Homeschooling Multiple Ages…

(first written in 2002)

Do you have each of your children doing separate studies? Do you long to have a more natural family oriented approach to your homeschooling journey? How do you homeschool with more than one child, and all at different ages?

Firstly, the most important point is to visit the Throne Room! It is good to be able to listen to others and be willing to adapt and change our own ways but what suits one family, may not suit another. It’s good to always consult the Lord God before running off with new ideas, no matter how good they may seem.

It’s good to always consult the Lord God before running off with new ideas, no matter how good they may seem.

As I said earlier, each family is different and each needs to seek the Lord for their direction. Some common threads that seem to work for most families are to have some sort of schedule. This might be to attend to ones own chores (bedroom, hygiene etc) and then make the house reasonable presentable. I don’t mean spick and span because we’d never get around to lessons, but we at least need fresh coffee cups!

Lessons often take around 2-4 hours, varying with the different developmental levels of the children. Afternoons are often taken up with music practice, library visits, grocery shopping, visitors, gardening, business needs, ministry, reading or community services just to name a few. Sometimes your high schooler may need to work in the afternoons to finish assignments or study. Other families with a baby find it easier to do some lessons with the children in the afternoon, when baby is napping.

Don’t forget to foster the attitude of servant helping in your older children by asking them to teach the younger children.

Don’t forget to foster the attitude of servant helping in your older children by asking them to teach the younger children. It can be very beneficial for the older child to have to explain a concept over and over in a variety of ways to a younger brother or sister. ‘Miss A’ , my 11yo helps John, her 7yo brother, with his Maths? and phonic instruction and sometimes he just doesn’t get it. She has to then think of other ways, which she may not have thought of before, to try to help him understand. This builds the families relationships as well as cementing in the older child many valuable lessons. Lessons such as, not everyone is the same, and we are all different as an example. As she must ponder the basics it is also being reinforced in her own mind, which we have found extremely helpful. Try it!

I must say from the onset that Miss Mason was not totally in favour of units or unit type of studies. However, Miss Mason was in charge and responsible for a school, not a family. God has placed me here, in this family to work to His Glory and that is what I am to seek.

I always keep that in the forefront of my mind. My situation is very different to that of Charlotte Mason?s. I am a wife, a mother of 4 blessings, a homekeeper, laundress and all those things that fall into the domestic realm. These things I do alone, with the help of my servants like the washing machine, dryer and microwave etc. However, I wear many hats and homeschool teacher is one of them.

So, considering this, I asked myself- is there any value or merit in units? Yes, I believe so! If we were to follow a boxed curriculum I doubt that any of my children would be studying the same thing at similar times. I think that for me, this would spell *burnout* with a capital B. I don’t believe that we need make a unit study out of everything. Sometimes that can lead to overload. However, if we were to use the eldest child as the (yardstick) then all of the children could end up having a liberal education but with the benefit of studying together. If the eldest child is studying ‘explorers’ in history study, why can’t the family all study explorers? Keep in mind that we will never teach our children all that they will know. Is that the goal though? Or is your goal one of instilling a love and desire of learning and equipping them with the skills to be able to research whatever they wish to?

Keep in mind that we will never teach our children all that they will know

A lot of boxed curricula appear to approach learning with a mentality of “just put in the facts over a 12 year period and then voila! Down the track, out comes a “well educated” individual. If only life were like that, it may work but I’m sure that we know differently. Textbooks aim to cover *everything*; all the vital and important facts that everyone ought to know. How many students know these all important facts at the end of Year 12 and continue to remember and use them in their later life?

I must admit the scope and sequences look very impressive and the Education departments may like them too. It can reassure us, as parents that our children must be learning a lot, learning what they should be at the right age. However, in the scope of an entire lifetime, what does it all really mean? Does this scope of study necessarily mean the child has a desire to know more or does it assist in creating a curiosity about things or does it simply help the student to pass the next exam?

I would encourage all new homeschool mums to take upon a theme and linger over it for a period of time. Your child and you will be learning much, much more than just one subject. You could use a scope and sequence chart to check off all the areas that you have studied but the ticks may not be nice and neat straight down the page. They will be all over the place, from Kindergarten to Yr 12. Have a really good look at a scope and sequence of a science or history program. How many times are the topics repeated? They are, supposedly, building concept upon concept but they are designed for a school system, not a homeschool system.

In all this, I’m not saying that you must ignore your state requirements or authorities. If, for example, your state requires that your student must study astronomy in grade 5, then go ahead, by all means and study astronomy along with the whole family! In a unit approach your families learning can become a way of life! It can assist in building curiosity and independent thinking in the children (and maybe even yourself). Learning can become more meaningful. No longer need the children cry “Oh, what does this have to do with me? Why do I need to learn this?” Most importantly, you can all learn together. Your child will learn more about true education by watching you, than sitting through a hundred dry texts.

In the next post, I will continue my thoughts and look at how we can practically go about using unit studies in the homeschool.

Part One | Go to Part Two

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