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.
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:
- Our Daily Schedule
- Our Curriculum
- Our Schoolroom
- Our Homeschooling Mission Statement
- Why We Homeschool
- Getting Started Homeschooling
Have some homeschooling, scheduling, or organizing tips to share? Leave a comment below!