Families come in all different sizes. My family has 5 kids. 3 older ones and then a 6 year gap to the younger 2. It’s made for some interesting challenges as I tried to figure out how exactly to navigate homeschooling multiple kids. Many families who homeschool multiple kids wonder how to actually make it work without taking the entire day. Here are some ideas and steps to consider.
Before I walk through some practical steps to make homeschooling multiple kids possible, let me run through some very important words of advice.
3 Tips For Homeschooling Multiple Kids In Different Age Groups
Be Realistic and Consider Your Specific Family.
You can find information all over the place on how to homeschool. A lot of the ideas and suggestions offered on social media, in videos, and blogs are fantastic and inspirational. People share what works for their family and the resources they use to make it a success. It’s easy to feel like “that’s the one!” and enthusiastically grab their method to apply to our own families. Only to discover that it’s not a good fit. Cue the disappointment, guilt, and failure montage here.
Here’s the thing: Your family isn’t their family. Maybe they have 3 kids and you have 5. Maybe their kids are all able to sit still for reading aloud time and yours have ADHD so they bounce off the couch in the middle of a really great part of the book. Maybe they use a different homeschool method. Maybe they use online programs and you are using bookwork. Maybe one of the parents in their house is at home full-time and both parents in your house have jobs. Maybe they’ve been homeschooling for years and their kids have lots of experience knowing what is expected of them and this is your first year and everyone is trying to figure out the new rhythm of their lives.
There are a million and one reasons someone else’s plan might not work for you. That’s not to say that their ideas aren’t valid or that you shouldn’t pull the pieces that can work for your family. Just be mindful that there usually is no perfect idea (even if it seems like there’s one in your head!) and that you will need to consider the needs of your specific kids, family, situation, and homeschooling journey.
Prepare to be Flexible.
For many years, I really tried to do a lot of our homeschooling together with unit studies. I love unit studies. They make me happy. But, it ended up not being the best way for my kids to learn.
I have a very clear memory of sitting on the floor in my living room with all 5 of my kids. One was trying to work while his toddler brother practiced his wrestling moves onto him from the back of the couch, one stared off into the unknown, one was trying to master the ability to flip his pencil, and the baby crawled all over my lap crying loudly. It was pure chaos. No one was listening to the lesson or learning anything. I had a meltdown and I knew that – even though unit studies had worked before and even though I loved them – we had to change our approach to learning.
So, I got to work, revamping the whole plan for the year, how we learned, and what we needed to change in order to keep successfully homeschooling.
You can have a full out plan and discover that it needs to be changed. What works one year might not work the next. And sometimes, you just discover throughout the year that something just works better than the original plan and you need to modify things.
Don’t be so set on the plan that it makes you (and the kids) miserable. Expect change.
Focus on the Little Ones First.
I cover a lot of this in my post about homeschooling when you have little ones, but I will always encourage you to focus on your babies and toddlers before you tackle learning time with older kids. Spend some very intentional time playing, reading, snuggling, and loving on your young ones. It’s amazing how they can take that quality time and be satisfied for longer that your attention isn’t centered on them for a while.
(some of the links below are affiliate links)
Making a Plan to Homeschool Multiple Kids:
1: What can you realistically include in your day?
There are only so many hours available each day. What other responsibilities, activities, and needs are you handling in the day alongside homeschooling? How much time does that leave for intentional learning? How can you divide that up between each child? This can impact your decisions towards which curriculum, how many subjects, which extra curriculars you will sign your kids up for, and the homeschool method you decide to use.
2: What – if anything – can you do as a group?
The more you can do together, the less time it will take to navigate through the plan. What subjects, topics, or activities can you do in groups or as a whole family?
There are a few ways to tackle this. The first is to do the same topic using the same curriculum with everyone together. If you have older children and younger children, it might not be possible to do all subjects together, but you might be able to divide them into two groups and work with each one. This isn’t likely to be possible with a level specific subject such as math, but there are lots of other subjects you can do together! Here are some ways you can do this:
Morning Basket Time
Morning Baskets are basically an intentional group time where you have set subjects to do together as a family. You can include whichever topics work best for you and your children, based on the homeschool method you prefer. There are lots of ideas and ways you can incorporate a morning basket into your day – and it doesn’t have even be in the morning!
Popular topics that might work in a basket:
- Art & Art Appreciation
- Novel Read-Alouds / Audiobooks
- Science / Nature Study
- Second Language learning – like French or ASL
Use Group Curriculum
Although it might not work for every family, there are curriculum providers who have created programs that you can use with everyone all at once. This means that instead of juggling lots of different curricula, you can settle down on the couch or at the kitchen table with the whole gang to learn together. Usually these offer options and adaptations for younger learners and high school students so that you can make it more suitable for their age group and ability levels. Most of them are unit study based – meaning the focus on a topic in depth and include a variety of subjects within that topic. Here are a few companies as an example:
- Gather Round – This program uses a unit study approach to dive into various topics with the intention of your whole family learning together. It includes options for everyone from K-12. Based out of BC Canada. *Christian*
- UnitStudy.com – Another unit study option. Their Unit Study Adventures products are specifically designed for kids from K-12 to cover fun topics in four week periods.
- Tapestry of Grace – a Classical/Charlotte Mason/Unit Study curriculum for the whole family based around history and literature. It runs in a 4 year cycle, which you repeat through your homeschool journey as many times as needed to get everyone through from K through 12. *Christian*
- Weaver – this family-friendly program focuses on hands-on activities through unit studies for preK through 12. *Christian*
- KONOS – a unit-study for the family that uses lots of activities to teach kids about different character traits. The original program is designed for K-8.
If you have children that are within a reasonable gap of a year or two apart, you can sometimes go with a middle level between them when choosing curriculum. For example, if I have one child in grade 3 and one in grade 5, I might choose a grade 4 level curriculum for language arts or such so that we can work on them together.
Another option is to do the same subject with everyone at the same time, even if they are using different curriculum. I tend to do this with math – especially when my kids are in elementary levels, for example. I sit in the middle between kids and bounce my attention back and forth between them to do teaching and check the work they are doing on their pages. It simplifies the day because I don’t need to set aside two different math periods (one for each child) and we get it all done.
Working together is optional. Sometimes it’s not realistic to have all the kids in a room learning together for whatever reason. And that’s okay too. I have to admit that there have been combinations of kids that don’t work well together at my house. And, at different ages and stages, it was impossible to have people focused well. It’s just one option. You know your kids. If together time isn’t going to work, skip this step.
Step 3: What can each child work on independently?
Is there a subject your child can do without needing your constant involvement and supervision? This is generally something that older kids can excel at more consistently than younger children. (Not always though. Some older kids might still need someone to keep them on task!)
When considering curriculum for independent work, here are some suggestions:
- Use an online program that has specific work to do each time they log in. Bonus if it keeps grades and records for you. Examples of curriculum that might fit this are Teaching Textbooks, CTC Math, EasyPeasy All-in-One-Homeschool, and Schoolhouse Teachers.
- Use workbooks that show definite start and end points for each lesson. Some examples could be ACE, Schoolio, Lifepac, and BJU Press.
- Try not to use curriculum that involves a lot of parent prep and teaching for independent work subjects.
To encourage more independence, have some way to give your child a specific list of what they need to accomplish/complete each day. That can be a planner (either digital or paper), a student calendar, or a daily work checklist, or even a simple list on a whiteboard. Whatever is easy to use and easy to be successful with! When they are finished, you can work through the checklist to confirm that all the work was done correctly.
Step 4: Time Block or Schedule Your Day to Successfully Homeschool Multiple Kids.
Once you have some of the above questions answered and figured out, you can then decide how to divide up the day of learning and create a homeschool schedule.
- When will you do group learning times – if you do them at all?
- When can you do your one on one time with kids ?
- Do you need to do actual lessons with some kids and just check in on their completed work?
- Would you like to set up a parent station and have your kids rotate through or will you go to each child one-on-one to work with them in their preferred space?
The biggest challenge with homeschooling multiple kids is making sure everyone gets the learning they want and need without spending every waking minute of your day doing school. Finding a routine, techniques, and ways to allow you to homeschool multiple kids effectively will save your sanity.
- Exploring Canadian History With ‘Dear Canada’ And ‘I Am Canada’ - February 18, 2024
- 8 Ways to Add Fun to Your Homeschool Days - February 18, 2024
- Take a Exciting Virtual Trip Across Canada with The Canadian Adventure - February 6, 2024