One of the biggest questions I am asked from homeschooling families or families who are considering homeschooling is, “What do I do with my toddler when I’m teaching?” or “What do I do when I have multiple kids in multiple grades?” Although having multiple school age children or a toddler (or both!) may seem like a dilemma or a deterrent to some families, it is actually an amazing opportunity! Let me tell you why:
1. Early Exposure/Review
By having multiple ages and abilities simultaneously in your homeschool instruction, you are doing your children an INCREDIBLE service! The younger (or lower ability) children are receiving the instruction that the older (or more advanced) child is! This allows them the opportunity to be exposed to topics, ideas, and skills that they normally wouldn’t be exposed to. On the other hand, when instructing your lower ability or younger children lessons, the older or more advanced children are having skills and topics reinforced and reviewed, thus increasing their level of depth of understanding!
2. Varying Levels Are Not Only Hurdles For Homeschoolers
Multiple ages in homeschool settings isn’t only a concern for homeschoolers. By homeschooling you re going to be able to provide each child independent and individualized instruction; more so than in a traditional classroom. As a former public education teacher, I can assure you that the varying levels in a classroom are drastic. It was not uncommon to have students that barely knew their letters or sounds all the way to students who were reading and comprehending at a middle school level in one class! Yes, having my children at varying abilities can be difficult, but I know that they are receiving more one on one support and instruction than they would in a traditional classroom. Not because I am a better teacher (although I honestly believe parent’s are the best teachers for their own children – that’ll be discussed in an upcoming post), but because a classroom teaching does not have the time to sufficiently modify the instruction to fit each independent child’s need, thus causing instruction to typically be too hard or too was for many students.
3. Pacing Is Key
One of the biggest challenges I faced as a classroom teacher was pacing. The varying student levels meant some would master a skill faster than others and some much slower than others. However with the end of the school year ticking closer every second of every day, there was not enough time to spend the amount of time actually NEEDED to make sure each student could master the necessary skills and standards, let alone in a set amount of time. With homeschooling, these varying levels also mean some kids will master skills faster than others and some will move along at snail’s pace, BUT because of the privilege that is homeschooling, time IS available. If more time is needed for a certain subject or skill it can be given; equally as important, if a skill is mastered quicker than expected, the opportunity to move onto the next one is available, and a child does not need to wait for the rest of the class to move on to the next skill. Thus, the child-led education blossoms. (I’ll be touching on that in a future post!)
Let’s be real. I have four boys ranging from age two to six and a half. My days don’t go nearly as smooth as I would like. In theory, my days are filled with learning and the Youngers receive exposure to more advanced skills and the bigger get the necessary review and reinforcement of previous lessons. In reality, usually someone is screaming, fighting, or jumping off the couch. HOWEVER, don’t let that fool you! My 3-year-old knows more numbers and letters than my 6 or 5-year-old knew at that age! The cliché that children are sponges and absorb information around them is completely accurate. Don’t expect your lessons to go perfectly… Or for all of your children to sit with their hands folded their laps. It isn’t gonna happen. And it shouldn’t! Let them be little, get through what you need to and do your best. Chances are you’re doing better than you think and they’re learning and holding on to more than you expected.
Until next time, folks!