If you haven’t read Part 1 of this article, start here. If you have, here are six more tips for how I homeschool multiple grades part 2!
How I Homeschool Multiple Grades Part 2:
1.Have Contingency Plans
Even the best laid plans often go awry. You can have the prettiest planner with the perfect time table that should be fool proof every time. But life, especially with a big family, doesn’t always run so smoothly.
The one thing you can count on is the need to adapt and change plans. Don’t hold any plans so tightly that the need for home is overruled by the push for school. It helps to have a contingency plan in your back pocket for days you’re dealing with illness, teething babies, out of town visitors, or wacky work schedules.
You get the idea.
Think of it like having substitute teacher plans. If it’s one of those days, have a plan for what you will do. In a non-emergency off-day situation, it’s usually better to keep some sense of order rather than let everyone have a free for all. How specific you get with your plans is largely up to you and your personality or preference.
You could could call for a drop-everything-and-read (D.E.A.R) day. Have everyone grab a favorite book they’re working through and focus on that for the day. You could have a nature documentary day. Pop some popcorn and have an educational show watching marathon. You could set your kids up with a project challenge. They can collaborate on a poster or diorama on a topic you’ve been working on using only the supplies you have on hand. You could allow extra time on educational apps or online learning games.
It really doesn’t matter so much what the plan is as long as it’s helpful to your personal situation.
2.Keep Supplies Organized
This is absolutely crucial to keeping things running smoothly. There is nothing more frustrating than spending half of your homeschool day wandering around hunting for things like pencils, erasers, rulers, and workbooks. When things get like this, and they will at some point, don’t be afraid to take a day off and regroup. Declutter all the papers, gather up scattered supplies, and start fresh. It makes a world of difference to plan these reset type of days into your schedule.
It doesn’t really matter how you choose to organize your supplies.
Just make sure everyone is on the same page. Do your kids know what they can use freely and what they need permission to use? Does everyone know which supplies get stored where when they’re finished using them? Are they responsible for keeping their own supplies or is there a central location?
Here are some organizational ideas for you to browse and get started.
While I believe it’s wise to limit screen time to some degree, I also believe technology can be a powerful learning tool. Don’t be afraid to use technology to enhance your homeschool.
There is a lot of potential to support independent learning with online resources. This can be one way you can rotate through one on one time with each kid and still know others are using time productively. Make sure they know what sites and resources are approved by you. There are games for learning to read, math tutorials and games, music and art tutorials on YouTube, audio books, typing games, foreign language programs. Chances are, if you can think of it there is a resource out there waiting to be discovered.
Technology can also be useful for teaching large groups together. Smart T.V.s with internet access or laptops that can plug into your T.V. make it possible to share website content and online videos. This is so much nicer than trying to gather everyone around one tablet, laptop, or computer monitor. I use this every single day in my homeschool.
We also have Amazon Alexas that we use daily. They are convenient for listening to music playlists (like folk songs and famous composers), playing audio books, learning how to spell (Don’t know how to spell a word? Just ask Alexa.), and setting timers for individual tasks.
There is no way around it. The daily tasks of dishes, laundry, cooking, and tidying up will still be on your to do list. Your standards of what is “good enough” may change once you start homeschooling or add more kids. And that’s o.k.! Although homeschooling is a wonderful lifestyle choice, it is also a lot of extra responsibility.
For the most part, I find homeschooling to be a welcome reprieve from the monotony of housework.
But at the end of the day, those chores are still there.
Make sure your children know that their help with these things is a valuable contribution to the family. There’s nothing wrong with assigning little chores to be done in between school assignments or at regular intervals during the day.
If this is too distracting, you can also just wait until the end of the school day and have a block of time dedicated to working on chores together. This time can be made more pleasant by cranking up a favorite music playlist or playing an audio book while everyone works.
We usually use a combination of the two approaches: smaller chores throughout the day and a block of time later. Jobs done by kids may not always be up to your personal standard of “done.” But kids can be guided a little at a time, and with practice and maturity they will become more and more helpful.
Feeding a large family is a full-time job in itself, especially when everyone is home all day long. But feeding a large family and homeschooling takes even more planning and simplifying.
I have to admit, my kids end up eating cold cereal for breakfast way more often than I’m comfortable with. But there are times and seasons where something has to give, and breakfast is usually that thing for me.
Homeschoolers are always joking about how their kids eat like hobbits: breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses. You get the picture. But it’s only funny because it’s true!
Having plenty of healthy snacking options available is a necessity.
Kids are naturally wired to require snacks throughout the day. Having a plan in place for those to happen when needed is a life saver. You can either have set times when everyone gets together for a scheduled snack, or a set of grab and go options that your kids are free to take when hungry. However you make it happen, know that you will be staving off meltdowns, whining, and lack of focus by making sure everyone is well fuled.
I try to keep meals as simplified as possible.
For breakfast, we might have things like eggs, toast, fruit and yogurt, oatmeal, or made ahead muffins. Here’s a link with more ideas.
For lunches, we might have options like finger foods (think meat, cheese, crackers, fruits & veggies), sandwiches, quesadillas, leftovers, or kid food like mac & cheese or chicken nuggets (yep, I said it). This link has more helpful lunch ideas.
For dinners I like to make lots of simple one pot meals, like soups, skillet dinners, and sheet pan dinners, or instant pot recipes. The fewer dishes, the better. It’s especially nice that I have some older kids who are more than capable of helping out with getting meals prepared and washing dishes now. But if your kids are still in the little stage (or any stage really–ha), there’s nothing wrong with purposefully planning leftover nights, a convenience food night, or a night for “whatevs” (as we like to call it).
6.Consistency is Key
It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed with everything involved in homeschooling your kids. Many homeschooling parents start off with heavy feelings of inadequacy or the nagging idea that they’re not doing enough.
This is the last and most important thing I want you to take away from this article!
Listen closely, now. If you are reading this article and you are worried that you aren’t doing enough, you are! People who are not doing enough to support their children in their education DO NOT WORRY ABOUT IT. That’s not to say that if you aren’t worried you should be (ha ha). But if you are weighed down with feeling like you aren’t doing enough, let it go. Because people that care enough to invest all of this time and energy into their kids’ education are doing enough.
In fact, it’s more likely that you feel like you’re not doing enough simply because you’re trying to do too much. I’m here to tell you that being consistent with the little day to day things is the best way to ensure you’re doing enough.
Consistency is key. It is better to show up day after day in the small intentional practices than to pile on more subjects, more crafts, more activities, and more requirements. More does not always equal more. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes more will make your kids feel like they are trying to drink from a fire hose. Instead of having their thirst for knowledge quenched, they’re just going to be knocked on their butts. A slow and steady stream is much more effective in the long run.
Just keep showing up day after day. Love your kids, and the rest will follow.
Thanks for listening, friend.
Learn about what a heart-based homeschool can look like in your home by reading more here.