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Friday, October 12, 2012

It is possible! {homeschooling multi-grade levels}

“I just don’t see how you homeschool five kids especially with one in high school.  It’s impossible.”

I hear this often.  People just don’t understand how we do what we do.  Often I just mumble some quick response and change the subject.  Maybe I’m just too lazy to explain the logistics and planning that goes into teaching five kids or maybe I’m afraid that I’ll get that glazed over look because they probably really don’t want to hear how we actually do it. 

But I always want to say to them:

It is possible!

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We are a homeschooling family with five kids and we teach all five.  Our youngest is K4 and our oldest is a 9th grader.  The three in between are 1st, 4th, and 7th grades.

As I was thinking on a recent conversation with a dear (non-homeschooling) friend who expressed her thinking on the impossibility of homeschooling multi-grade levels, I was thinking about how I should have responded to her.  How could I simply explain to others that because something is hard or unknown does not mean that it is impossible to do?

What came to my mind were my years as a special education teacher.  You see, I am a certified elementary and special education teacher.  When I finished college, I spent the first two years of my teaching career inside a special education classroom.  My first class had 10 +/- (enrollment changed often) students in it.  All of those students had an individualized education plan.  That means that every child in my class was taught on his or her own level and according to a plan that was written for that child.  No two children in my class had the same plan. 

That sounds very much like our home school

And I realized that I incorporate some of the very same procedures in our home school that I did in that classroom.  Here’s what we do to make teaching five grade levels possible:

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Memory work that we work on as a group and independent work for the morning

 

  • Combine the subjects that we can combine

Some subjects can be combined.  For my homeschoolers, this means subjects like Bible, history, science, art, music, and latin/greek roots.  We can even do memory work together by learning the definitions of the parts of speech or math facts in a group setting.  These are things that everyone needs to know.

How do I make these subjects challenging for the older kids?  They are required to do more outside reading from encyclopedias and other books.  They also have to write more reports and narrations about the subjects we are studying.

August 24, 2012 006 Algebra instruction on the computer

  • Have older students complete work independently

Once a child learns to read, there is so much that they can do independently.  Our son in high school spends much of the morning on independent work – some of it reading & writing and some of it on the computer.  I often meet with him later in the day (and sometimes first thing) to get in one-on-one time with him.

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  • Older students can help younger students

In my classroom, I had a fulltime paraprofessional to help tutor anyone while I was teaching others.  Now, my older children can help out a sibling who is needing a little extra help. 

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  • Have younger students work on learning activities when the older ones are being taught

Since my younger children can not work as independently as the older ones, I try to make sure there are fun learning activities around that they complete independently.  Some of the activities that we have used are on my Pinterest home school pages.  We also love learning websites like Starfall.  And preschool activity bags are lifesavers too!

October 9, 2012 019Our morning schedule:  pink is computer learning, orange is independent, green is with mom, and yellow is snack or break time  

  • Follow a schedule

Possibly the best way we are able to complete five grades of work each day is we follow a schedule.  We don’t really pay much attention the actual times on the schedule.  But we do follow the order of the schedule.  This way the kids know who is being taught when and what to do if I’m not teaching them.  It is also helpful for me to keep on top of who I need to teach and who has been taught. 

It really is possible to teach multi-grade levels.  Yes, some days it is kind of crazy…and loud…and crazy…but it is possible.  And they learn.  They really do learn.  It just takes a little creativity and work.  And prayers…{smile}

If you teach multi-grade levels in your home school, what are some things you do to make it go more smoothly?  Please share some of your tips!

 

 

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