To be honest…I’ve been dreading this year ever since I started homeschooling over 2 years ago.
I started with just a first grader (pulled her from public school) and my other two girls were too young for a formal curriculum.
They tagged along with field trips, art projects, read aloud, and some science experiments, but that was about it.
As I got my feet wet with homeschooling, I knew that I would eventually go from 1 to 3 students and it would be a huge adjustment.
How was I going to balance all of them, when I already spent hours working with my oldest every day?
Was this going to take all day?
Were they going to learn anything?
Would this be when I threw in the towel and started filling out enrollment papers?
Yeah, I didn’t really know what was going to happen, but I figured I had already figured out how to homeschool one child – why not three?
Well, we are in our 6th week of the year right now and – SPOILER ALERT – we did not crash and burn!
There have been some bumps, and I have learned a lot, but overall we are sailing right along with a solid routine.
10 Tips for Homeschooling Multiple Ages
1. Morning Time
This is new for us this year and I am loving it!
Every morning we all pile into a recliner for morning time.
I read our daily devotional and we pray to start our day. Then each girl picks a library book from their book list (our curriculum provides a weekly recommended booklist to compliment the week’s theme) for me to read aloud.
I love how this sets the tone of the day and brings us together as a little school.
I no longer feel like I am doing one on one tutoring with my oldest while my other kids play around us.
We are really a school!
***As a side note, I decided not to use this time to include other typical morning basket items (history, geography, science, etc.). My younger two do not have the attention span or maturity to stay engaged on those topics yet.
2. Younger Kids Go First
Which brings me to my next point – the younger kids are my first priority! If I lose their attention in a long, drawn-out morning basket time, it will be that much more difficult to reengage them for their own school work.
Several times this year I have made the mistake of trying to squeeze in a lesson with my oldest in the morning. It always turned out to be a bad idea.
My younger two kids were too happy to busy themselves with coloring, dress up, books, and pretend play. When I came to get them to start school, they were engaged in their own activities and did not want to do school.
I have much more success with focusing them on school first thing in the morning and just getting it out of the way while motivation and energy are high.
3. Teach Kindergarten and Preschool Side by Side
I have not been shy about admitting that I do not think you need a formal preschool curriculum. I actually don’t think you need to do any school work with a three year old besides providing lots of independent play and read-aloud books.
You can read more about why I feel that way here – Why I Quit Homeschool Preschool
I do have a very motivated three year old though who wants to do school like her big sisters.
She is doing the exact same work as her Kindergarten sister, but I am adjusting it along the way to match her interest level and abilities.
For example, today they did a math worksheet where the assignment was to write out 1-20. I expect my 5-year-old to be able to do that, but for my preschooler, I made dotted lines for 1-20 and she traced them.
When we are practicing reading, I expect my kindergartener to work on sounding out words. My preschooler just tells me what the letter in the word is and what sound it makes.
When they are working with manipulative blocks, I expect my kindergartner to complete whatever is assigned. My preschooler will just tell me the colors of the blocks, sort them, or play with them.
If at any point my preschooler wants to stop or move onto something else, it’s no big deal.
4. Kindergarten should only last an hour/day
So if you are doing Kindergarten and preschool side by side – then you are really only adding one hour to whatever homeschool schedule you had in place.
That was a huge relief to me!
If you have the time and your kids are motivated with a fun activity – definitely take it longer. But, as a rule try to keep lessons short, high energy, and focused.
In the long run, they will stay more motivated with school if they know it won’t take their entire morning of playtime.
5. Independent Time is a Must for Older Children
While you are enjoying Kindergarten/Preschool fun, your older child should be working on independent lessons you have already laid out.
For my daughter that usually includes: reading, daily chore, math fact practice, occasional copy work, and spelling worksheets.
I have everything listed for her to work on in the morning, and I go over it with her before the day starts. Here is a picture of what our board looks like in the morning:
The subject cards she uses are on the right (kindergarten items are on the left).
I separate out all the subjects she is in charge of completing independently, so it is clear what she needs to do. As she finishes each subject, she turns over the card.
It has worked really well to motivate her, teach responsibility, and keep her on track!
***Be very careful to only assign things your kid can truly do on their own. I tried to have my child do her online math independently, but she kept getting frustrated and needed me to explain things. I realized math was too important to expect a computer to teach everything. When in doubt, teach it yourself.
6. Classical Music in the Background (not what you may think)
It sounds a little cheesy, but I often try to have classical music playing on our Alexa during school time.
Yes, classical music has great benefits for learning, but that wasn’t why I decided to start playing it.
I was hoping for background noise.
Yep, background noise.
When you are homeschooling multiple ages, it can get very distracting when one kid is trying to sound out a word while another kid is trying to think through a math problem.
Or my oldest is trying to read and I’m reading out worksheet instructions and correcting handwriting for my kindergartener.
The classical music provides a nice layer of background noise to help decrease distractions.
7. Take Regular Breaks Together
While you are going from task to task and checking things off your list, it can be very easy to overlook the need for breaks.
Just like morning time bring us together, taking a snack break together, playing a game, or just some sibling play time adds a fun element to the day and a sense of unity.
8. Teach as Much as You Can Together
As I said, I don’t include some topics in our morning time because they are over the heads of my younger girls and I want them to stay engaged.
But, whenever there is a chance to include the younger girls in something I think they would like, I do bring them in.
Sometimes its a fun art project, music that goes with the curriculum, cooking/baking, an exciting read aloud book, cool science experiment, or nature walks.
I sometimes do the opposite and bring my 3rd grader into the kindergarten activities.
She enjoys the silly poems, songs, letter activities, and some of the art projects too!
Besides helping them learn more, I like that it bonds them more as siblings.
9. Roll With It
There are days that are just going to blow up.
Sibling arguments, discipline issues, attitude, sleep issues, frustration over learning new material, sudden urgent errands, and just general grumpy moods can throw a wrench into everything I just told you.
I have learned to be flexible and work with what I’ve got.
If my kindergartener is just not having it, I pull my older child out of independent work and do a lesson with her.
Then I go back to the kindergartener and try to re-engage from a different angle with a different activity.
Sometimes I put all of my energy and focus on my preschooler and that makes my kindergartener want to come back to the table to see what she might be missing.
If my oldest is having an unexpected meltdown about something, I pause her day (she’s not learning anything anyways), and let her calm down. We start school up when she has had time to cool down and recover.
Days like these are when we focus on routine and don’t worry about the clock.
10. Motivation is Everything
I just recently sat through a co-op class with my 3rd grader. The syllabus was being discussed along with a bunch of other beginning of the year details.
I will admit it – I was bored. I imagined that if I was bored, my daughter was asleep with her eyes open.
Guess what? She nearly bounced home and could only talk about that particular class.
Why?? Because the teacher announced she would have an incentive program that involved earning tickets with each paper they wrote. The tickets would be collected before Christmas and could be used in a little store the teacher would set up.
My daughter was so excited to start writing and earn tickets!
I smiled because I know this method just works with kids.
We have used a positive incentive program in our homeschool from the beginning and strongly believe in its effectiveness.
They get so excited to put up a sticker at the end of the day when they have completed their work.
My oldest also earns a dollar a day for school work (because her work includes a chore), and my little ones earn a toy out of a treasure box at the end of the week.
Giving your child something fun to work towards (as opposed to just avoiding punishment for not doing work) is huge!
I go into a lot more detail and offer a free printable sticker chart here – How to Motivate Your Homeschooler
A Day in My Life of Homeschooling Multiple Ages
Want to see what all of that looks like in action? Here is a snapshot of a typical day around here:
I have been an early riser for years now. I enjoy the time to myself to drink coffee, wake up, and get some things done. I try to be ready for the day when my girls get up.
All three girls come downstairs at 7:00am every morning. I usually make them breakfast and we talk about the day ahead.
Depending on their moods, time is spent cuddling on the couch, reading, drawing, or playing.
Sometimes I hang out with them and other times I’m busy with laundry, dishes, or some other household chore.
I pull my 3rd grader over to the classroom board and show her what independent work she needs to complete today.
I show her all the books and papers she will need, and I make sure she understands my expectations.
This is typically when school starts for us. I’m not strict about it – sometimes we start earlier, and sometimes we start later.
We begin with morning time – I read a simple devotional, talk about it a little, and then we pray
Each girl also picks a book from their booklists for me to read.
This meeting adds such a nice piece of structure to the day.
It gets everyone engaged and primed to start the school day.
This is when we break off and go our separate ways – I go with my kindergartener and preschooler to the classroom, and my 3rd grader begins her independent work.
As mentioned above, kindergarten/preschool time is done side by side with the same worksheets and curriculum.
We mainly cover math, reading, writing, a touch of science, art, and music.
Snack time! School tends to make my girls hungry, so they are always excited to throw open the pantry door and grab a snack together.
While the girls eat, I check my 3rd grader’s work and make corrections where needed.
I also try to pick up the house a little. It doesn’t take much for the books, toys, and art supplies to spread to every corner of the house.
My mom always said it’s better to clean as you go, than wait till you’re done. Very true in homeschooling!
With the girls full and the house reset, we are ready to begin my 3rd graders lessons with me.
This year that includes Geography, Science, Spelling, Language Arts, Math, Bible, and Music/Art.
I post the subjects in random order on the board and just let her pick what she wants to do.
While we are working together, the younger girls head off to play together – usually within my line of sight so I can keep an eye (and ear) on them.
Occasionally, I will allow them to play Reading Eggs for 30 minutes each.
This buys me a good amount of uninterrupted time to teach.
Break time! I have put my daughter in charge of calling when she needs a break and I respect how she’s feeling. Sometimes it’s earlier than 11am and sometimes it’s later. It usually depends on the material we’re covering.
Sometimes she’ll play with her sisters and sometimes we’ll do “recess” and go outside to play for 20 minutes or so.
Lunch! Especially if they go outside, the girls need to eat around this time.
After I get them all set with lunch, I often sit by myself in another room to eat.
I need the mental, emotional, and physical break about that time of day to just enjoy eating my food quietly.
My kids are used to it, and I often think of them as in the lunchroom and I’m in the teacher’s lounge.
My 3rd grader and I look at the board to see what subjects are left.
We make a plan for how we want to approach it and get to work.
The other girls continue to enjoy playing, drawing, flipping through books, listening to the lessons, etc.
By this time everything is usually done for the day of school.
We all help to pick up and straighten up the house, so we can all start our daily rest time.
Rest Time is a HUGE part of the structure of our day.
For one hour, we all go to separate rooms and take a break.
Sometimes the younger girls sleep, play quietly with toys, color, look at books, or try to sneak into each other’s room to play.
My oldest loves to work on her crafts or read during rest time. Sometimes she has a few small school things to do and she will work on them during this time.
I usually take this hour to do things like make phone calls, clean up around the house, work on this blog, or lay on the couch to rest for awhile too.
Everybody is out of their rooms and they usually run to the living room.
The girls are now allowed to watch one TV show that they can all agree on.
If the weather is crummy, or if I have something important to finish, I may let them watch a movie.
Snack Time! The girls go right from the living room to our breakfast table and usually ask for ice cream, cookies, cupcakes, or some other outlandish request.
9 times out of 10 I make them a PB banana smoothie and they all love it.
Rested and refueled, they are ready to go for the rest of the day.
Sometimes we go to the park, go bike riding in our neighborhood, run errands, go to the library, meet up with friends, or just stay home for free time.
Dinner is typically around this time when my husband gets home. We all sit down together and talk about our day.
In order to structure the conversation for the girls (as opposed to everybody screaming to be heard), we try to go around the table and let everyone say something they are thankful for from the day.
I also have a “spotlight” for each girl to share at the table.
A “spotlight” is when I share something particularly excellent somebody did during school that day (i.e. great attitude, perfect spelling test, amazing artwork, read a new word)
I know it sounds a little cheesy, but it’s a great way for my husband to get a positive snapshot of what goes on all day.
It also gives the girls a chance to shine and be proud of their accomplishments.
Last night there were papers all over the dinner table as each girl was trying to show my husband their worksheets and artwork – I love to see them excited about their school work!
After dinner the girls may go outside and play some more, they may play inside some more, or we may have a sports practice/meeting to go to.
Lights out. I strive to have all three girls tucked in by 8pm. They are all-natural early risers, so late nights can wreak havoc on the following day for us.
I usually walk straight to our classroom after they’re in bed and take 10 minutes to prepare for the next school day. If I wait to do it till later in the evening, I am usually too wiped out.
Bedtime for mom! I try to go to bed between 9-10 pm. I have to get up early to keep up with these girls, and coffee will only carry you so far.
Recap + Free Printable
We have been rolling with this routine for 6 weeks now and it is absolutely working for us.
The times are not as important as the order that things happen.
Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to homeschooling. If something derails the day (i.e. an unexpected errand, meltdown), I do my best to roll with it and work out a solution we can all live with.
It is wonderful though to have a routine that works and gives structure to all of us.
Did you like those cards posted on the board for my oldest? That system does wonders for keeping the two of us on track and focused.
I used to make them by hand, but I ended up making a printable version so that I could share it with awesome readers like you!
This simple tool will help you tremendously to set expectations and focus your day.
I even left blank cards so that you could fill in any extra subjects you may have!
You can download this awesome tool for FREE today when you subscribe to The Simple Homeschooler (No spam ever! Unsubscribe anytime)!
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Check out our new homeschool schedule this year! We are doing more with less time – and loving it!