Hello everyone! Today we’ll be looking at how to home educate children of different ages. I’ve included my own insights and Laura McCartney, homeschooling Mum of 4, qualified teacher and founder of Curious Little Monkeys learning group, has also given invaluable advice about how she homeschools four children (currently aged 2-9) as well as working from home.
Many people say that they would like to homeschool but are held by work restrictions. The other articles on working full time and homeschooling as well as the rules on homeschooling on benefits may be helpful to you.
How To Homeschool Kids of Different Ages
Do The Same Thing With All Of Them (& Tweak It)
One of the easiest ways to home educate children of different ages is to do the same activity with all of them, and simply tweak the way you do it with each one to suit their needs and abilities.
For example, let’s say you wanted to study the solar system. You could make a working model of the solar system using play doh/ plasticine. Tiny ones could simply play with the plasticine, KS1 children could make simple models of planets and learn the names of each one, perhaps with a few interesting facts thrown in.
KS2 children could make a model and watch a YouTube video about the solar system and order of the planets, and perhaps do their own gravity experiment. KS3 children could look at the mathematics involved in light years and the physics involved in black holes.
This principle can be applied to anything you do- it makes home educating much easier as you need the same resources for all the children, except perhaps some online videos or books with more info.
Self Led Projects
These are a great way for children to explore a topic they are interested in, in their own way and at their own pace. These are great for older children as they can use any resources they like and can explore an interest in-depth.
Our topic in this week’s timetable is ‘Oceans’- older children could take a good look at pollution and come up with their own method of cleaning the oceans or recycling, for example, or investigate the properties of plastic to see what stops is biodegrading, and come up with alternatives. That is just one example; you can pick absolutely anything (Minecraft; make-up; a country; their favourite animal?) to create a self-led project.
One on One Time
Something we really enjoy is one on one time. It’s a great way to engage with your child doing activities that are completely suited to them and their interests and capabilities. We often do cooking as our one on one time- something simple like Krispie cakes or pancakes with younger children, pasta sauces and simple meals with slightly older kids and so on. With older children we let them get on more independently in the kitchen, they read more of the instructions etc and are more involved in the clean up. Super easy, simple and fun!
Strewing is a homeschool hack that is a total lifesaver for parents home educating more than one child. It takes around 2-3 minutes and requires only the things you have in your house, whatever that may be. In essence it is about creating novelty and an invitation to activity without pressure or expectation. It’s genius and we love it- so much in fact that I wrote a whole article about how to use strewing for homeschooling or boredom busting.
Think Outside The Box
Many activities that don’t appear to be educational at first glance are extremely beneficial and incorporate key skills- flicking through a magazine requires reading and comprehension skills; completing a level on an Xbox game requires reading, fine motor skills, concentration, maths, teamwork and delayed gratification. Following a make-up tutorial requires fine motor skills, following precise instructions and art skills. If your older child or teen is ‘into’ something, there will be key skills and topics that they are learning as they explore it!
Boredom is fine- in fact, it’s good. It can be tempting to think that we need to entertain children 24/7, and if children are used to being directed for most of the day (such as at school) they will probably find it challenging to self-direct for a while. However, strewing is a great way to bridge this gap as you can provide activity ideas without doing all of the mental work for your children. Kids will find things to do eventually and self-directed play is an excellent way to develop social, physical, academic and emotional skills.
Ask The Kids
The best way to assess if your homeschool approach is working is to get feedback from your children! Good questions to ask include “do you feel interested in the things you’re doing at the moment?”, “is there a topic or hobby you’d like to explore that we haven’t yet?”, “do you feel you have enough/ too much free time?” and “do you feel you get enough 1-1 time?”.
Give Children Responsibility
One of the ways we get things done at home is to give children responsibility for household activities- we call it ‘teamwork time’ and while we do housework our kids get involved in whatever they can. They put our pets in their runs and feed them, fold and put away laundry and tidy their rooms as well as tidying the living area each day.
They can run the hoover, help with cooking, empty the stair basket and lay the table for mealtimes. Older children may enjoy making a shopping list with a budget for the week; being in charge of dinner; listening to younger children read or helping them with other projects. Of course what they can do depends on their individual capabilities, but most children can do something.
These are all real-life, practical educational activities that they will end up using every day in adulthood and it is great to equip them when they are young and get them used to it. Pocket money is a great incentive and our kids love doing their ‘jobs’ and feel very proud when they spend it on whatever they like.
Screens Are Your Friend
Look, if you are homeschooling several children of different ages, screens are your friend. Screens are great- we don’t live in an age where the only option is TV and the only thing on TV is cartoons, there is a whole world of amazing content out there. Documentaries, topic based programs, live science experiments and challenging interactive games are all at the tips of your fingertips.
Interestingly, did you know what when books were first printed for mass consumption, people thought that reading was terribly bad for you- they called it ‘reading mania’ and said that it led to forgetfulness, suicide and promiscuity among a number of other traits and behaviours. It seems that we have taken a similar approach to screens, when actually it is the context in which they are used that is the most important thing.
Although they might not overtly appreciate it, family time is really important for all children no matter what their age. Board games, garden activities (archery? planting veggies? quoits? basketball?), cooking and family movies are all great ways to spend time together.
I hope this article on how to homeschool multiple children of different ages was helpful. Please do read more of my home education blog posts.