One room schoolhouses are a thing of the past, but modern homeschools with more than one child must embrace the premise of “one room, many grades” as they find their homeschool groove.
One of the most often underutilized components of the one room schoolhouse model is the use of the Buddy System.
I have found that mothers simply do not know how to implement the buddy system in their own homeschool. In fact, often their ideal of what the buddy system looks like is a highly romanticized version of their oldest child acting as a homeschool counterpart to the traditional public school para-professional. Yet, they know this is unreasonable considering all their older children must accomplish with their own studies.
So, what does a reasonable buddy system in a homeschool classroom look like and how can you implement that system today without feeling like you are shortchanging the children?
1. Change your vision. This isn’t all about making your life easier. Yes, a well-run buddy system will eventually lighten your workload, but there is a lot of front end work that goes into it, all done to the tune of character-building in both you and your children. Get rid of the frustration and guilt by focusing on the character benefits that come from implementing a buddy system. Traits like initiative, patience, perseverance, and respect of others are fostered in your children as they work together to complete tasks.
2. Combine any subjects you can. Start with History if you can’t think of another place to begin. Teach that subject with the oldest students in mind, then impress upon younger students a few of the highlights through the use of supplemental activities created and/or spearheaded by the older students. An example of this would be a study of ancient Egypt geared toward your jr. high and high school students and reinforced and supplemented through the reading of age-appropriate books to the younger siblings and coming up with fun projects like Lego pyramid building or cartouche painting.
3. Start small and choose wisely. Rather than charge your older student with the task of teaching an entire subject, ask them to read a portion or help explain one or two problems from the younger child’s subject. Build up to bigger projects. Learn to discern between character issues that truly need addressing and simple matters of personality differences. Some children are natural-born leaders and some children are individualists through and through. Perhaps the leader needs to learn to temper his style and the individualist needs to learn to play well with others, or perhaps you simply need to find a better arrangement that doesn’t partner these two very different personalities. Discernment is key.
4. Don’t make the buddy system a big deal. My children would be clueless if you asked them how our buddy system works because they don’t even know it exists. Sometimes it finds form in the 10 year old reading a bible lesson to the littles just so she can color a page with them. Sometimes the 13 year old helps the 10 year old with long division because he has a good method he once found helpful. Using the buddy system does not always have to mean Child A is always buddies with Child B and it doesn’t even have to be something you plan in advance. Often, the buddy system is at its best when done on the fly and governed by a mother who seizes an opportunity.
This kind of carpe diem is where guilt ends and learning begins!
Amy can be found writing at Raising Arrows.