children were perfectly obedient all the time, but that just isn’t true. That said, we did have to put some basic discipline tactics in place. Our main issue is keeping everyone focused on their work. Since we do most subjects together it can be a problem if someone isn’t working diligently.

So in our home, if kids aren’t paying attention, or messing around when they should be working, then they have to put their unfinished work in a ‘homework’ pile to be completed at the end of the day. That way their poor choices aren’t affecting the rest of us, and we can all move on to our next subject and stay on schedule. I have to say that my kids have quickly learned it pays to get your work done without dawdling! Honestly, they don’t do that too many times before they realize it’s no fun to still be doing work when the other siblings are off playing!

As for keeping people focused, I think they’ve just kind of learned to tune each other out. It was very difficult for Turbo to start off, so I used to give him my husband’s shooting ear muffs to block out the noise! I wrote about it in a post called Ear Protection for Peace! I also make sure that I’m doing my job by being present in our homeschool area, available for questions, or also there to keep people on task. I remind them to keep working if they’re messing around, or in Turbo’s case, I just need to be there to actually keep him in the room. He’s one of those that will sneak out the second someone isn’t looking!

Whining and Complaining:

For whining and complaining, I think that goes away with time. When we started out, there was quite a bit of whining…”how much more work?” “Can I be done now” etc. Honestly the workbox system really helped out in that area. There’s no question now of how much work there is, how much is left, or when they can be done. They can literally see what they have to do and so that has been a life saver.

We did however make a rule that there would be no whining in class. I have their initials up on my white board, and they receive a check for each time they complain. if they hit 3 checks, then they get to have a personal meeting with Principal Daddy to explain why they had a bad attitude that day. They also meet with Daddy if they have homework as well to explain why they were messing around instead of doing their work diligently.

I have to say that after one meeting with Daddy, they don’t usually choose to complain or mess around in class too many more times after that!

The kiddos also know that if they finish their work they’re free to go play, so that in itself is great motivation!

So there you have it…my secret…LOL! But seriously, that’s how we are currently running things at the Confessions home.

It is subject to change…based on my mood…the weather…a good exhibit at our local museum…and any other extenuating circumstances.


Here are some more links that might help out:


Have some homeschooling, scheduling, or organizing tips to share? Leave a comment below!


  1. I homeschool 5 from preschool to the 9th grade and I must say BALANCE is the key….. It’s really hard at first but with time it gets easier! I absolutely love the workbox idea…. now to try to implement it in our own homeschool:)
    Blessings to you! Keep up the good work!

  2. I’m homechooling 7 from 1yo to 6th grader (with #8 due this summer). Much of what you do sounds similar to us. I thought I would share two things we do a little different for more ideas.

    First, we use MUS too and I never teach two lessons with the dvd in one day. What I’ve done is stagger the “new” lesson for each level to a different day of the week. That means I don’t have a long Monday where every single child has to wait on me for math. Instead one child has to wait on me Monday while another is doing a worksheet and a third may be doing their test. The next day the child who took a test gets a new lesson, but all the other kids are working on worksheets or tests and don’t need me.

    Second, assignment sheets are our way to let the kids see what they have to do in a day. They check it off as they do things and are free when they’re done.

  3. Thank you for this post. I’m a beginning Homeschool Mom and you have answered questions I have in my mind about how to work with kids at different levels (right now I just am doing preschool and thinking – how am I going to teach two a different levels next year HA) This is one of those times I wish I lived next door to someone like you so I could have that hands -on mentor – which makes me so thankful for posts like this . .. which I print and keep in my homeschool stuff so I can refer to it for ideas and for encouragement.

  4. Great ideas! Your blog really helps me! I enjoy and look forward to new posts on your site!

  5. I have wide age gaps between children, which has actually helped us, since the older one can usually work fairly independently. I admire how organized you are!

    How do you a) set up the boxes? Daily or weekly? and b) how do you figure out what and how much to put in there? I have read a lot about them but I am still a bit confused and, frankly, uncertain that I’d remember to refill them if the week became chaotic. So c) How do you remember?

  6. As a homeschooling mom to four ages 2 -7 I’m finding that as my youngest gets older it’s getting easier to school them all. She actually wants to participate in school and that has been extra helpful. Just since coming back from Christmas break we’re starting to find a good rhythm. I’m looking forward to the coming years of homeschooling as they all become a bit more independent too. It helps a LOT that my oldest can do about 80% of his work without me right next to him because my other ones are kindy and preschool ages and need me to be present for their lessons. We don’t have a dedicated school room either and my oldest really struggles with focusing on his school work when his siblings are doing something that he perceives to be more fun. I’ve been able to have him use my craft desk this week and that has helped a lot to have him in a separate space from us. Thanks for sharing how things work for you all! It gives me ideas and inspiration for next school year.

  7. I was wondering how you started out with teaching a chid independent work. My daughter is in Kindergarten and I am now trying to work on seatwork and independent worksheets. She really doesn’t like it. She wants to talk about every section and wants to tell me every time she completes a section. I have a 10 month old that usually sleeps during school, so we really don’t have distractions. I just needed some help with encouraging independent work. Thanks so much

    • My experience with that age was that it just comes with maturity. My oldest is in 2nd grade this year and I’ve even seen a HUGE improvement in his ability to work independently since the start of the school year to now. At the kindergarten and 1st grade level he very much needed that interaction to talk things out. It was frustrating because I had three younger kids but I’m better equipped to deal with the ones now at that age because I know to expect it. Maybe just try one subject/worksheet that she can do alone. Or give her the worksheet, tell her to do as much as she can by herself and stay close by so that she knows she still has access to you when she needs you.

    • I think it just comes with time and as they get older as well. When they’re young, they like to have your attention and that’s okay. I usually start making them be more independent in first grade. So I’ll sit with Tinker and do a lesson, then tell her she needs to work on her worksheet on her own. If she has any questions of course she’s free to ask them, but I know she can do the work so I do encourage her to do it alone. Then when she’s done she comes to me and we go over it together to see what a great job she did. After that, she gets to put a sticker on her work. It’ll happen, just takes time :o) And if you an spend time with her now, go for it. She’ll be older soon and your baby will be awake and this one-on-one time will be lessened, so take advantage of it now :o)

  8. Erica, You so inspire me with all your greats ideas, resources and encouraging tips!!! I have many favorite sites and I have to say COAH is at the top of my list. Thank you for all your time and dedication in helping all of us who are so blessed to homeschool our children!!!

  9. This post blessed me so! I often stumble on what to do when issues arise. We are in our third year and I still at times getting whining, the ear protection for peace is good stuff as well thank you

  10. I absolutely am full of green-eyed envy over your learning space. I started the workboxes with the younger kids last year and I love them! I think it helps so much with keeping them busy and with just one more thing while I am in the middle of teaching my high-schooler. Thank you for the awesome suggestions.

  11. Christine says:

    I’m impressed with how quickly you are able to complete all the work. My kids are in 4th and 1st grade. My 4th grader takes about 5 hours to complete his work. Math and reading take the longest for him. We use Saxon Math and he was working independently but his grades started to slip as the lessons became more difficult so I had to go back to teaching the new concepts. We use your reading curriculum and it takes my son close to an hour to finish his reading and lapbook project. My 1st grader is a terrific reader but unfortunately hates it and cannot stand the reading comprehension questions. I struggle through the lessons as I figure he would have to do it in public school so he should do it at home as well. We use the workbox system and I love it too! It keeps me from missing subjects and assignments. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

  12. I will be homeschooling my first grader in the fall and your blog has been so helpful! She has three younger siblings also and I’ve been a little worried about how I will balance whenever they start school but this post gives me hope 🙂
    I purchased my workboxes yesterday and I can wait for them to arrive. They are on sale at JoAnns and free shipping for a limited time!
    Thank you again Erica!!

  13. I was just wondering what you do about an afternoon quiet time, or your advice on taking one, plus finishing work. In our house (we have 7, 5, and 4 yr. old boys and a 16 mo. old girl), we stop at noon for lunch (Dad comes home), then the kids take a free time/play outside while I clean up lunch. Then, I have them take a quiet time usually from about 1:30-2:30. After that, I try to read aloud to them on the couch for awhile. Then, we almost always need to finish up something (science/history/projects/etc.). But they head off for free time, and I get busy with the baby/laundry/etc. Then it’s time to make dinner. So I don’t know how to best schedule in the history/science. Maybe I just need to build in more discipline after reading aloud? That they can’t all head off in various directions but we still need to finish up the day? How did you handle quiet time and school in your house?

    • I wanted to share what works for our family. I have a 2nd grader and a non-schooled 2yo and 6 mo old right now. But we do read-alouds at the very end of the day for the reason you described. Once mommy sits on the couch and reads the stories, then the 2nd grader reads her reader, everyone is tired of sitting and listening and wants to move so at that point the day is over.
      So I guess my suggestion would be to do your finish up stuff with the promise of read-alouds at the end of it all. Schedule tweaks are fairly regular in my home, so I always start with order of what we’re doing to see if it helps.

    • Hi Cheryl,
      Actually we’ve recently changed it up a bit and have been doing our group studies in the morning like history or science. That kind of gets it out of the way so to speak and then we can move on through our core subjects.

      I’m not sure why, but this seems to help me not feel so overwhelmed in the p.m. and we tend to get through the other stuff a bit faster as well.

      I’ve also started to do an afternoon quiet reading time for everyone too. So after school is over and they have a break we’ll all grab a book, just anything they want, and spend about 20 minutes having quiet reading time.

  14. This is great. I’m so glad you shared. We’re just getting started here with a fifth grader and a kindergartener.
    I also love your room setup. That’s great!

  15. Thank you for this – “And yes…I get tired and don’t feel like doing our afternoon school, but I do it anyway. Because my children’s education is important and it’s my job.”

    – the “homework pile”
    – “Can I be done now” , from my 7yr boy (LOL)

  16. I do work boxes and find them very helpful! I enjoyed reading your blog on organization! Struggling a bit now that three needed homeschooling. Feel pulled with 3 very hands on grades right now. 🙂 Every bit of organization helps. With that said, where did you get your great desk set up? My kids have out grown their table set up, so it was next on my list of things to research!

  17. Your schoolroom looks amazing! Thank you for the encouragement!

  18. Charlotte says:

    I was encouraged by this post, as your day, age of kids, etc. sounds so similar to our family — thank you! Because you mentioned your husband/”Principal Daddy”, would he ever be interested in writing a guest post (is that what it’s called in blogland?) about his discipline strategies, and how he supports you? Both me and my husband would appreciate it!

  19. Thanks for including the whining and discipline. Thankfully it’s not as bad as it could be but I realized over Christmas how much time was getting used disciplining 🙁 These are some good ideas to “deal with it” better than I have. I like the “homework pile” that gets completed when everyone else plays… I like!

  20. Love this post!! I only have 2 at home…1st and 5th grade but am planning to bring my 2 other kiddos home next year(who are in the middle of the other 2). We have a flow but I still somewhat struggle because my oldest WANTS to be very independent but there is still a lot he needs help with (he’s dyslexic) we have “mom time” together to go over basics but I lose him after 30 minutes. There is more I want to teach him one on one but when I’ve tried to have both the boys do math at the same time and I just go between…it feels like a disaster. I don’t feel like I do enough but everyone else says I do plenty….lol Maybe you can video yourself working with your kids for the day…a live cam…now that would be helpful and exciting for us! 🙂 I am looking forward to your workbox post. Thanks so much for your hardwork blogging!!

  21. Christa Hannasch says:

    Thank you soooo much for all of your frank tid-bits. It really helps to hear the day to day things. You and your family are a true inspiration!

  22. What does your husband say to them during their meetings with the principal?

  23. This was just what I needed! We are in the middle of a move and stress levels are high with me teaching 4 different grade levels from K through 8. Thanks so much for “putting it out there” and giving us your helpful hints. I’m going to pass this on to some of my other friends.

  24. it is always encouraging to know how others manage to homeschool multi-level… great job!!

  25. Thank you for this post!!! I was just thinking about this and trying to figure out what I’m going to do with 3 all homeschooling next year. Two is already a hard balancing act for me and so to add my toddler next year just seems overwhelming. Your post is helpful and encouraging!

  26. Thank you for sharing how your day flows – it was so helpful!

    I did have a question…when someone is messing around and their work is put in the homework pile for later, what does that child do in the meantime while the rest are finishing their work?

  27. I appreciate your candidness. While I’m new to your blog, I can see that the reason for your success is your ability to be introspective.

  28. Hi Erica,

    I am loving all the videos and “how we do” posts lately. I do have a question… I just watched your room tour video and then watched the workbox video. I did not see the rolling cart in your school room video so I was wondering where you store those? Do you use those AND the Ikea drawers? Just need a little clarity on that. Thanks!!

  29. I love your table. That is so cool. With drawers for each person. And all your cubbies. One day one day…I hope. Where did you get it from?

  30. Great piece! I home educate 5 from 11th grade to preschool and am expecting #6 any day. I STILL don’t have everything balanced. In fact there are days I think “what am I doing?” BUT, like you I am an organization guru and I like everything to be scheduled.

    I wanted to offer an idea that is working well as a workbox for my older students. They felt like the workboxes we set up (like yours) were not necessary for them, so instead I created something that seems to be working.

    I took 36 file folders, wrote week 1, week 2…to week 36 on them. Over the summer is when I write all the weekly assignment sheets, then I make copies or print anything for the whole year. I then place all the papers for each subject – paperclipped by day in the file folder and place the assignment sheet in the front. Then they place the assignment sheet in their daily folder right in the front so they can refer to it. This has helped the older kids be far more productive and stay focused then ever before. This was our first year doing that and I am feeling so much less stress this year.

    Also, in addition for the younger kids we do use workboxes fashioned after yours (since yours were our inspiration). Like I do with the older kids I create the assignment sheets over the summer for the entire year and make copies/print everything. Then I place in folders marked weeks 1-36 paperclipped and marked with post it notes, placing assignment sheets in the front. Again, just started that this year and it has really, truly taken so much stress off of me and I felt like shouting at times. ESPECIALLY with a baby coming any day I don’t have to stress about them getting school work done, especially the middle and high school kids.

    Thank you for all your posts. You seem like superwoman to me and provide some wonderful products and inspirations.

    • Kelly Parsons says:

      Wow! You just wrote my dream planning, but it never quite seems to happen. I love the workbox idea and think I’m going to use it this year for our 4th grader, 3rd grader, and kindergartener. I will also have 6th and 9th graders. When your kids reached middle or high school did you have them do any of their daily or weekly schedules? I am bound and determined to help our oldest with planning and time management this year.

  31. Hello,
    I live in Norway and I am homeschooling my 3 years old daughter.
    Here is really unusual to do not sent your children to the ordinary kindergarten after they turn 1 y.o. and you get a lot of pressure from society and friends if you don’t.
    My husband and me decided that our daughter would be home, at least until she is five (I would really like that she continues home, but he thinks is the right age to go with other children).
    You have an amazing blog, I am learning so much from it…, I am really grateful for all the information.
    Best regards,

  32. Hi Erica,

    I love your staight-forwardness & no-nonsense approach.

    As a new homeschooling Mom of four, this year’s schedule has already ‘evolved’ many times over. Still trying to find my bearing & come up with a schedule that works for all of us. I’ve already favourited this post so I can look at it again without the kids here.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  33. I have been so encouraged through the beginning of our homeschool journey from your blog! It’s not something I ever thought I would do but after the research my husband and I decided it was such a perfect fit for our parenting style/ideas whatever you want to call them. I have had resistance with my daughter on reading, she is 5 very smart but reading doesn’t come easy to her and we have “pushed through” most of it. I feel letting her decide how much each day or whether she wants to do reading would set us up for problems. It wasn’t pretty in the beginning we came back to it when little brother was napping but now she is really making strides and actually enjoying it most days. I guess this is a, glad to know I am not alone in feeling like whining is no place for the {classroom}! Thank you for all your printables and ideas. It has made it so much easier for people like me.

    Hailey @ Love, Laughter and Lipstick

  34. Wow….. You make it look and sound so easy. 🙂 Everything’s so clean, neat and organized. Do you think that pretty much anyone could home school?

    I’ve started with one of my children. After a few days now, I’m seriously wondering whether or not my ability to home school will every catch up w/ my desire to home school. I feel behind and overwhelmed.

    Well, you’ve certainly been blessed with the ability. Thanks for the post.

  35. I LOVE hearing how other homeschoolers structure their days! We also have a “no whining/griping/fit throwing” rule in our school day. If a kid starts kicking up a fuss, I send her to lie down in her bed for a while. I am surprised at how often my six-year-old will fall back asleep there!

  36. I LOVE this post! And your my favorite blog. I actually have used many of your ideas and printables in our homeschool. I have to say that although I still work to balance our day with three children (peanut is 4, and the cracker jacks are 7 and 11) that balance is really the key to success. Whenever I get frustrated with the day I look back to this very post and try to see where I could improve. I love your advice so much that I can’t stop looking at your blog each evening and even add links to it in my own page and blog (which are very new). You are so straight forward and no nonsense and you show us all that it can be done. Thank you.

  37. Thank you so much for your wise words and very useful information. Also the stuff you have for parents. I started home schooling my daughter this year, Grade 1, as she fell behind at school when we moved and now there is only one school which is goverment. I have 2 younger children too. Any advice would be much appreciated: my daughter can become quite resistant to the phonics/ literacy lessons. I suspect because it is difficult for her. She is making progress but it’s awful most days and very very frustrating. Reading through clenched teeth type of thing. Do you have any tips for getting the flow back between us during those lessons? Many many thanks.

  38. Thank you for all the wonderful information.
    We are using many of your ideas in our day now.
    As a first year home school family we have discovered that there is always room for change and what works for one family is not always right for another.
    The beauty of home schooling is find out what works best for your kiddos.
    We now have a Kinder, 2nd and 4th Grader we teach.
    Each day is a challenge but I am grateful to have three wonderful daughters and the opportunity to provide them an education our public school system can not.
    It is a lot easier working at home for up to 4 hours then sending them to school and then having to do 2 hours of home work with them because the school doesn’t have the time to teach them properly.
    Thank you for all your information and keep up the great job.

  39. We do together the same subjects as well. Love the discipline handling and not holding the class because someone is messing around. Great advice, thanks!

  40. Honestly, see the simplicity of this is really refreshing (I searched Google for help in this area and you were on top!) Thanks Erica!

  41. diana french says:

    Thank you for this. I homeschooled my two children who were five years apart but now I’m homeschooling grandchildren and it’s really my first time trying to work with multiple grades [my son was Mr. Independent Learner from the get-go and I just gave him a to-do list and checked his work while I taught my daughter].

    I appreciated your comment “I like to be super organized, scheduled, and I don’t like change” because that’s me and it gave me great encouragement.

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