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6 Tips for Schooling Multiple Ages at Home

A father helping his two sons with their schoolwork.

Facing another semester with your kiddos stuck at home? Being an impromptu teacher isn’t easy, especially if you’re attempting to tackle multiple grades at once. Here’s how to manage it without losing your head.

Whether you’re planning to full-on homeschool or simply following the school’s guidelines, your children are bound to need some hands-on assistance. And, honestly, being able to offer each child adequate time, attention, and focus is going to be tough.

However, with enough planning, organization, and self-directed activities, you can get through this!

Make a Plan

You’ll want to create a solid plan before diving into your children’s school tasks. This plan can (and probably will) change, but having a general schedule in place will prevent your day from becoming utter chaos.

Check out this sample quarantine schedule we created. All that really matters is that everyone keeps up with and does their work. If that means waking up early or staying up late, so be it.

A key component of the plan should involve setting up individual workspaces for each child. If you don’t have separate desks, a shared table can work, as long as there are clear boundaries in place (use masking tape, if necessary).

You can keep up with your family’s changing needs by scheduling family meetings. This gives everyone an opportunity to discuss what’s working and what’s not, as well as make lists for the coming week.

Don’t forget to schedule some fun, too!

Organize Assignments and Tasks

A woman typing something in a calendar on her laptop.

If you have multiple children in different grades, it can be a nightmare keeping track of all their homework, tests, projects, requirements, and so on. Work together and write all tasks on a large whiteboard or add them to an organizational app, like Trello.

Alternatively, you can also give each child his or her own school planner, so they can write out the details for the coming week.

Once you’ve created your system, mark which items your child’s capable of doing himself and which areas he’ll need help with. Also, star the items that are top priority, like a homework assignment that’s due tomorrow.

Group Similar Topics

Try your best to group similar subjects, even if your children are studying vastly different material within that topic. Not only will this make scheduling easier for the whole family, but it will also help everyone (including you) switch their brains to that topic.

For example, if you schedule math studies at the same time, younger kids are bound to be inspired by watching their older siblings tackle bigger problems. Older kids, in turn, will be proud of their accomplishments when they see how far their skills have advanced.

Additionally, there are plenty of topics that work perfectly as a group activity, such as art, music, physical education, and foreign languages. Imagine a solid hour of everyone speaking Spanish—talk about total immersion!

Look for Independent Tasks

A young girl writing on a piece of paper while looking at a laptop.

The goal is to balance independent tasks with hands-on assistance. This allows your kids to develop and expand their self-directed skills, while you tend to each child one-on-one to address more complex problems.

Here are some great ideas for independent tasks:

  • Reviewing: Have your child review the stuff he already knows, such as drilling the basics of the multiplication table.
  • Watching educational videos: A variety of topics and subjects are covered on websites like Khan Academy.
  • Reading: All of your kids should be able to read something if they’re waiting for your help. Make sure they have plenty of books on hand.
  • Writing: Perhaps your child is feeling stuck on a certain assignment. Encourage her to jot down a rough outline or research ideas. Then, she’ll have some prep work done by the time you’re ready to help with the full project.
  • Creating: Never underestimate the power of creativity! If it’s math hour, and you have to help another child with some homework, have your other kids work on some math art.
  • Using educational apps: Screen time isn’t usually the answer, but, sometimes, it is! It’s okay to have your kids do something educational on the iPad while you’re helping another child. These free math apps are perfect for younger kids.

If you’ve got preschoolers in tow, keep them occupied with these Montessori activities while their older siblings are plugging away on homework.

Cater to Each Child’s Learning Style

Not all kids learn at the same pace. Some respond better to shorter bursts of focus, while others like to stay on a task until it’s completed—even if it takes hours. One kid might like learning outside, whereas another wants to be tucked away in a quiet room. Learning isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience, after all.

Of course, it might be impossible to adjust your family’s schedule to suit everyone’s needs, and that’s okay. When your children are in traditional school, they’re expected to abide by a classroom’s routine.

If your kids start rebelling at home, have a family meeting and re-create the schedule. Include some time for fun, creativity, outdoor play, or even screen time. Once your child feels like he’s part of the planning process, he’s more likely to follow along.

Most importantly, go easy on yourself. It’s okay to be less than perfect right now—especially if you’re juggling a full-time job while trying to teach your kids. It’s a challenging time for everyone.

Have Older Siblings Teach Younger Kids

If your kids have a wide age gap, consider having the older ones tutor the younger kids. This might feel like a chore, but it will actually help them cement the basics.

When you teach someone else how to master basic math problems, you have to explain every detail. Through this process, you gain a deeper understanding of the topic, as well.

Plus, your younger children might enjoy a break from their usual teacher (you). Take this time to enjoy a cup of coffee on the back porch—you’ve earned it!

If your kids are really struggling with the material, you might want to consider hiring an online tutor to help out.

Having your kids stuck at home for months on end can be incredibly challenging. Tending to all their individual academic needs might also feel completely impossible. Just take it one day at a time, follow a plan, and encourage your kids to become independent learners.

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »
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