Q: Multi-level teaching – how do you homeschool when you have kids of different ages?


I have two kids that span 3 grades (generally speaking). I’ve listed some things that come to mind when teaching two levels. We homeschool exclusively, full time so your plan will vary. Make your time and curriculum fit you and your family’s needs. Don’t try to conform to anyone else’s, these are your children, teach them in the way you see fit. These are just some suggestions. Hope they help.

We do a few subjects together such as history. I do read aloud books where I read to them from a moderately difficult history book (We’re reading “Why America is Free” recommended by Home School Legal Defense from the US). I read a chapter at a time then I have the kids narrate it back to me. So I might read a section, find a natural break, then ask them something like, “So, what were the people who supported the king called? Why do you think they still supported him?” The first question going to the 3rd grader and the second going to the 7th grader. My 3rd grader is also reading on her own simple biographies about the people who signed the declaration on independence (She’s into John Hancock right now) and my older one is memorizing the Gettysburg address and researching it. The time we spend together is time where we study something like this, then they get their separate assignments to work on or read. For variety, I also use videos, computer games and internet websites. My kids get along very well together but I’m afraid their levels are too far apart to have them do games together.

Since you are supplementing I would suggest keeping it light. Read-a-loud books, videos, books they can read themselves (interesting, easy
biographies, not heavy text books), go easy on reports or heavy worksheets as I think they get those a lot in school. Games are good, field trips, and some educational TV programs can help, too. You can use texts and worksheets for a guide for you but you don’t have to use them or do every page. Don’t discount the learning that is going on when they are not in a text or workbook. I use both but find that balance accomplishes a whole lot of learning. The point is that they learn the material not that they fill in every blank or do every problem.

At the grocery store, math abounds. Send the older one off to buy 250 yen worth of produce and the younger one can help you decide which bread to buy, the 4 slice at 120 yen or the 6 slice at 140 yen. You’ll teach not only number value sense but number life sense. Your answer to the bread question will depend on your use for the bread, how much money you have to spend and your taste for that bread, not just how much does it cost. Make sense?

Science museums and zoos are other great places to learn with multi levels. For each animal, ask the younger one which continent the animal is from while the older one has to tell you why that animal is endangered. Ask the younger one why the lion can’t be in with the giraffes, they both live in the savannah. The older one (if they can read Japanese so much the better-there are always informational signs and plaques at zoos) can be asked about something that they have to read about on one of the plaques, why is this animal in this zoo, why is the panda always sleeping, why aren’t their any boy elephants in zoos? They can both be assigned to ask one question on each field trip to one of the staff. Maybe something simple for the younger one, what is that elephant’s name, and more difficult for the older one, how do you know if the elephant has trouble with its teeth. Let them come up with the question (they’ll probably already have one) and direct them to the staff.

At first it seems hard but you get the hang of it. Ask them to tell you the answers in proper, complete sentences and you have English class as well.
🙂 I don’t think you need to test them or drill them every day to see if they understand, just ask. In real life, we speak. In our jobs, if our boss
asks us something we speak and write. As time goes on you can add for them to write about their adventure at the zoo, or they can write about what you just read or what they read.

If they need separate assignments then I do it at separate times when I can give them my attention. So, my older one needs help with his algebra, while I do this I may have my younger one work on her computer doing her math CD (which she likes and could spend hours doing- giving me more than my allotted 15 minutes if the older gets stuck). Then, once the older one is working on his own, I can focus on the younger one. They learn to do something else if they get stuck and I’m not available. If I’m folding clothes I may have them bring their book to me to go over while I’m folding.
Don’t try to do one on one with both at the same time. Sounds like a simple thing but it took me a while to figure that out. I can’t start a new section with new material with both kids on different subjects, different levels at the same time. Stagger new material for those subjects/times/texts you just can join together. Start on Monday with that new chapter/book with one child, and Tuesday start the new “lots of Mom time” chapter/book with the other child after getting the first child started on the material you started the day before. Or stagger days for the one on one stuff. Monday is one child’s writing time and Tuesday is the other child’s phonics time.

If you have say a reader and a non-reader, have the reader read to the younger one. Great for all involved! Older one gets practice reading out
loud, the younger one gets to hear the words and information, mom/dad get a minute to finish the other thing they are doing. Very win/win/win. I encourage my older one to help the younger one if she gets stuck, too.

Whew. Lots of things to try. Find things that work for you. Also, what works today may change tomorrow. Go with it. Be flexible to change as your child grows and learns and as your grow and learn. Cheryl and Jodie had some great ideas, too. I’ll second what they wrote, too.

Good luck! L.

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