The Guilt Free Homeschool Buddy System

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.

Angie Kauffman
Angie, a domestically challenged nerd and mom of three very fun kids, is the founder of Real Life at Home.  Angie also listens to music every chance she gets, writes eBookspodcastsloves Pinterestdocuments the little moments in life on Instagram, and occasionally sleeps.


  1. says

    So I’ve been using the buddy system without knowing it! My homeschool schedule depends on parallel learning on different levels and my oldest doing some read-alouds and narration to the younger ones. In history, I’ve found that what I read with my oldest goes over the heads of the younger ones, but he is able to distill it during his review and narration so that his four year-old brother can understand it. It’s a nice shortcut to doing it myself, since he’s going to have to narrate anyway. Might as well make it useful to the rest of them, right?

  2. says

    Interesting. We use the buddy system for everyday life, but I’ve never used it specifically for school. Do you find it keeps the older ones from getting all of their work done? Also, mine help each other all of the time, but it usually leads to confusion and me undoing some weird concept that was taught. I like the idea though and will be looking for ways to use it during school time. Thanks! Lisa~

    • says

      I’ve not noticed anyone getting behind in their school work because of buddying up. My olders do their independent work first and then move to corporate studies, so there are many times they are done and needing something to fill their time until I’m available for corporate studies with them. Just kind of letting them lead the way with it has made it very manageable, but you would definitely need to keep a handle on what they are teaching and if they are getting their own work done. 😉

  3. says


    I love doing this…for us, with ours being 8 and 3, I encourage our 8 yr old to read aloud to our 3 yr old. They both love it! Our 3 yr old is blessed by having his big brother read to him and the 8 yr old needs to practice reading more slowly enjoys getting very dramatic with his reading (mimics the way Mom does it LOL!) They even do this during their “free” time. I guess we were using it in other things too but didn’t call it the buddy system…thanks for the encouraging words, Amy! I think I will look for more ways to help them learn to work together! 😀

  4. says

    I, too, have been using the Buddy System without naming it for what it is. My almost 11 year old daughter (in 6th grade) runs tot school for her brother and Kindergarten for her two sisters every morning for me while I observe or do household management. Often, I feel quite superfluous! 😉 When the baby naps, I get her down to business with her own lessons. In a couple more years, I will get to lay around and eat bon bons, right, while she runs the household and teaches the littles? LOL

  5. says

    I love the buddy system! My kids are all close in age, but the 1st and 2nd graders do Science and History with the 3rd grader. The 1st and 2nd grader do combined English and Math lessons. It does make things easier!

  6. says

    I have always called this “playing teacher”. I thought I was cleverly getting my 8yr old to review flashcards with my 5yr old by turning it into a game. All along I was just using the buddy system. It’s completely legit! :)