How To Homeschool Several Grades at the Same Time
It's simple to teach multiple levels at the same time and plenty of parents do it with marvelous success. Our most famous example, so far, is the Harding parents who authored the book, The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family's Method to College Ready by Age Twelve. While their style might not appeal to everyone, they did homeschool ten children! Homeschooling more than one child is similar to how our traditional schoolhouses worked, where one teacher would teach multiple families in one room.
So, how do we do it? While I didn't teach ten children, I did, at one time, homeschool four children, so I have some hands-on experience beyond my own two kids that I'll share with you. For simplicity's sake, we'll assume you are teaching four children under the age of thirteen. Furthermore, let's say you have a two, six, eight, and ten year-old child. The two year-old will be your biggest challenge because you will need to address his needs as they arise, which usually means being interrupted quite often.
Dealing With Toddlers
To reduce distractions while teaching, the first thing you should do is make sure all of your toddler's needs are met before you even start.
• Has he had his rest? (you could even schedule their nap during this time)
• Has he been fed?
• Has he been changed?
• Have you given him some undivided attention?
Maybe you can start by reading a couple of stories to your toddler or doing a pretend "school" with him before you start with the others.
At this point, you want to have an arsenal of special tools he can play with only when you teach. They have to be some of his favorite things, so he is excited when they come out. Amongst your arsenal, I would include special picture books, blocks, crayons, and anything you can think of to keep him especially occupied while you are trying to teach the others. I would also factor time to spend with your toddler as you go between your children's lessons. It might be unrealistic to try to get through all of them without his needing some attention.
Now, let's move into the meat of the matter. As anyone who has taught knows, teaching takes a lot of energy and it also takes time. Ideally, you will try to combine as many subjects as you can, the easiest to combine being science, geography, and history. Much of history in the classroom is reading, writing, and history projects, which all of the children can do together. You will assign work according to their level of ability. You might require the six year-old to simply listen to the story, while the eight year-old listens and writes a two-line narrative, and the ten year-old listens, does additional reading, plus writes a paragraph or two or more (depending on how easy writing comes to him) about the material. Science and geography would follow along the same lines of learning.
Keep in mind, too, that homeschooled children can do unit studies, so if you don't have time to fit a subject into your weekly schedule, like science, you can always make time later and teach it as a unit study.
For subjects like grammar, try this: start out by having two children work on a previous assignment or whatever work they can do independently. Give the first child his grammar lesson. Once he has an understanding of the material, assign him some work, and let him take his seat while you sit with the next child. If one child needs help while you are teaching another, have the older of the two assist you by helping the younger child. This ensures he has learned his material well because you can't teach something you don't understand. It will also teach him to be of service to others, which helps to build good character and it establishes a comradeship between the children.
During the time you are working with subjects like language arts and math, you can have a continuous rotation going until you have covered all the material for the day. The system is simple, once you find a rhythm, and you can teach as many children as you like. Once you get the hang of it (and if you don't have ten children) you might even consider adding other families to your homeschool and establishing your own schoolhouse. This is a great way to help people who aren't able to homeschool, to supplement your families income (you can charge, after all, it is work), and to spice up learning for your own children. They will love the additional company.
Different Ways to Homeschool
There are different ways to homeschool. The example I use here is for a parent who is working on particular subjects at home with the children. Another way is to teach a variety of subjects around a core topic like "How clouds form?" or "What were the causes of the American Revolution?" You can learn more about the latter style by reading my blog titled: When My Kitchen Is The Classroom.
For those who are wondering how teaching multiple grades works, or those of you who may be struggling to teach several homeschooled kids, I hope this sheds some light on things. When in doubt, remember the Hardings!