Planning homeschool for one can be daunting. Children rarely learn every subject at the same pace and this creates the need for curricula that spans multiple ability levels. Planning homeschool for multiple children can be outright frightening when you begin trying to piece together subjects, resources, and reinforcement activities for each child, each level, and each subject. One way to make the experience better for all involved is to have a few subjects that you can use the same curricula for multiple ages and abilities.
When you combine multiple children together for homeschool lessons, you gain these benefits:
- You spend less time gathering resources and researching different curricula.
- You have less stress over cramming multiple lessons into one homeschool day.
- Children learn from each other in a one room schoolhouse environment.
As your older children mature, you can make them responsible for teaching a lesson or two a week to the younger ones. This practice prepares them for the real life experiences of training and time management. Plus by teaching their siblings, they develop patience, understanding, and an appreciation for the different ways people learn.
Which Subjects are Best Suited to Multiple Ages
When you are looking at making subjects work for multiple ages, the actual work your students do is where the differentiation comes in. Rather than finding a separate curricula for each child, you choose an age appropriate way for each child to record, to practice, and to retain the information of the lesson.
History is a wonderful subject to teach to multiple ages at the same time. The easiest way to make history work for all your students at once is by using timeline notebooks.
Incorporating a timeline notebook for each student allows them to utilize their own methods for recording dates and events in a way that sticks. It also produces an excellent example of their progression over history cycles. If you use a 4 year cycle like The Mystery of History, I recommend using one notebook per child per full cycle.
We use My Timeline Notebook because both my students are very young, older students can use a plain or lined notebook and draw or use printable figures to mark dates. The History Through the Ages Timeline Figures are our favorites.
Bible study is another perfect subject to study as a family. Many families like to study a single book or follow a theme as their study. You can have your scholars keep a notebook, complete coloring or journaling pages, or use (affiliate link) sermon notes to keep track of what they are learning. Keeping the family learning together for Bible study also allows for meaningful conversations about theology to become part of normal dinner and playtime conversations.
If you prefer guided studies, thanks to many authors, there are plenty of solid studies and devotionals that come in regular and junior versions. For worldview, Apologia has an excellent series that has a regular and junior notebook as well as a coloring book for the youngest learners. Not Consumed has produced several studies that have versions for older and younger learners as well. Because I Said So and My Brother’s Keeper are very good.
Nature study is an exercise in observation and provides a perfect opportunity for notebooking, journaling, collecting, and sketching.
Allow your younger children to explore and notice things —listen to bird calls and begin to identify flowers—while your older children take note of the nuanced differences in tree bark, various species of flora, and how animals act before it rains. Teaching your children to observe creation helps them to also observe their creator.
“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nature study may be done anywhere at any time. This is particularly helpful when planning a subject for multiple ages to study together.
Additional Subjects That Can Work for Multiple Ages
Some subjects can be suited to multiple ages depending on the ages of your children and their varying skill levels.
- Math. Specifically when your children are close in age and the program you are using is spiral or based on living books, then math can be done together by at least two children. Montessori programs like Shiller Math are an excellent choice for younger siblings working together. Life of Fred is a good living book style program for elementary and middle school aged learners.
- Science. Using one science curriculum also saves money since everyone will be doing the same hands on activities, and you can purchase one good quality item, such as a high powered microscope, to be shared instead of multiple low quality instruments to fit varying science themes.
- Life skills. Everyone can work together in the kitchen, cleaning, gardening, etc. Not everyone considers life skills as part of their schooling, but valuable skills like simply sewing on a button don’t have to become a lost art.
- Art. Art is a subject that is able to work for multiple ages, but it will not always. Your preschooler through your high schooler can all follow the same chalk art tutorial, but not all of them can successfully complete a course on mixed media of watercolor and ink, at least not without possibly permanently changing the color of your carpet to india ink.
- Reading aloud and narration. This isn’t necessarily a subject in every homeschool, but read aloud time is a time for the family to cherish and learn together. Don’t be afraid to pick out meaty books that will keep your older children enthralled while still delighting your young ones with danger, adventure, and heroes worth remembering.
What would you add to this list?