Our neighbors have five kids. At one point, they homeschooled all five; each child having completely separate curriculum. I learned a lot from our afternoons together. One basic lesson l learned, was having five kids took a lot of work. I could bounce around like a ping-pong ball all day or find a better way to make this happen.
While there are some areas of learning which require individual study, mainly grammar and arithmetic, there are just as many (if not more) we can do together. Bible, history, science, geography, economics, music, and Spanish are all areas of learning we not only do as a group, but have more fun doing so. Thus, we spend the bulk of our day learning together.
Our day always starts off with Bible time. Then each of our children begins grammar and arithmetic, working at their own pace. Once everyone is done, we take a break. As a group, we come together to finish off with history and science. After lunch, the kids are free to work on their electives together or individually, whichever they prefer that day.
But wait a minute! How can all four of our kids, who happen to all be two years apart in age, all learn the same material when they aren’t the in same grade? Good question; I’m glad you asked! Here are several thoughts to consider:
Grade, Smade – Exactly who determines what gets taught at each ‘grade level’? Why can’t a five-year old learn biology and a fifteen year old study life science? What’s important isn’t the ‘grade’ your child is in, but that the material being covered is done thoroughly and in such a way that your child understands. I would also encourage us to challenge our children in their learning. This might mean a higher level for our younger kids and a more basic for our older; each child should be taught at their level, not their ‘grade’.
Middle Ground – To help all our children follow the lessons (meaning the littles aren’t overwhelmed and the older ones aren’t bored), we try to reach for the middle. By teaching to the average, the littles are slightly challenged, but not lost in the mix. This also allows for the older children to participate in the bulk of our group activities, while additional assignments and projects are given to increase their learning in this area. (e.g. Let’s suppose we are studying the Civil War. The material covered is understandable by all, with just enough vocabulary to challenge the littles and encourage them to learn more. The older ones are prompted to assist with doing the reading for us, keeping them involved. We have a roundtable discussion of the lesson, answering questions as we go. Once the reading is done, the littles will work with mom on a project based on our reading while the older two work independently on assigned projects based on the same topic. We learned together and yet tailored the material to meet each person’s needs.)
What, Again? – Once you’ve been homeschooling a while, you start to notice something. History repeats itself; so does science, literature, grammar, and almost everything else. Think of it this way. You cover certain aspects of science in first grade, right? Guess what? You’re going to cover them again in second, with a little more added. Oh, and you’ll do it again in third, then fourth, and yet again in fifth. Stress less about skipping a ‘grade’ with your kids, missing out on material, and just focus on them learning the concepts you’re teaching now. Odds are, whatever you didn’t get this year is going to be covered again next, and the year after that.
What about high school, you ask? I don’t imagine we’ll change much. There is no reason our eight year old can’t learn a little biology along with our big girl. He might not participate in all activities, but he’ll have projects of his own. Our big girl might have a few additional projects tailored just for her, but this will teach her to work independently. There is no reason the bulk of our studies can’t still be enjoyed as a group, it just takes a little imagination and dedication. In the long run, it’s still less work and more financially feasible.
Do I still have days when I feel like a ping-pong ball? Oh, yeah! That’s bound to happen when you have four kids, homeschool, run a business, and a household. However, we like to keep the bouncing to a minimum and do as much as we can together. It’s less work for mommy and, frankly, it’s just plain fun!
Time to Chime In: I used ping-pong as an illustration of what my day can sometimes feel like. If you had to compare your day with a game, which would it be?