Does it ever feel like you’re juggling a thousand tasks and hundred kids, trying to get all the things done with some measure of success? As more and more kids in our families enter into the schooling years, homeschool moms (especially the large family moms) have a unique challenge: we are trying to navigate the one room schoolhouse model and figure out how to do multi-level homeschooling!
How do you keep the tots and preschoolers busy while hand-holidng your early readers and writers and keeping the papers graded and the instruction on-point for the older kids? All without losing your sanity or just watching it fall apart?
Well, truth be told, some days it falls apart. (Let’s just keep it real, shall we?) Teaching multiple grades can seem daunting. But the trick to making progress in spite of the “off” days is to be flexible, set realistic expectations, and employ some tried-and-true multi-level teaching tips and tricks for our version of the one room schoolhouse!
Multi-Level Homeschooling Tips and Tricks
There are several ideas you can try to make multi-level teaching work for you and your family. I have tried several and still employ many of these tips for teaching multiple grades. You veteran homeschool mamas, feel free to add to this list yourself in the comments!
Do More Group Work
When you are teaching multiple grades, it is relatively easy to find curriculum that involves a reading of some kind (text, living books, etc.) that can be done as a family during a meal. It’s a great “morning time” or “basket time” activity to do together!
During our morning basket, which is an excellent multi-level homeschooling tool, we eat breakfast and at least cover our group lessons for Bible and memory work. Then after chores we come back together for another group time rotating through art, music, nature study, etc. Afterward our older kids follow that up with extension activities that suit their level, such as drawing and/or writing about what we studied, or doing an extra reading on their own.
Similarly, we do projects, experiments, field trips, and other group activities together to extend our learning, and then assign additional reading, notebooking, or worksheets for the older kids to deepen the learning experiences without adding more time to your own schedule! Combining subjects and activities is a great strategy for the homeschool one room schoolhouse.
Round Robin for Teaching Multiple Grades
While group work is helpful, there are subjects that the kids will do on their own, such as math, reading, and writing. We will all sit down at the table and they will start working. I start with my younger kids first since they only do almost an hour a day. They start working on their tasks as I bounce around the table and help each one as they need it. That could be doing a reading lesson, answering a math question, reviewing their handwriting and giving feedback, etc.
My older kids will float in and out during the day to do any 1:1 instruction needed, do dictation, ask a question, or get direction on the next thing on their list. This round-robin type management approach may seem a little chaotic sometimes, but it’s an efficient way to get through our work quickly and keep everyone moving forward.
Use Nap Time / Quiet Time
Every day we have quiet time (nap time if possible for the youngest children). During this time the older kids often take advantage of the quiet to finish up any independent work they didn’t complete that morning that needs more focus, and I usually have a break or some 1:1 sessions with any child who needs extra help with a subject that’s challenging for them. It’s a great way to focus since the littles aren’t needing attention!
However, I do try to keep that teaching time brief during nap time and reserve the more independent work for that slot. Why? Because I need to get other work done, take a break myself, or even take a power nap! Nobody likes being homeschooled by an exhausted mama or one who is stretched so thin she’s about to snap. So use that golden time wisely!
Audiobooks are one of my all-time favorite multi-level homeschooling tips and tricks. With audiobooks, my olders can spend some of that quiet time learning quietly and getting a little rest themselves while they listen and learn. When it’s meal time, which is one of our regular read-aloud times, and I. just. can’t… audiobooks to the rescue! Car rides are even better, using up that time on the road when your kids are a captive audience to learn something new or reinforce a subject.
We use all kinds of audiobooks for homeschooling, including both fiction and non-fiction. Some homeschool companies offer audio versions of their materials now, too, which is excellent! You can do the lessons together and use the audios for review, or use the audios for the main content, which is especially effective for those audio learners.
Have Older Kids Help Younger Kids
Begin teaching your older kids to help with the younger kids. There are many ways they can do this. They can play with or read to the preschoolers and babies, do simple math or reading practice with the younger kids, enjoy special outside time with a sibling, and more!
Some people worry about putting too much on the older kids with this kind of approach. My feeling is that as long as I don’t rely too heavily on my older kids and treat their time with appreciation, including them in helping their siblings in these ways can be good for their character, bless their relationship with their siblings, and help them know how important they are to the overall functioning of the family! It’s a good situation, in my opinion.
Keep the Younger Kids Occupied
Doing group work and including your younger kids in on “lessons” when they want to is a huge help. However there are times when you just need to keep them occupied! When we have read aloud time, such as during our morning time routine I mentioned above, I have coloring books and pages on hand with crayons, pencils, and markers. When they finish eating they can color or draw while they listen to me complete the day’s morning time reading. It’s simple but it works!
Most of the time my younger children play until I call them to the table to do their own lessons with mom. They spend a lot of time in our backyard or playing around the house, and we’ve set up areas where they can play without disturbing everyone else. Mostly. I mean, I do have four boys.
I also keep activities on hand for their own play discovery or to pull out when things are just getting too crazy and I need a little bit longer to finish with the olders.
Here are some ideas:
- Mini indoor trampoline
- Baskets of books
- Box of musical toys
- Box of costumes
- Busy bags (look them up! lots of ideas)
- Water painting books
- Play kitchen
- Chalk board with chalk or little paint brushes and a little water to “paint” with
- A bug collecting kit
- Wikki Sticks
- Card making supplies
- Pinto beans and pouring containers and tools
- Blues Clues (we try not to do screen time, but there are days…)
- Find more ideas here!
As my kids get to be about third grade level, we work more on having them do independent learning. I still do 1:1 instruction for certain subjects, more so depending on the kid, but teaching them to do more independent time management is valuable for us all and essential for multi-level homeschooling.
They have their own loop schedule they work through and touch base with me after each assignment is complete. As they get older they don’t have to check in so much. But the idea is they do their work before their play (with reasonable breaks, of course).
We also take advantage of some online learning options. For us it’s important to be sure not to overdo online lessons where I’m not intimately involved in their work (especially for the 11 and under ages). But we do make use of technology as a teaching tool because not only can be a blessing for mama but it can teach important computer skills.
Be Watchful and Adjust As Needed
As with all things homeschooling, there is no one size fits all. We experiment with different resources and ideas to make multi-level homeschooling more effective, and then prayerfully observe the results.
Most often a simple tweak to how we’re doing things will fix any issues, but whether or not we use a one room school house model, I’ve learned that the best thing for my children and their individual needs is a watchful and flexible mom who can adjust their homeschool program as needed to help them thrive! To celebrate the new school year for 2021 we are doing a series of sponsored Back to Homeschool giveaways!
For this giveaway, one winner will receive each of following gifts from our sponsors:
Schoolhouse Teachers: One-Year Ultimate Membership PLUS a One-Year Subscription to the TOS Print Magazine ($179+ value)
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The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine provides quarterly issues for homeschooling help, encouragement, and more. You’ll get a PRINT version of this mailed to you for one year!
Great Multi-Level Curricula
Apologia: Middle / High School Science Curriculum
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Student Work & Habit Tracker from Proverbial Homemaker
Starting your homeschool year? Want to help your kids learn to manage their own time and tasks better? You’ll love the Student Work & Habit TrackerStudent Work & Habit Tracker! This printable student tracker planner includes checklists and a loop scheduling approach for their school work and personal habits, all while keeping them firmly focused on Christ. Print off one for each child!
The Student Work & Habit Tracker helps your kids:
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