Words by: Heather Esterday
We make artificial distinctions based on age because that is what the public school model shows us. Homeschoolers are not immune to this. Eight years ago, I planned to use the classical homeschooling four-year history rotation, tackling Ancients, Medieval, Early Modern, and Modern. The plan worked well until my second kid started school, and I realized that teaching two levels of history simultaneously was unmanageable.
I changed my approach from “learning what someone else tells you based on your child’s age” to “learning interesting stuff together.”
If you are tired of juggling different curriculum and want to combine subjects, consider these points:
- It’s allowed. Most states have no defined scope and sequence and required subjects, but they are broadly defined and don’t specify a particular year you must teach a specific topic.
- Differentiate. For a shared curriculum, you can differentiate the experience for each child based on ability. We are currently doing a combined literature unit for the book “The Breadwinner” by Deborah Ellis. I read the book aloud, and each day both kids discuss and answer comprehension questions. My seventh grader will also complete some writing prompts and read the Young Readers Edition of “I am Malala” independently. My fifth grader will read the Step Into Reading book “Malala: A Hero for All” aloud with me.
- You can’t combine everything. You should still use a separate curriculum where necessary. In spelling and math, my kids do different levels of the same curriculum based on their ability. You may find that the curriculum that works for one kid is not a good fit for another. For example, with reading, one of my children only needed to know what sounds letters made, and he was off and running, and the other needed a complete Orton-Gillingham program to learn.
- Implement family learning. For many families, learning together involves read-alouds and documentaries on a topic of interest to everyone, parents, too! Coding is of particular interest for my fifth grader and a subject that we embrace for family learning. One bonus of learning together is that my fifth grader gets to be the authority, a role usually reserved for his older brother.
- Be mindful of emotional age. For literature study and history, we choose read-alouds that are suitable for everyone listening. My goal is to “meet in the middle” and select books that will not overwhelm my sensitive ten-year-old while still appealing to my 13-year-old.
Teaching multiple ages of children using one curriculum reduces the stress of managing different curriculums and allows me to focus on the joys of homeschool – the freedom to do things our way, making learning experiences unique, and enjoying time with my kids. Pick one subject to start with, and see if it might be a good fit for your family.
When Heather Esterday isn’t homeschooling her two sons, she reads, grows things, and plays the violin in a chamber group with her mom-friends. In a previous life, she worked as a grant writer and an editor. She lives with her family in Colorado.