Multi-level homeschooling, or teaching children of varying ages and grades together, has many benefits. Preparation is easy for me because I have one topic to plan for, then I can simply adjust lessons to each child’s level. My younger kids are challenged by listening in on what the older kids are learning, and the older kids get great review by listening in on (and helping with!) what the younger ones are working on. We are able to have lively family discussions in which every child can join in, because we are all studying and learning about the same things.
In planning for multi-level teaching, I pick a topic and then adjust the assignments and activities for each child. I happen to have a Kindergartner, a middle schooler, and a high schooler. So I basically look at the topic from the middle point of view, and then adjust lessons down for the Kindergartner and up for the high schooler. Using a variety of learning materials allows the kids to learn together – materials like videos, computer games, books, and unit study projects. When teaching a topic to all of the kids together, each child retains material on their own level and, again, older kids get great review from the younger kids’ lessons and the younger kids learn more advanced concepts than I would ordinarily think to expose them to from the older kids’ lessons.
Fostering independence and providing ways for kids to work independently allows you to spend time working one-on-one with a child when you need to, or on topics that you need to. Kids can review, and even learn new things independently with: educational videos and computer games, books and workbooks, self-teaching programs, educational cassettes or CDs with a player & headphones, flash cards and other self-checking review activities (sold at educational stores), and lapbooks or notebooking activities. When I started providing a list of the day’s independent assignments to my high schooler, and started using workboxes filled with independent activities for my middle schooler, multi-level homeschool life became so much easier!
As for the actual lessons, there are plenty of ways to teach multiple kids together! Art, Bible, foreign language, P.E., music, and homemaking/cooking naturally lend themselves to easily working on together.
Science – Unit studies are great for science. Pick one topic and you can read together and do projects together, adding in more hands-on activities for younger kids and more difficult assignments for older kids to work on. All of the kids can study the same topic at the same time.
Social Studies – Again, unit studies are great here. Choose a topic or time period, and all the kids can read together and do projects together, then add easier or more difficult assignments as called for. Mapping can be done together, with different kids filling in different data according to their abilities.
Language – The whole family can read together, and older kids can read to younger kids. Writing assignments and topics can be given to all of the children, but at differing levels. For example, everyone can do a poetry unit at the same time, but with different assignments. Kids can edit and revise their work together, and for each other. Grammar can be taught in the course of everyday assignments in other subjects, or together. Literature can be taught with similar forms of study in the same time frame.
For math, language, and any subject really, games are something everyone can join in on their own level, and get review as well. Scrabble, Boggle, ‘Smath, and so many more educational games are a great way to learn and review together.
Drills and other review games work really, really well in our family. For example, I will line up the three kids on the opposite side of the room from me. Then, alternating between the kids, I will call out a simple addition or subtraction problem for my Kindergartner, a multiplication or division problem for my middle schooler, and algebra vocabulary, concept, or simple problem for my high schooler. When a child gets an answer correct, (s)he gets to step forward. When the kids reach me, we get excited and do a high five, or the kids may even get a little treat. We review a unit study similarly: I call out a question to a specific child on his/her level (but all the same topic), alternating between the kids. When a child gets an answer correct, I toss him/her a tiny piece of candy. If one child is stuck on a question, the kids can help each other! We often do this at the end of a unit study, and the kids cheer each other on and have a blast!
I hope these ideas help, whether you choose to do a few things together or completely embrace multi-level homeschooling. Do you have any ideas to add on how you learn together in your family?
Tanya is a happy homeschooling mom of three children, each nearly five years apart in age. She is in the process of creating a blog on multi-level homeschooling at Homeschooling X3. She also loves to cook and works as the food writer for the Knoxville Examiner.
This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.
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