I don’t have four kids homeschooling anymore. But I did.
I have a teenager, studying at a high school level, who is very much as independent as a college student, waking herself for early morning on line classes, tracking her study hours, watching her deadlines, getting to town for her part time job.
I have a teenager, who has officially graduated high school, who is house sitting away from home, works more than full time to earn money for future travel, tackling an on line math class for university entry, and is an independent soul eager to see the world through her own eyes.
I have a teenager who occasionally peeks her head into the homeschool room, but mostly prefers working on her pink bed in her pink room with her grey cuddly cat. She likes a consistent routine, one that she can work through at her own pace. She infuses her opinions on the curriculum, but mostly is happily engaged in something prescribed.
I have a single digit kiddo who is presently sitting behind me, taking a chess break with a Bear Paw, his teddy bears and blankets in front of an electric heater (after he finishes his math studies). He’ll start his writing soon and likely take direction from me most of the day.
But once upon a time I had four kids in the same room. One of them just eight months old, a three year old sister, a six year old who just finished kindergarten and an eight year old who finished grade 2 at a private school. And I maintained this till my eldest wanted to attend grade 10 in a local high school.
(Do you like how they’re dressed up in turn of the century? A Little Women birthday party! Yes!!)
What I’ve learned about homeschooling multiple grades:
Grades don’t mean much. They are present in my home primarily to stave off fear of the general public. So the general public isn’t worried that my children are illiterate and incapable of calculating numbers (even if they happen to be correcting the cashier on the incorrect amount returned to them while they’re explaining to her that they are indeed math literate).
Content is deliverable across the age spectrum. Okay, I’ll grant you that math concepts are delivered at different times for differing aptitudes. But anything related to history, science, geography, reading or games can be delivered to the eldest and translated to the youngest. Comprehension is based on child. Explanation is based on child. The process is the same as the explanation you give each family member when they attend an art gallery or museum together.
Looking for a geography book for three levels of comprehension? We’ve been using Trail Guide to Geography at http://trailguidetogeography.com/trail-guide-to-world-geography.html
Or just read books together. Or watch documentaries. Or visit places. Or ask people questions. Together.
Aptitude isn’t determined by age. Mental math appeared easiest to our youngest children. Reading abilities developed at similar ages for our four, but the child that learned to read at the youngest age, prefers it the least and is our slowest reader, at present. One of our girls loved history, read all day long, knows the intricacies of British history. Another of my girl’s work habits rise above everyone else’s, and also, above my husband’s and mine at her age.
Though math concepts are taught individually, they can be reinforced collectively. Word problems, logic games, card games, board games, minute to win it games–all these are useful and easily done as a family.
Obviously writing levels are naturally different, but incorporating the same writing prompts or projects doesn’t have to be different. For years, no matter the prompt, my third born wrote everything in advertising exec style. She decorated her stories with verve and pizzazz, all the while trying to sell you something. Just yesterday, Canadian Thanksgiving, my fifteen year old shared a page long ‘Who Am I?’. My thirteen year old shared an existential narrative and my nine year old shared his favourite traditions of thanksgiving. To each their own.
Communal reading time. For years, we read in the afternoon for history, we read in the evening before bed, now we read in the morning, before our day begins. We have read so many books. (I am a homeschooling mama first, and a professional reader second). For the bookless childhood existence I survived (yes, I really didn’t read unless I absolutely had to, then I searched for the movie first, yikes), I am caught right up to the typical North American children’s literature reader. I love love love reading. There couldn’t be a better way to glean an education than to read read read.
Though my teenagers are less interested in read alouds as a family now, I try squeezing it in somewhere. I still have the Little House series going with my youngest two. When my oldest homeschooler is around, we are reading a book about Learning to Learn. I’m reading The Hobbit to my youngest during our bedtime routine. If I can promise ‘massage exchanges’ before bed, I can even read with my teenagers. If only I could squeeze in a chapter of Sense and Sensibility or Little Women with the oldest two!
Communal community time. Until a certain age, about adolescence, family field trips and family playdates easily happened en masse. An eight year old can lead the dress up time with toddlers, preschoolers and fellow age mates. More than a bajillion times, I have heard: “Your kids play so well with younger kids.” Age differentiation doesn’t happen as quickly as school grades segregate.
Despite my children not growing up in a school environment, at around the adolescent age, they tend to age segregate anyway. “I’m thirteen, I can’t play with a ten year old.” I don’t know if that is pop culture that taught them, (it wasn’t me), but I’m pretty sure it is an awareness that they are maturing, that they don’t want to play as a kid, cause they aren’t kids anymore. Yet, hilariously, I still find them playing Legos with their little brother, or jumping on the trampoline, treasure seeking games around the house, or shooting cap guns.
When they’re young, any activity can be a family activity. Joining together to help at a summer BBQ at the seniors center, visiting a new homeschooling family of littler kids, field trips, you name the activity, you can do it as a family.
Ultimately, homeschooling four different grades means you’re engaging four different people, with four different developmental stages, and four different interests and aptitudes.