Teaching Multiple Grade Levels

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I’m so excited to be participating in my very first “31 Days” series! All this month, join me every week day as I write about the place that we’re in: 31 Days of Classical Homeschooling in a Large Family!

These next couple of posts somehow got “lost” between my writer and my blog in the wonderful land of “Technical Difficulties”, so forgive them for being a couple of days late! I will spread their posting out over the next couple of days so that my email subscribers aren’t overwhelmed!

Spelling Lessons

 

If you’ve read my “About Me” page {or happen to know me in person}, you know that I have six wonderfully rambunctious children, who are all in school this year. For many parents, that would mean that they have several hours a day that is completely quiet. For me, however, that means that I have had to adapt to teaching six different learning styles on six different levels and still accomplish our education goals, which don’t differ too much between each child. {We want our children to learn certain things and skills by certain ages/maturity levels.} But that leaves me in a tricky situation because God did not create the day to be 36 hours long so I could devote six hours each to the children… and I have to sleep sometime.

I think that I’ll share on this subject in a slightly different way: by telling you what it looks like in my house. I was talking about teaching multiple grades at the same time with a real life friend earlier this week and she was completely lost until I explained what I did instead of how I did it. So, as they say, here goes nothing:

Language Arts {Grammar, Phonics + Reading, Spelling, Writing}

Grammar: We have planned for our children’s curriculum to coincide with each other, even at different grade levels in the teacher intensive areas. So, for example, when my oldest (4th grade) is studying adjectives + possessive nouns and pronouns, my twins (2nd grade) are studying pronouns + adjectives, and my little twins and youngest (1st grade & Kindergarten) are studying nouns and pronouns. That is entirely for my benefit so that I can keep my head from melting down trying to remember all the rules at the different levels to explain it to them. When I teach Grammar, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I sit down at the table {usually at about 10:30am, according to my MOTH schedule} with my teacher’s books and start from the oldest to the youngest, rotating out children. Grammar instruction total takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours (30 minutes or so per level) total per day with additional practice for the three bigger kids afterwards.

Phonics + Reading: Phonics work much the same as Grammar, only we do Phonics & Reading daily. I pull out my trusty book, and call over the children one at a time. I can never be sure how long phonics & reading will take… it all depends on how “in the mood” the kids are, and that always varies from day to day.

Spelling: Spelling is a semi-communal subject, in that every single child does spelling all at the same time. Three of my children have printed lists to work on with daily specific activities while I give daily tests to the others. The ones getting daily tests then do their 10 Step Study sheets as I guide the other children move onto hands on activities with their spelling words and check their daily work. We don’t do spelling in Kindergarten, so he works on handwriting and fine motor skills while the others do their spelling work. If someone finishes their work before the time is up, they get to ‘help’ someone else study their spelling words. Spelling is scheduled for 30 minutes every day.

Writing: Writing is, of course, one of my favorite subjects to teach {just because I love it and actually really know what I’m talking about} so I try to keep it short and sweet for the children. Writing is done four days a week {Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday} for everyone but our 4th grader. She uses both Writing with Ease and Writing Strands, so she has writing five days a week.  We usually do our ‘official’ narration exercises on Monday, copywork on Tuesday, dictation on Wednesday, and narration + dictation on Thursday. {The pattern changes a little based on grade level and ability.} The children use all these skills in other subjects daily but we do a lesson on “how to improve narration” on Monday, etc. Our kindergartener is exempt from copywork most days {he does separate lessons with his curriculum} and dictation period. {He’s just not ready for it, period.} He is an active participant in narration… everyone’s narration passages actually… and is quite good at it. Writing typically takes me around 90 minutes each day, although sometimes (like when the passage is longer or more complicated) it takes more time.

Arithmetic

For math, we use Life of Fred almost exclusively so quite a bit of their math work can be completed independently. It actually surprises me, almost daily, the complexity of problems the kids are able to solve without a second thought! The three oldest do math independently on their own levels, while the three younger do it together at the same level with me. Math takes me about 45 minutes each day with the little boys, which includes reading the story, explaining anything they don’t understand, and completing the exercises. Typically, because the books are so well laid out and the concepts so clearly explained, it takes me less than 30 minutes with all three bigger children to teach and check their math lessons for the day.

Occasionally, we’ll discover a gap in their understanding or application of mathematics. For example, a month or so ago, I discovered that one of the big children was still struggling to read an analog clock. Now, at their level of Fred, it’s a given that they will understand how to read the clocks so this child was making simple mistakes in their work because of it. So, when I discovered it, I simply pulled out our foam practice clock for the child to keep in their daily binder and printed them several worksheets to do in addition to Fred each day that week. I spent a grand total of maybe 15 minutes creating worksheets that day. By the end of the week, with this daily practice, the child had caught up to where they should be, and just kept right on going. The whole process took less than 10 minutes each day for me and that child and now they are back to independent math work.

History + Science + Geography

These are family subjects in our household and I use a curriculum for each that is set up to allow for multiple grade levels. Everyone gathers around to hear the story + lesson, then we discuss what we’ve learned. I ask questions by calling on a child and asking geared to their grade level’s expected understanding. They often surprise me by being able to answer much more difficult problems, though! Each child then has work, including a notebooking page, to do at his or her own level. I assist the Kindergartener, and he feels proud because he then gets to show his work as an example to help the other children. We do these in combination: history + geography and science + geography. We’re studying Earth and space this year so it works out naturally. We do history Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Science is done Tuesday and Thursday. Each take about 90 minutes, start to finish.

Bible + Catechism + Character Study

We use our Bibles a lot, so sometimes it feels almost natural to go onto a lesson several times a day. I have a strict Bible Curriculum, but don’t use it a whole lot because it isn’t written with ANYTHING else in mind, so the stories are completely out of place with what we’re studying. The older children are required to read (independently) and narrate (to me verbally) passages daily. The three little boys work through The Wonder Book of Bible Stories and notebook each story after they’ve read it. (I do most of the writing for this, but it will gradually be turned over to them as the year goes on.) Bible takes total from 45-75 minutes each day.

I am teaching my children the Westminster Shorter Catechism because 1) I learned it, and I use the information in it constantly so I think they will benefit from learning it, and 2) I want my children to grow up knowing what we believe and why, so they can make educated choices in life. Besides, teaching the Catechism is an excellent way to include church history without having to suffer through an entire subject devoted directly to it. It is done daily, communally, and takes about 30 minutes or so to teach, plus the time the three bigger children use to complete their worktext. (Younger boys participate verbally in lessons, but do not have the text.)

Our character study is very laid back, and doesn’t take but about 15 minutes each day to teach. I usually drag out the books and materials right after breakfast, instead of as part of our ‘official’ homeschool day. Everyone participates at the same time, and everyone has challenges to complete that week that stem from our weekly character trait or virtue.

Electives

These are the “fun” subjects: Music, art, typing, etc. There is an entire blog post (although it could be an entire series!) on teaching these coming up soon, so I’ll just say that we teach these semi-communally, daily, and I’m glad I make time for it.

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