The Organized Homeschooler
When I think about all the things I love about home-schooling, I have to admit that teaching several levels at once is one of my favorite things. I love seeing the progress of children as they move forward in their studies. I enjoy the joyful moments when a child starts to read independently or when one math student is tutoring another in a lesson she learned the prior year. I love reminding the children about how they were a few years earlier, when they were learning the same skills that their younger siblings are learning currently. I love seeing the older children sitting breathless, waiting to clap as a younger student masters something difficult. However, homeschooling many ages simultaneously does have its challenges.
First, with children of multiple ages, it can be hard to tutor everyone at the same time. It is also difficult to keep everyone on track—one mom, lots of ages and stages; if you are living it, you get the picture. As a mother of six children, aged newborn to 22, I have been managing a multi-level homeschool for many years now.
Here are the top ten suggestions I share with moms to make managing a multilevel homeschool easier.
1 Try to combine subjects when it is appropriate. For example, my children can cover some aspects of the following subjects together: History, Science, Bible, Reading, Music, and P.E.
There are some curricula that are already written with the idea of multi-level teaching in mind, and those offer options for children of different ages, but an intuitive mother can take just about any curriculum and adjust it for the varying needs of her children.
2 Try to keep your schedule free from a lot of distractions. If all the children are involved in different activities, you will find that you spend far too much time getting ready to go, going, and recovering from going. Try to limit required activities outside the home to just one day per week. If you have to go out any other days, try to keep it to a minimum.
3 Take time to teach your children to work independently when possible. It may take several days to help a particular child learn to be diligent to complete a lesson without your direct supervision, but once you have done ample training in this area, you should be able to trust your children to do much of their work, even when you are not working directly with them one-on-one. Sometimes, this means choosing particular curricula that lead to more independent learning, and sometimes it means teaching the children how to handle issues they encounter while learning, such as what to do when the child has questions. For example, when working math problems, your child may have several choices when encountering a difficult math problem, including these:
• Circle the problem and move on with the lesson until you return.
• Come get you for help.
• Ask a sibling for help.
• Get the answer key, look up the solution, and then try to work the problem independently.
. . . An intuitive mother can take just about any curriculum and adjust it for the varying needs of her children.
All of these possibilities are acceptable, depending on the child, his age, and maturity level. Proper choices may also vary among subjects. If you have not taken the time to give your child very specific instructions about how to handle these questions, you may waste a lot of time correcting the child for making the wrong choice.
4 Enjoy help that is offered from relatives. Grandparents often enjoy taking one or a couple of children out for special trips or special days. If grandparents are willing to help, ask them to do educational activities with the children for whom the activities are appropriate.
5 Teach the children to be considerate of one another. It is important for younger children to know how to entertain themselves without getting into trouble during brief periods while Mom is busy helping a student. They must also learn how to keep quiet when others are trying to concentrate and how to tolerate the noises others make in a busy household. Even a well-run homeschool will often be riddled with the sounds of people, including an occasional crying baby, the thumping of toddler feet, and noisy toys. As children get older, these sounds may be replaced with the clicking of texting and the distant hum of music through headphones. Some children walk loudly, talk loudly, and even breathe loudly.
If you have easily distracted children, or those prone to distract others, take the time to work on those skills individually as they are needed. Teach coping techniques and allow some distance between children, depending on the layout of your home and the maturity of the students.
6 If you are teaching several grades, that often means you are grading several lessons a day as well. Try to keep up with grading daily. When you find yourself falling behind, allow the children to use the answer key and grade their own work. This is not a good long-term solution for all classes and all subjects, but used occasionally, it may give a mom of many grades a few extra minutes needed to train on some of the matters that have come to her attention throughout the day.
Keep an orderly home. It is a good idea every month or so to take time to declare an organizational day or week. Take the time to clean out binders, tidy bookshelves, straighten closets, and de-clutter rooms. Everyone is more efficient in cleaner surroundings.
If you have a very disorganized home, you may need to tackle just one small area per week and then maintain it. There are many methods and books about home organizing. Get one if you need it, and start working on these skills. Have the children join you in these projects at whatever level they are able to help.
Use the tools of the trade. Every worker has tools to make his jobs easier. For a homeschool mom those tools include a good calendar and a great planner. You can also use computer programs to track work, CDs and books on tape to educate and entertain, and even an occasional video to supplement learning or to entertain young ones while you are schooling older children. You can use electronics that record time as incentives to complete work in a timely way. You can use fun educational programs to drill math facts, develop spelling skills, and help teach geography. Using these modern tools of the trade should be a benefit when used in addition to the traditional methods.
. . . Most importantly, teach your children God’s Word.
9 Give children ways to display or share their hard work. Art or Scripture copy work can be given as gifts to family members or elderly people from church. Having a display day or celebrating academic progress can be a big incentive for children to work to their fullest potential. Simply putting the latest work on the refrigerator or in a binder to share with Daddy when he comes home can reassure your students that their hard work is appreciated.
Finally, and most importantly, teach your children God’s Word. Adorn your house with verses that encourage kindness, diligence, and honoring others. Study God’s Word together. Listen to hymns and other Christian music during work breaks. Print key verses in beautiful fonts from your computer, or write Scripture on a dry erase board for all to see. Purchase some washable glass markers with which to put encouraging words on the mirrors in the bathrooms. Having a home where everyone is striving to live according to God’s Word certainly makes discipleship and loving one another easier.
For more information about this topic, please check out my workshop on this topic.