Friday, June 26, 2009

What combining kids looks like in our homeschool

I've had people asking me questions about doing school with five different kids at five different levels, and how I do it... so I thought maybe I'd try to blog about it.

The single biggest piece of advice I have about managing it all is that there are many, many ways to meet the needs of all of your kids, and what works for me right now may not work for you... and it may not work for me next year. There is no one right way.

Some people end up using a lot of programs that do the teaching for you... whether that be math via DVD, or online courses, or just materials that are designed to be self-teaching.

Some people end up doing multi-grade unit study type things where everyone can participate together.

Some people do some other sort of combining: putting kids together for some things, finding co-op options for others, doing individual stuff for still other subjects. I tend to fall into this no-single-approach category.

Up until now, we have been using one Sonlight Core for everyone in the family. This past year, I did add some of Core P3/4, but that is not really, truly a "Core" so I don't exactly count it. This year, we have been using Core 5: Eastern Hemisphere, which Sonlight recommends for ages 10-13. At the time we began this core, I had two children in the recommended age range... Connor was 11.5, and William had just turned 10. Also doing the core with us were Thomas, age 8, Richard, age 4.75 and Trina, about 33 months.

So how do I take a program meant for 5th-8th graders and use it with everyone?

Well, first off, I don't expect my 2nd grader to get the "full value" of the core. I expect him to get a good 2nd grade education.

But as to the nitty gritty, our life looks something like this:

All together, we do history. I adjust the assignment difficulty a bit. In the case of Core 5, I don't have my 2nd grader doing any of the research part of it (Eastern Hemisphere Explorer), and I adapt some of the assignments for the 4th grader too.

All together we do read-alouds, and readers. I read the readers aloud too. Yes, it is a lot of reading... but certainly not as much as if I had my crew in 2-4 different cores. I do not require any child 1st grade and under to participate in any of the above, but if they choose to stay in the room, they are expected to be quiet and non-distracting. My kids generally choose to stay.

All together, we do the Bible readings and memorization. The littles are required to participate in that, though they don't necessarily have to actually memorize the entire passage. See this post, though, for a demonstration of what my youngest son has managed to do though.

My oldest is the only one doing the Core 5 Bible book, Remembering God's Awesome Acts. I am doing Building on the Rock with my next two together. And my preschoolers do a variety of children's Bibles and devotionals.

My oldest takes a Latin class online. He does math that he can usually self-teach (VideoText Algebra, ALEKS, Calculus Without Tears -- these are the current favorites). He is doing Apologia Physical Science. He has been using Wordsmith Apprentice for writing, which is written directly to him. He is using LLATL pretty much on his own too -- I have to read the dictation passages and occasionally have some discussions with him. But mostly, he is transitioning to doing a lot of his independent work, well, independently.

My next three are all using A-Ha Math this year, as they can do that without a lot of input from me. That has online "math classes" that they can watch, and then work out the problems. I spend time with all three one-on-one on reading instruction mostly, but also some time on grammar and writing, also all one-on-one. We've been slacking in science, but when we do it, I am doing things with all but my oldest.

My two little ones (Richard is in both the above paragraph and here) are getting a little bit of more typical preschool read-alouds too. We are not using a schedule at all, but trying to work through the P3/4 books as it seems to work on any given day.

My goal is to do at least two hours a day of family read-aloud time. That has included history reading, actual read-alouds and readers, art history reading, music history reading, science reading, and whatever else strikes my/our fancy. I love this time. I love that we can discuss stuff as a family and have these various literature experiences in common. While trying to pack for a cub scout camping trip earlier, we were looking "everywhere a campstove could be, and everywhere a campstove couldn't be" which is an adaptation of a line from The Wheel on the School... a book we read together, oh, five years ago. (The campstove was found. Under a pile of books. Yet another reminder that I desperately need to clear out books so that everything will fit ON A BOOKSHELF! Or two, or fifteen... most people would think we have more than enough bookshelf space...)

Combining is going to look different next year though. Connor is going to be going on to Core 6 without his brothers. I will still plan to do a chunk of family read-aloud time, though, and a chunk of read-aloud time for everyone but him. That is going to take some serious adjustments for me! Since he will be doing this, I'm hoping to get everyone together for Bible study (I'm really hoping that the Grapevine review I'm supposed to be getting soon will be *the ticket*)

I'm also hoping to get them all doing some electives together this year. Be a bit more intentional about PE, for instance. And when William crosses over to Boy Scouts in February, we are seriously looking at doing a couple of the more academic merit badges as school for both of them, letting the younger guys participate some too.

I think it is going to be interesting to see how things work in the coming schoolyear.

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