One Room Schoolhouse: Multi-Level Homeschooling Tips and Tricks

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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! 

Struggling to homeschool several ages? You'll love these multi-level homeschooling tips and tricks!


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! 

Use Audiobooks

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) 
  • Playdoh
  • Water painting books
  • Play kitchen
  • Chalk board with chalk or little paint brushes and a little water to “paint” with
  • Bubbles
  • 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!

Teach Independence 

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

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This Post Has 46 Comments

  1. I would love being able to teach multiple levels at once!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement! We also incorporate sibling 1:1 time, which they enjoy and I trust builds their relationship, while giving me 1:1 time with the other child.

  3. I love systems which easily incorporate multi-level and I really love hands-on! This looks great!

  4. Great tips- maybe trying some of your suggestions will help us organize our chaos a bit better! I hadn’t really thought of trying to do school DURING meal times, but that could really be a sanity and time saver for us!

  5. I’d love to try audiobooks as a help during school time!

  6. Thanks for the ideas!

  7. I’m jealous you can get the little ones to rest on their own. My 8 and 6 just quit napping, which was just fine except that the free time I have while they have quiet time is spent trying to make the 2 sleep. Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. I have done a few different things depending on what’s happening with the kids or myself. My 3 and 5 year old do naps still. They don’t have to sleep, but they do have to be quiet and stay in their rooms until nap time is over. I let them have books but not toys there with them. It does take monitoring and discipline to help them learn to do that obediently, but it’s worth it. If i do have to monitor, I bring laundry into the hall to fold, do online work there, read a book, etc. I may have to adjust my expectations of what I do with that free time but it’s still worth it all around, for our family. I hope that helps!

  8. Thank you for the tips. They all help me as I have a toddler and one in school.

  9. The most helpful was “Be watchful and adjust as needed.” I like plans and often fight against changing them, even when I know I need to.

  10. Group work, audiobooks, round-robin….it all works! Most important, Enjoy!!

  11. I think using audiobooks is a good idea. Not something I had specifically considered before.

  12. Love all the help you give

  13. Your resources and blog tips have helped me tremendously. thank you so much

  14. The round-robin approach is a great idea, as is the audio books for read-alongs. We’ve upgraded our language studies to cds, so we can have lessons while we drive to my mom’s.
    I’ve also started “group” worksheets that they can do together in the car, during our drive. Big kid helps teach, but they have to work together, while I’m driving so they rely on me less.

  15. I love audiobooks. They save my voice!

  16. I only have two kids right now but the suggestions under the section about keeping younger ones occupied will be helpful for my little one while big brother is doing his lesson.

  17. Have older kids help younger kids is something that I always forget to utilize. Very helpful to have that reminder. It would some days go just a bit smoother.

  18. I currently teach two at different levels (13yr & 7yr). It is fun, and has it’s challenges. I can relate to this and also appreciate the tips! I also have one on the way and will be homeschooling this little one too.

  19. Thanks for these tips!
    The activities for keeping little ones busy was most helpful!

  20. Using audiobooks is something I need to implement. I love reading, but know my kids would enjoy listening to an audiobook too, and it would give me time to enjoy listening and get other things done. Great tip! Thanks!

  21. Daily quiet time, even for older students, is a great idea for taking care of myself! The quiet time would definitely help recharge my body & spirit so I can love my family well through the afternoon and evening. This reminder is very timely. Thanks!

  22. I am so grateful for this blog post! This will be our first year officially full-time homeschooling, and all of the hints and tricks seem to break things up and make it so much more achievable. I have been so stressed out trying to choose a curriculum, choose extracurriculars, etc etc, and this blog post above all reminded me to keep it simple for everybody’s sanity! It’s posts like these but make me look forward to the journey that we’re starting.

  23. Thanks for the tips. Audio books is a great idea.

  24. I definitely need to implement audiobooks! Thanks for the tips

  25. Morning Basket was revolutionary for our homeschool! The important thing for me though was to keep it simple. If I put too much in the basket or tried to do a theme, it made it harder to be consistent.

  26. Thank you for the tips on multi level schooling. I have 4 children, 4th-7th and am trying to figure out how to incorporate as many group lessons as possible.

  27. Such good advice in regards to homeschooling multiple kids. I have a 2nd and 3rd grader and it is vital that we do as many subjects together. Thanks for the advice too about working them towards independence! Another piece of advice that someone gave me was that, depending on the curriculum, I can use the same level, since my kids are just a year apart, and just make changes to make it easier/harder. Doesn’t work for all subjects but for for things like health (which is normally not found in my “family style’ curriculum, we just use the same level and that way we can do it together) it is such a time-saver.

  28. Any tips on making multiple ages work is appreciated! I’m bookmarking this. We do try to do as many subjects together as possible.

  29. Our “multi – level” looks different from most other homeschoolers since I have two boys 11 and 12, and then after years of praying the Lord gave us our now 2-year-old and then amazingly another miracle, our now 1-month-old.

    It is a challenge to keep my older two from wandering (physically and mentally) when the younger ones have urgent needs or are just needing attention. My boys are very good at caring for, playing with, and reading to little ones because they have 19 cousins all much younger than them. But they are not used to having little ones around during school time.

    I appreciate the tip to not plan to do much teaching during naps. I think I was counting on that too much for the coming school year
    My two year old is taking shorter naps these days and it will probably only frustrate all of us if I plan to accomplish lessons with the older ones during that time.

    I really want to know what you have your older ones do if you are in the middle of a lesson and the toddler needs help on the potty chair or what have you. What do your kids do while waiting for seven or even five minutes. Over here it devolves not quite into spitwads being thrown but basically the same thing. If I tell them to work on something else while I am gone it will only be frustrating for them to have to stop in the middle of that and switch back to what we were doing together.

    This is a real struggle for me. I am trying to move them to more independence this year. God’s two precious gifts to us have been his way of showing me that I need to let go. I used to do EVERYTHING with them. Homeschooling was all about me, not about them and especially not about the Lord. I’m happy to have them do things indepently but we still will do some things together so need advice!

    Sorry for the very long post!

  30. Using audiobooks. I have an echo dot and have considered doing just that this year.

  31. great information thank you!!

  32. Great advice. I tend to get tripped up because mine are very close in age and in certain areas of development. It can be hard to separate things out sometimes to help 1-1. Especially when they want to be doing exactly what the other is doing.

  33. Great idea. Never thought much about audio books being useful. Will definitely be implementing those this year.

  34. Best tips I found:
    I have 7 kids, ranging from ages 7 months to 11 years old. It’s BUSY in our house. I’ve found that the more we can knock out together in group work, the easier it is to get everything done. Sometimes a child needs help with reading or extra math practice. This is where I need to be better at allowing the older kids to help the younger kids. For example, my well-read 11-year-old is able to sit next to any of my kids so they can practice reading to him. I need to utilize the older kids and their skills more often. It gives the older kids some responsibility and gives me more time to focus on the most important things. With 7 kids, it’s impossible to be everywhere at once.

  35. I love teaching all of my children together!

  36. Thanks for this article! I will be schooling 3 ages at once this fall! <3

  37. I love the audiobooks idea. I do most of the others already but hadn’t thought of incorporating audiobooks.

  38. This will be the first year we do a morning basket and I’m excited! These tips are so practical- thank you!

  39. I loved the great list of activity ideas! All of the tips were helpful. Thanks for the great post!!!

  40. I love your ideas! Teaching Indepence!!!

  41. I love the idea about audiobooks during quiet time. I also like the round Robin technique. Im sure it’s chaotic at times but it seems worth it. Thank you for your advice!

  42. These are all great tips! I plan to do group work as much as possible.

  43. The round robin teaching idea sounds perfect for our family!

  44. All of these tips are helpful! I do a combination of these.

  45. Great ideas! I’m looking into audio books and morning basket to help us get through our mornings.

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