Today's post is an awesome guest post from Janeen from Sprouting Tadpoles.
Our homeschooling journey started five years ago when we had only three kids and lived in a large, comfortable home. Now, we are in our 5th year homeschooling, with my daughter being a senior, one son in 7th grade, onein 5th grade and one starting Pre-k. I also have a 2yr old running around and we have moved to a much smaller home. Over the years and through our life changes, I have learned some tips, trick
s and shortcuts for homeschooling multiple ages within a large family. I am sharing with you what has worked for our family in hopes that it may help your family. God has really worked on my heart over the last few years about what is important in life. I think I have come a long way, but I am forever a child of God and constantly learning from Him.
1) Color Coding – I color code my kids. (Their school subjects, not them individually, but I probably would if I could). Each child has a different color and everything associated with that child is that specific color. Their book bins, folders, binders, pencil boxes, supply boxes, composition books, spiral notebooks, basically anything that I can color coordinate. They know their color and it keeps them organized and on task. Instead of wasting time looking for a misplaced folder, it can be quickly found because they look for their color. Folders don't get mixed up between the kids and I instantly know whose stuff I am looking at without searching for a name. My daughter is black, 1 son blue, 1 son green, 1 son purple, 1 son yellow. Simple and easy and I don't change their colorseach year, it stays the same. Consistency.
2) Routine – We have a routine instead of a schedule. We don't do schedules, it just doesn't fit our family and my Type A personality can't handle it. A routine means that we do the same things each day, in the same order, but not necessarily at the same clock time. A schedule sets a time clock for everything and some days we may sleep late or have a doctor's appointment or music lessons and on these days, we still follow our routine, but at a different time. For example, we normally get up around 8 or 9am, eat breakfast and read the bible, then do morning chores. Next we start school, completing grammar, math, Latin, and memory work before breaking for lunch. After lunch we work on history, science, geography, arts and writing before breaking again at 3pm for quiet time. We do chores at 5pm, eat dinner about 6:30pm then bedtime starts at 9pm. So if there are days that we sleep in and don't start school until 11ish, we still follow this order and they catch up their work during quiet time. The kids know this routine and just instinctively follow it.
3) School Subjects are numbered – I number all of our subjects in the order of completion. Its like having workboxes numbered 1-13, but using pocket folders instead of boxes. Each kid has a chart that tells them which subjects to do each day and inside each subject folder, I place a check list or assignment sheet. They have become familiar with the numbers corresponding to each subject and it makes it easier for them to locate their work.
4) Morning Review Time – each child has a Review Binder and inside I have tabs for each subject. In this binder I keep copies of their work schedule for the week, their Review Cards, spelling lists, memory work, grades, projects, history & science accountability questions, reading log and writing assignments. We sit down every morning and I go through each tab briefly with them. I keep this meeting to 15 minutes or less and only touch on areas they are having problems with. This helps me to stay on top of what they are doing and catch problems before they become bigger. It also keeps them accountable for completing their work each day.
5) Work as a Team – this is my ideal day, when the older kids help out with the younger ones. Sometimes they are happy to do it and other times, it just doesn't happen. My two older kids have such a demanding schedule, that it is hard for them to find time to work with the little ones. If they are caught up or just need a break, then they will sit with them and read or just play. My 10-year-old really enjoys playing with them and reading to them so he will often keep them occupied while I work with the older two.
6) Planning Ahead – this is my biggest task, planning out each kids school year. I try to plan out a semester at a time and get all of my copying done, all of the schedules coordinated and all binders and folders prepared. I have a crate that contains files for weeks 1 – 32 and I place all copies for each week in these folders. On Sunday night, I pull out the weeks files and put in their proper folders.
7) Group Subjects – We do history, bible, science, geography, memory work, Latin and fine arts together as a group. This means that I only have to schedule time separately for math, grammar, spelling and writing.
We are using Tapestry of Grace this year for the first time and so far, I am loving it. Everyone will be on the same topic each day, even my 4yr old will join us. This gives us more opportunity for fun games, friendly competitions, more detailed projects and better discussions.
8) Entertaining the little ones – Keeping my 2 little ones entertained is key to a quiet, calm home. It is almost impossible to teach Pre-Algebra with a toddler running through the house screaming. So my answer to this?
Busy Bags, manipulative's, games and art supplies. I have two crates full of busy bags that my little ones can pull out and play with. I keep tons of toy animals, trains, cars, Lego's, building blocks, coloring books and paper, washable markers and crayons, and books that are easily accessible to them. They can play with these toys, watch TV or play on the computer.
We don't have it together every day and most days are chaotic and messy but I really enjoy being with my kids and love the flexibility of homeschooling. I hope these tips will help someone as much as they have come to help my family.
I'm Janeen, a Christian homeschooling mom to 5 blessings from God. I am passionate about history and I love to plan and organize! We have been homeschooling for 5 years and will start a new journey this year using Tapestry of Grace. You can read more about our busy lives at Sprouting Tadpoles where I write about homeschooling, Tapestry of Grace, history, toddlers and much more. You can also connect with me on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.