Thursday, March 17, 2016

Repost on Multi-age homeschooling

This was originally written for my column on Homeschool Mosiacs.  It's too good not to repost!  Information still holds true, and my kids were so cute in the picture!

Multi-age Learning

Cloning, now that’s certainly some technology that every homeschool mom at one time or another would like to employ. Seriously, if you cast the ethics of it aside, to be able to have one or more of yourself to get the homeschooling done, the housework, and even maybe find some time for a little culture or recreation for yourself, would be an amazing tool!

There were many days after I became a homeschool mom that I felt pulled in so many directions that it really stressed me out. You’d have one child working on their phonics workbook while their older sibling was trying to do story problems in math, and at the same time the toddler was under the table coloring with crayons half on paper and half on the floor. All of them calling for your help, okay, almost all of them. The toddler on the floor didn’t care that she was making a mess, but I did!

What I began to notice as we went through our various activities in the day was that I felt much less stressed and “pulled” when we stopped to have story time together. It was amazing how even the little ones would pay attention and no one was calling my name. We actually were all having a pleasant time together as a family. This epiphany resulted in our journey into multi-age homeschooling.

You see, when we were all “doing our own thing” we were all demanding our own way. Each child thought they should have my help and attention whenever they needed it, and resented having to “wait” for someone else to be served first. Quite honestly, I also thought they should have enough to keep them busy and I should be able to do my own thing and get some housework done while they worked.

When we moved to doing more things together however those attitudes shifted. Spending time with them doing their subjects all together allowed for the kids to all have that mommy attention and instruction at the same time. It also allowed for them to work together and help one another. They began to form “working relationships” together instead of learning (or failing to learn) to work in isolation.

As homeschoolers we have a plethora of choices for homeschool curriculum these days. How in the world do you make choices that will fit all your kids? In a nutshell if the box/book says “grade 3” or” grade 5” it’s not going to adapt well and was designed for a school setting. On the other hand if it says grades K-8 it’s a winner for multi-age teaching. Those seem so simple, but if you’re going to venture into this why not make it easier on yourself to use something that was designed for multi-age homeschooling.

The other benefit to using curriculum that is geared toward multiple ages is that many of them are written by homeschool parents. They know what will work in a home setting because that’s where they developed their curriculum. Most of your curriculums with a grade on them were designed for a public or private classroom setting. Not sure about your homeschool, but mine looks very different from your typical classroom.

One of the sayings I’m always fond of repeating is, “Do you do school at home or do you “home” school?” There is a difference between the two.

Doing “school” requires enough work to engage 30 or so kids all at various levels. Most have a lot of repetition so that all the students have a chance to get it. These also typically require teacher manuals that many times don’t translate well to the home environment.

Doing “home” means that you learn in a different way and a different setting. Many times daily activities and life become tools to enhance learning in a much more effective way which eliminates the need for so much repetition and seat learning.

With all of that said what are the best ways to go about multi-age learning?
First, if you are just beginning, start with a story time or read aloud as part of your day. This is where most of the time Mom or Dad reads a book to the entire family. It doesn’t matter if the toddler is getting it all, or you’re shifting arms while you nurse the baby. You can choose any book. I might recommend starting with a biography or historical fiction. This is a baby step, but will quickly help you see the fun of multi-age learning.

The next two easiest subjects to multi-age would be History and Science. There are so many curriculums out there right now for the K-8 ages that can be multi-aged. Often, even when the upper or lower limits say grades 3-8 or 2-6,  the book will give suggestions of how to add to it to make it go higher or what to focus on for the younger ones using it with older siblings.

It is also possible to multi-age Language Arts and Math with some limitations. Oh, and yes, High School in entirely possible too.

But we'll save that for another entry. 

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