Saturday, February 13, 2010

Homeschooling All These Kids. . . And What About Baby?

How do you handle multiple ages? 

Okay, so I have seven kids.  I have homeschooled them all since the beginning.  I guess that means that I can handle multiple ages.  And if I can, so can you  Because believe me, I am not Super Homeschool Mom.  I'll admit, it's not always easy.  Seven different grades was tougher than I imagined and I can look back and see many areas where I could have done better.  But I can also see many areas where I can say, "Yeah, that worked pretty well." 

Unit studies is a key for our family in homeschooling a diverse age group.  With unit studies, you take a topic and dig in, branching out into various subjects that connect as a whole.  The whole family can study the same thing together, working individually only in those subjects that demand it (such as math and reading skills).  We typically would base these in history, following a chronological method of study.  Sometimes we would choose by topics of interest to the kids, sometimes I would decide to alternate history and science.  At times I would put these together myself (Valerie Bendt books are a great help in this!), but we've also used Weaver, Sonlight, Learning Adventures, Night Owl Creations, Live and Learn Press, Greenleaf Guides, Christian Cottage Studies and Truthquest.  I'm not very good at sticking to someone else's plan and always ended up tweaking these to suit our family.  Having a jumping off point is always a plus though (And the Truthquest Guides are now must haves for us).  We have kept the kids together for unit studies as long as possible, depending on the student.  As they get into high school, they tend to want to work more independently but I miss their interaction and try to keep them involved with at least read alouds, even history when I can.

Unit studies are great, but how do we handle different levels of math and reading skills?  This was a tough one for awhile.  I found myself frequently trading in math and reading programs, as each year presented new challenges in juggling it all.  For us, the answer has been found in making good use of the computer.  Teaching Textbooks teaches and grades right on the computer for grades 4-7.  This has been a lifesaver for me!  I consistently failed at checking math papers in a timely fashion.  I hate math and the last thing I want to do in my "free time" is grade icky old math papers.  It was also a struggle to be enthusiastic in teaching it.  Now the software does it for me, he teaches and lectures right on the computer, they input their work and voila- I just have to glance at the gradebook to see how they are doing.  We have also made use of Videotext Algebra in the past, Key to Algebra for my math phobic girl,and the Professor in a Box Accounting Course.  We did the same thing for phonics skills with my youngest two.  Click and Read and Explode the Code Online have allowed them to work independently, while teaching them the skills they need in this area.  Spending a greater chunk of my budgeted homeschool money for curriculum that can do that has been a great help in teaching multiple ages (The last two I subscribed to through Homeschool Buyers Co-Op for a great discount!). 

How do you homeschool with a baby or toddler?

This question's a tougher one to answer.  I did it but it's been awhile and I don't really remember specifics, just that it worked.  I remember having a toddler crawling all over me while I read aloud, I remember taking breaks to nurse the baby, I remember the "School Time" tub of toys I hoped they would play with long enough for me to accomplish something.  I know I didn't wait for naptime (I wanted to rest then too!) but somehow we managed to get school done with a baby and/or toddler in the room.  I did make good use of the baby swing, the Sling, and the playpen.  And Goldfish were always a plus.  Otherwise, my memory has failed.  Maybe I've purposely blocked it out.  GRIN.  What I can say in encouragement though is that I managed to graduate my oldest and he had babies and toddlers around the majority of his life.  That season of life will come to a close at some point and you'll be scratching your head, wondering how you possibly managed to do it all and encouraging someone else that, yes, you can homeschool with babies and toddlers.

Just don't ask me how.       

Check out more answers to these questions at the TOS Crew Blog Cruise Hub.  
Links will be posted each Tuesday!

*Disclosure: None of the links above are affiliate links but are merely there for your convenience.  Which is probably really silly of me and someday I should figure out how to do affiliate links so I can supplement my budget!  Heehee. :-D*


Raven said...

Thank you for this post! I have a 3 year-old and a 1 year-old and am struggling with how to make it all work with a 1 year-old (granted, the oldest is only 3, so "it all" isn't that much yet). And thank you for mentioning that you want to rest, too, during nap time. I've read other posts where they say to get the heavy schooling done during nap time, but I need that time to relax and stay sane! ;) Bring on the goldfish...

Loving learning at Home said...

Great post Lori. We love unit studies too. They make teaching multiple ages so much easier.


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