This week’s Blog Cruise question is, “How do you handle multiple ages?”
Although I’m still looking for the perfect answer to that question, here’s what I’ve learned so far with our five children.
Choose your curriculum carefully. There are wonderful programs, such as Ambleside Online, that take a lot of a mother’s time. Even though I love Ambleside Online and dip into it regularly, for most of our schooling we use material which doesn’t require me to read huge amounts every week. That means a slight drop in the quality of learning, but as my husband says,
If you try to do any one thing perfectly, you’ll get nothing else done.
I’ve got to be balanced, and our family life cannot be just about academics. That’s one of the reasons we spend time outside and do picture study, nature study, composer study, skills and crafts, and read alouds. And, of course, these are all a big part of Ambleside Online and the Charlotte Mason philosophy. (Grin. I can’t seem to get away from that.)
Combine subjects if possible. In the past we’ve done that more than we do now, and it can be a life-saver. Now our children are old enough to do a lot of independent study instead.
A responsible use of independent study is possible only if we choose our curriculum carefully. We need high quality learning material that is easy for the child to use as well as for me to keep track of. In some subjects, this means following a curriculum series; in others it means reading online books and using the library extensively, including interlibrary loans.
Of course, if a child cannot work diligently or read well, independent study is a bit more problematic. It is crucial to build a good foundation, both in reading and in other work. I’ve also found that different children develop these abilities at different ages.
When they were really young, our children wanted to help me with all my work. Following the advice of older and wiser people, we encouraged that, and they learned a lot of simple skills, as well as how to work. In the long run, chores are an excellent method to teach and enforce a Christian approach to work. Children’s chores also allow me time to manage the children’s schoolwork. Chores make homeschooling possible in our home.
Our children are also learning to help each other, to be flexible, to accomodate each other, and to accept each other. This daily practice in living closely with other people in a loving way is one of the prime benefits of homeschooling. It’s also one of the main challenges. Handling this issue well is fundamental to success in homeschooling multiple ages.
Discipline is crucial, both for me and for the children. I need to decide who should be doing what when, and I need to enforce that. Some families keep detailed daily schedules, but that does not work for us at all. Instead, we have weekly checklists for all important tasks and activities. If I discipline myself to keep us all on track, the schooling works well. If I don’t discipline myself to do this, the children also slack off, and we end up with a bad week, undone work, ‘homework’, and sadness.
I need to realize that each child will have a different educational experience and that that is OK. God is in charge of our children’s lives and will ensure that all works out for their good. As long as we do the best we can for our children each year and each day, we do not have to feel guilty about differences in their education due to circumstances. That is outside of our control, but it is in God’s control.
Even though we’ve learned a lot about homeschooling our five children, this is an area in which I still struggle. Part of that is due to our sinful nature, of course. By nature, neither my children nor I want to do the things we should. Even so, I’m hoping to find one or two suggestions in this week’s Blog Cruise to streamline our lives and make it just a bit easier to homeschool our handful.