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 that 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. For our family, the best method of tackling the concern of teaching four kids is to do as much as possible together, as a group. If we can learn something as a family, that is what we do.
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, and logic 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.
How can all four of our kids, who happen to all be two years apart in age, learn the same material when they aren’t the in same grade? Good question!
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’ our child is in, but that the material being covered is done thoroughly and in such a way our 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 (the littles not being overwhelmed and the older ones 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.
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. We cover certain aspects of science in first grade, right? Guess what. We covered them again in second, with a little more added. Oh, and we did it again in third, then fourth, and yet again in fifth. Perhaps we should stress less about skipping a ‘grade’ with our kids, missing out on material, and just focus on them learning the concepts we’re teaching now. Odds are, whatever we didn’t get this year is going to be covered again next, and the year after that.
What about high school? Not much has changed. 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? Absolutely! 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!
Your Turn!: 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?