For parents with multiple children in different grades, all learning at home, the school day can seem overwhelming at times. One minute you’re practicing the alphabet with a preschooler, the next, you’re soothing a baby and looking over a grammar lesson, all while trying to help the high schooler with their tricky math problem.
Luckily, with some planning, patience, and flexibility, it is possible to teach two, three, or more children at home. Whether you’re homeschooling independently, or you are a “Learning Coach” in an online school, these tips can help you plan and manage your school day. In fact, you may find that there are some real benefits to having multiple students at home.
Advantages of homeschooling multiple ages
When kids of various ages are learning together at home, there are plenty of opportunities for them to practice working together and independently. Kids learn to support one another, and to share the parent or Learning Coach’s time and attention.
Similarly, there are opportunities for older children to help younger ones, whether by playing an educational game together, reading with them, or assisting with the occasional lesson. When older children help younger ones learn, they deepen their own understanding of important concepts, and share a fun and educational bonding experience.
Toddlers and preschoolers can often listen in on lessons and learn in this way. Even if they’re not old enough to begin school, little ones can observe or participate in science experiments, or join in during reading time. Children who have grown up watching their siblings learning at home are often eager to finally start school themselves, having observed the learning process on a daily basis. And when they’re old enough, preschool-aged kids can join in the fun and learning by playing educational games and activities or beginning preschool at home.
Strategies for teaching multiple children at home
Along with the benefits of homeschooling multiple ages, there are some potential challenges to be aware of.
Careful planning is needed to juggle multiple students’ daily lesson plans, or supervise a young child and teach an older one. It’s important to allow more planning time and know in advance what is required for a lesson; which lessons are independent, which are guided, and which might require extra time or materials. If there are more students than computers, parents need to consider how to schedule online and offline time for each student and keep track of when online class sessions take place.
More students means more materials and more work spaces. While it’s not necessary to have a whole room dedicated to school, it is a good idea to set aside some space just for learning, even if it’s just an unused corner. Keep all materials, books, and supplies together, organized by grade, and easily accessible to students. Set aside some space where kids can work independently and free from distractions. Even a quiet nook for independent reading can be great for giving kids some space. Visit the K12 Pinterest boards dedicated to Organization and Home Learning Spaces where there are many ideas for storing materials and setting up study areas.
If there are infants, toddlers, or preschoolers in the house, parents need to make sure that their needs are met, too. Set up activities beforehand and make sure kids know what they should be doing when you’re focused on another student. Kids shouldn’t just “disappear” when the parent or Learning Coach’s attention isn’t on them. Make a list of lessons and activities that students can complete independently. Parents might also consider putting together a box with worksheets, coloring pages, flash cards, spelling word lists, and educational games that kids can access when they need to work independently, or have finished a lesson and have “nothing to do.” This is a good educational alternative to disappearing or turning on the TV.
Learning doesn’t need to happen only in a classroom with kids the same age and grade level. Learning at home alongside siblings of different ages can be a fun and rewarding experience for the whole family.
Whether homeschooling one or multiple children, sometimes finding the best courses can be a challenge. K12 offers more than 250 online homeschool courses for pre-kindergarten through high school. And many parents also choose the public school at home option, which provides state-certified public school teachers while a parent serves as the student’s Learning Coach.
Homeschool moms and Learning Coaches, we would love to hear your experience with schooling multiple children at home:
- What are your best strategies for working with several students?
- What advantages or challenges would you add to this list?