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 have to 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 all fall apart?
Well, truth be told, some days it falls apart. (Let’s just keep it real, shall we?) 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!
This is a sponsored post for The Mystery of History.
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. You veteran homeschool mamas, feel free to add to this list yourself in the comments!
Do More Group Work
When you have multiple ages to work with, 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, memory work, and the science or history reading. Then we simply follow it up with activities for each child that suit their level. For the younger kids this is drawing or coloring, and for older kids we usually add notebooking.
Similarly, do projects, experiments, field trips, and other group activities together that extend your learning and can be done with all ages. Again, assign additional reading, notebooking, or worksheets for your older kids to deepen the learning experiences without adding more time to your own schedule!
Use Nap Time / Quiet Time
Every day we have nap time for the young kids (anybody under 7) and quiet time for the older kids. For quiet time the kids older kids are expected to finish up any independent work they didn’t complete that morning, and I usually have 1 or 2 brief 1:1 sessions with a child to work through 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 respect and 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 use it where appropriate and it is a huge blessing! Things like video or online courses are fun for the kids to do once in a while as well.
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 carefully observe the results. Most often a simple tweak to how we’re doing things will fix any issues, but I’ve learned that the best thing for my children and their individual need is an alert and flexible mom who can adjust their homeschool program to help them thrive!