This year, for the first time EVER, I am homeschooling four children in three different grades. Louisa is in kindergarten now, Max and Caroline are in 2nd grade, and Julia is a sophomore. Thankfully, we’ve got the perfect curriculum for the job. Using Sonlight with muliple ages / grades is, I believe, one of the easiest ways to homeschool a large family.
Along with my school-age children, I also have Isaac who just turned two a few weeks ago. And boy has he jumped full swing into those 2’s!!
To say I’ve got my hands full is an understatement.
This is our eighth year homeschooling, and our second using Sonlight Curriculum. I’ll be honest, when I pulled out those three Instructor Guides (IG) I was a bit overwhelmed.
But what does all of that mean?
Well, it means that without some intentional planning and decision making, I would become frustrated with the lack of progress. Because I know myself, I knew I would need a plan- a workable plan with lots of grace built in.
The three youngest are still in the stage where they need mom sitting nearby to be sure the table work gets done, and of course, their read alouds are all for me to read aloud. Basically, the younger grades are very teacher intensive. The kids haven’t mastered independent learning yet, and that’s okay.
After all, isn’t sitting side by side with your children, learning together, one of the many benefits of homeschooling?
Julia, on the other hand, is completely independent. On Monday mornings she and I start the school day together by watching her Latin and Algebra 2 lessons for the week (this doesn’t take long at all). I make sure she knows what she needs to do for the other subjects and then she’s on her own. I check in with her every day at 4:30 and see if she needs help with anything.
That 4:30 meeting is our one on one time each day and generally lasts 30ish minutes unless she’s really stuck on something.
So really, other than first thing Monday morning and our one on one meetings, the rest of my day can be devoted to the younger kids schooling and regular household tasks.
A couple disclaimers about our homeschool
- Our requirements to graduate our homeschool are . . . you must be able to write well, speak well, and read well. And you have to be able to take care of yourself as a responsible human being- that’s it. If you want to go to college or into a trade and they have other requirements, fine. But these are our family requirements.
- We believe that homeschooling is a lifestyle, and therefore our schoolwork should naturally fit into our day and promote what we believe as a family . . . growing in the Lord, loving each other, cultivating a love for learning and literature, and growing as individuals.
These are ideas we hold to each day because it’s what we believe in as a homeschooling family. Therefore, they strongly influence the natural flow of our days and what we include in our homeschool.
Below is a Facebook Live video I did about large family homeschooling logistics. In the video, I discuss in detail how I get through the different level books, what our school days look like, how I keep the littles busy, and much more.
7 Tips for Using Sonlight with Multiple Ages
Below are seven ideas that have proved very effective for our family when it comes to getting school completed each day in the different grades.
As a large family mama, you probably already know that being organized is one of the best ways you stay on top of things as a family. If you’ve got clutter or “extra” whatever hanging around, get rid of it! That clutter and disorganization affect your mood and your ability to maintain a peaceful attitude in your home.
If you don’t currently use it, absolutely love it, or know that you’ll use in a couple years- let it go.
Combine what you can
Sonlight is fabulous for large families because it allows you to read some great literature to multiple age children at the same time. You can totally read one book to children ages 6-13 and they will all understand it. They might understand it at different levels, but they’ll understand it nonetheless.
We combine Bible, history, and science.
Pick and choose your books
You DO NOT have to read every single book on the reading lists! Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself or your children. Keep things relaxed in your homeschool by taking it one book at a time, one page at a time.
Don’t worry about learning gaps. They’re going to happen no matter how much you cram into your days. Seriously, consider how much you do or don’t know about a subject. You have learning gaps too, but you turned out as a functioning, responsible adult, right? See? They’ll be fine.
You are not bound by a schedule
Homeschooling is a lifestyle. It is NOT something that happens during certain hours on certain days. Organic learning happens every day. Don’t think that just because most homeschool families do their school work during the morning/afternoon hours, that you have to as well.
I know several families that do their school work in the evenings because that’s what works for them, and that’s totally fine! Do what works for YOU.
Audiobooks buy time
Audiobooks are a homeschool mom’s best friend.
Why? Take a look at this list of things you can do while listening to an audiobook . . .
- sweep the floors
- wipe the counters/cabinets
- grade some schoolwork
- nurse the babies
- change diapers
- rock someone to sleep
- nothing – it’s okay to relax and do nothing sometimes and an audiobook is an excellent catalyst for that
Of course, this short list is in no way exhaustive, but you get the idea. Audiobooks can bring a welcome change into your homeschool days.
Reading aloud is one of my favorite aspects of homeschooling. We read for one to three hours a day for school, plus whatever random picture books the kids want me to read. The key to successfully reading aloud is to keep their hands busy so their mouths are closed and their ears are listening. But even this die-hard read aloud mama welcomes audiobooks from time to time.
Let older children read to the younger
If you have older children and they aren’t involved in the schooling of the younger children, you’re missing out! Let them read to a younger sibling or guide them through a workbook page.
The older ones can take the littles outside for a nature scavenger hunt, collect insects or leaves, or even just play with someone while you help another child . . . there are many, many ways older siblings can help you with homeschooling.
Begin by asking them how they’d like to help and I’ll bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what they say.
Let the IG be your guide, not your dictator
This is one of the biggest hangups in the homeschooling world. Us moms forget that our guides are exactly that- guides. They aren’t rules or laws. No one is going to judge you for not getting every. single. task. checked off.
We’re all the same Mama. We’re just trying to make it through the long days without losing our minds. And if that means that you only read 20 of the 32 books on the reading list, then good for you. You read 20 books!
Don’t get caught in the comparison trap, and don’t bow down to your Instructor’s Guide. You’re the boss, remember that.