How do you teach children of different ages? What curriculum or ideas has made it easiest for you to teach multi-age learners? What do you do with your little ones while you are teaching your school-age children?
For us, now, we do separate math and language arts programs, and everything else we do together. I just make sure that, in addition to general questions thrown out there, that I direct some of the questions to different children so that my daughter can be guaranteed to get some of the answers. Story of the World CDs are a favourite in our house and have made a good multi-age resource. For history and geography we have mostly used a variety of literature and non-fiction books. Usborne. DK and Kingfisher are all excellent resources that have provided many good additions to our library. We also read a lot of historical fiction. The ones my daughter can manage we read as a family, and the ones that are too difficult or have subject matter unsuitable for her, we read at bedtime or when she is off playing by herself. For geography we use maps and Google Maps. I also sometimes print her off colouring pages related to what we are reading about and she colours while we read. For that matter, the boys often ask for a copy, too!
In science we mostly read Usborne, DK and Kingfisher books, and work from experiment books. Actually, to be more accurate most of the time we read the books and think about doing the experiments! We have also used Human Body from the God’s Design for Life series, and it comes with adaptations for grades 1-8.
When my daughter was really little we tried to do as much of the academic stuff (where we didn’t want interruptions) while she was napping. Once she got older we provided special activities for her to do only during school. For example, she climbed up to the table and used a stacking peg board, lace-up cards, coloured beads, puzzles,counting bears, and play dough. We varied the activities so she had variety and felt included. We also got her the Usborne dot-to-dot book as soon as she was old enough, and got her Usborne sticker story books. All these things helped her to stay busy when we were busy, and to feel like she was included in our school.
Also, if I needed one-on-one time with one boy, the other would take her for a little while. Sometimes they just played together. Other times he would tell her a story, do puppets, play with a felt activity set, or paint or colour with her. They also loved to make collages.
Different ages? I stick to a schedule! Without it our household would fall apart. I was introduced to the book, Managers of their Homes by Terry Maxwell and it has been my standby. It takes me a week or so to hammer out a daily schedule before the start of the school year. Then we slowly try it out and quickly see where we need to tweak things. A schedule allows me to clearly see where I can have my older kids working independently while I'm spending one on one time with my younger ones, or juggling everyone's time on the computer so someone isn't waiting for someone to be done so they can get on, etc.
Over the years, I've kept the afternoons for doing either science, Social Studies/History or geography together as a family. This year I've divided the kids into two groups for history (scary but cool to think I can even do that!). The younger two listen to and colour corresponding pages to The Story of the World, while the older three listen and jot down notes for Mystery of History.
What do I do with little ones? A very wise and experienced mom of eleven children told me to make sure the little ones are occupied before getting into school work with the others. I have a rubbermaid tub that slides under our computer desk that has simple games, puzzles, toys that they can always access. Playdough, stickers, paints, etc. are special items that get pulled out once in a while to keep them fresh and not over used. My friend had a few girls that loved to play with dolls, so she would string up a 'clothes line' and gave the girls clothes pins and they could pin the doll clothes on the line!
Some of our family's favourite multi-age curriculum include: Story of the World, Latin for Children, Student Writing intensive and a web-based science program "Supercharged Science" found at www.sciencelearningspace.com. We also do things like read alouds, art projects, listen to symphonies such as "Peter and the Wolf". Teaching Textbooks is a good math program that children can work on mostly independently.
From the November 2012 NLHS newsletter
"Clip art from www.picgifs.com"