Right up there with the socialization question, is the question “how do you handle teaching multiple ages/grades at the same time. I will not lie to you, it is not easy and it takes a little extra work and a lot of organization.
In my case I have a little bit of experience with the idea of having to come up with activities or adjust activities to make it age appropriate for more than one age group or skill level. Being a licensed in-home childcare provider means that at some point I may or I have had children whose ages ranged from 6 weeks to 12 years old. I personally focus my services at the 5 years and younger groups because that is what I have the most experience with and works best in our home. I don’t have a lot of room for older children to run around, but I have worked as classroom aide and substitute teacher for several different grade levels in public school. So, this idea is not foreign to me at all.
One thing to remember is that if all goes well, as the kids get older they can and most likely will work more independently. This will help by allowing you to work with the younger ones as they learn to read, write, the other basics that build those foundations for later. Another thing to remember is that it is possible and there is no one right way to do it.
Some people like the family to sit together at a table and work as a group. Addressing each child’s needs one at time. Others might work out a daily schedule with specific times set up for each child or each subject. For example, they may work with a middle school aged child in the morning and an elementary school aged child in the afternoon. When doing it by subject they might choose to do history as a group in the morning and then literature in the afternoon and so on. As I said, there is no one way to do this. Every family has to figure out what works best for them. Even within your own family, you may have to make some adjustments for each child.
My son is doing 6th grade work. He works very independently, so the night before I usually print out anything that he will need for the next day’s lessons. I make sure that all the books and materials he will need are on his bookshelf so he will be able to find them easily. He is able to come to me when he has any questions. If he needs more one-on-one instruction on something he does not understand, then we put it aside till later. Later that day, when the little ones are napping or after his Dad gets home, one of us will sit down and work with him more in-depth.
My daughter is doing PreK level work. Her lessons take maybe 30-60 minutes if we just sit down and do them. Sometimes we do just whip right through one or two of the lessons, other days, if all is going well, we can spend the entire nap time doing a lesson that we are really enjoying. She happens to be very easy going and relatively patient for a 5 year old, so we also include the daycare kids in any aspect of her lessons that is age appropriate for them. If I am able to, I make something that goes along with her lesson for them to do with us.
Personally, I find that for smaller children, the best way to keep everyone happy is to include them! Older kids like to help teach the little ones and the little ones feel like “big kids” when included in things they do not normally get to do! This works things like chores as well. If the older ones keep a good attitude and let the younger ones help them out, then the younger ones do not seem to be as annoyed at the concept of having chores to do. Plus it also helps the older ones to learn how to properly deal with young children in all sorts of situations and environments which helps them be better parents when they grow up.
I am from a very large family and the oldest girl. So I had a lot of chores around the house and spent a lot of time babysitting and caring for my younger siblings. Depending on what time frame of my life I am looking at, that meant I was in charge of kids that were anywhere from two years younger than me to thirteen years younger than me. There were times I resented it back then, but I realize now that I am pretty well equipped to deal with my own kids. We may have some issues when they are teenagers, but until then I feel I have some very good experience to draw from.
The key to all of this is communication within your family. Everyone needs to be on the same page and know what the game plan is. You and your spouse/partner should sit down and figure out what your goals for educating your children. Then figure out a rough schedule or plan for how you want to accomplish those goals. Next sit down as a family and share this plan with your children and ask for their input on anything goals they may have and how they think those goals should be accomplished. Finally, make a list of expectations. This way everyone knows what they are expected to do and how it should be done.
Something else to consider is a reward or what will happen when a goal is met. Whether it be getting a new toy, book, game or going to special place or a special activity. The sky truly is the limit. Homeschooling can be a very rewarding experience for the entire family, but it is a TEAM effort.