Teaching Multiple Kids = One Room Schoolhouse
Our homeschool has evolved over time, in part because the first several years we were adjusting to more kids being a part of the learning. It’s one thing to do daily activities with one child, but it quickly gets complicated when you are teaching multiple kids at different levels. Our homeschool story started with Tot-School and a child eager to learn. As we added a child with challenges and eventually another brother, our routine changed. Now our school looks like a one room school house where as many subjects as possible are taught to everyone at the same time.
My oldest two children are only a year apart, but have very different learning styles and needs. Our first few years of homeschool I did two separate programs. Each child learned that they had my full attention during their school time and siblings had to wait. And when it was the sibling’s turn, they had to wait, too. When we added the 3rd student to the mix, I started looking for something different. I needed to simplify my teaching to accommodate the additional student being added to the routine.
Simplicity is Important
The routine that works for us and also gives us flexibility when teaching multiple kids is something that others call Morning Time or Couch time. Our day starts by doing whatever “group” subjects are on the list for the day together. We choose content subjects to do as a group, and these are subjects where the information can be taught in any order and the value is in the information learned, not on a progression of skills. Sometimes it can include listening to history audiobooks, answering science questions, or studying geography. We might read some poetry or a Bible passage. Seasonally, I can add extra activities or read-alouds that fit into this time.
Everyone’s worksheets during this time is a little different based on their age and ability. My middle-schooler has a full page fact sheet to fill in for our State of the day for Geography. While the 2nd grader writes the name, capital, postal code and colors the flag. Our morning time can take up to an hour of our day depending on the activities and the discussion that transpires while we are learning together.
After our morning time wraps up, each child starts on their daily list. Their daily list includes their skill based work. This is subjects like reading and math which must follow a specific progression of mastery. Each child reads independently and does math daily. Other language arts skills rotate during the week. Each child works at their own pace through these subjects. For some that means being on typical grade level and others are above or behind based on their strengths and weaknesses in a given subject area.
This is a routine-driven time, so each child has learned from repetition what needs to be done each day and is able to do their work mostly independently after they become readers. I float between kids to assist as needed or talk through the best way to accomplish their tasks for the day. The motivation is free time and screen time once their list is completed for the day. Depending on their mood, sometimes someone will start on their independent work before we even officially start morning time. They know their free time will come that much sooner when they do, and this is helping them learn a good work ethic and delayed gratification.
Outsource When it Fits
While I keep our schedule simple and work to have independent learners, sometimes it’s important to look for help. Utilizing co-op classes and online learning are great ways to work smarter when teaching multiple kids. I have one child who is fiercely independent in her learning and always has been. For her, online classes have been a perfect fit. She is able to manage her time to complete assignments and turn them in, and it’s one area I don’t have to plan and teach her.
She needs a group to bounce ideas off of and dialog about literature, which doesn’t work in our one room school house the way it does with same-age peers. I have counted dance classes and swim lessons as PE. I have counted Robotics Club as Science. As a homeschool family, we have the flexibility to decide what is “school” during our day and what is not. We have the privilege of including their interests in their educational plan.