Homeschooling Multi-grades: Have Questions?

You’ve asked about multi-grading and I’ve promised to post about multi-grading, but I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start the discussion.  We multi-grade most subjects; history, literature, Bible, memorization, poetry, art, language arts, grammar, writing, some hand writing, spelling, some reading, etc.  It’s probably easier to tell you which subjects we don’t multi-grade; math. 🙂

Since our children are all fairly close in age (spaced 14-18 months apart), we’ve been multi-grading from the beginning and we multi-grade a wide range of ages together.  However, I think that multi-grading works well even if your children aren’t spaced so closely.  For history, literature and Bible we multi-grade all of our children (an 11 year span).  For language arts we are currently multi-grading the 4 year old all the way up to the 11 year old.

So here is how you can help me.  What are your specific questions about multi-grading?   Do you wonder what multi-grading actually means?  What it looks like for specific subjects?  How it works?  Am I driving you crazy with how slow I’ve been posting about homeschooling?  Do you want to know which curricula works well with multi-grading?  How we make sure the big kids are challenged and the little ones aren’t overwhelmed? What advantages we’ve seen with multi-grading?  What do you want to know???

Here is your chance.  I want to know what you want to know, so ask away and I will post according to your interests.

Even if you don’t have a specific question, but are just interested in reading more about this topic, please leave a comment, so I can gauge the level of interest.  I don’t want to prepare 15 posts about something that only a few of you are interested in. 🙂

You may also want to read what I’ve already written about how we homeschool or  why we homeschool. And stick around for my thoughts on more homeschooling resources.

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27 Responses to Homeschooling Multi-grades: Have Questions?
  1. April E.
    July 28, 2009 | 11:51 am

    I nominated you for the Sisterhood Award. 🙂



  2. Jennifer in IL
    July 28, 2009 | 11:53 am

    I have 4 in school this summer, we school year round. We multi grade most things, but not spelling and grammar (and math). How do you do those subjects? By the way what is language arts for you? You listed all of the subjects I think of in that category separately (spelling, lit., reading, grammar, writing).
    You don’t need to comment directly to me, but you asked for feed back.


  3. Vicki
    July 28, 2009 | 12:11 pm

    Yes.. Cirriculum ideas would be awesome.. Maybe an example day or week?


  4. Shari
    July 28, 2009 | 1:41 pm

    This really interests me because I am going back to homeschooling and want to make some changes. I thought about multigrading but wasn’t sure how to do it or where to start. All of the questions you put up there are questions I have. Please, if you can, answer some of those and it would be very helpful.


  5. Anita Chamblee
    July 28, 2009 | 2:10 pm

    Hi Kimberly! We live like you are describing as well. However, we call it multi-level teaching as I was taught years ago through our KONOS use. In fact, we don’t really keep up with what GRADE the children are in and I hate it when people ask my children what grade they are in. As my 16 yo son commented to me today after being asked that question at the chiropractor’s office, “It’s hard to know what to say.” Do you want to know where he is in writing, reading, math, life skills, science, history…? They’re all different levels. I will be re-posting about how we multi-level teach on soon. Sounds like we do much in the same way.


  6. Deb
    July 28, 2009 | 2:24 pm

    I am commenting to express an interest in this topic. I am just beginning homeschooling this year with my 4 1/2 year old, but his 2 1/2 year old precocious sister is right behind him. I am just interested in any home schooling topic, to be honest! But especially the more-than-one-kid situation. I mean, I didn’t really think I could cram in ALL of the schooling during her nap, but now she seems commited to giving that up, so she will definitely be a big part of whatever is happening.


  7. Audrey
    July 28, 2009 | 3:45 pm

    I’m interested! My daughter is 2, and my second daughter is due in October, so we’re not old enough yet, but I’m trying to be as prepared as possible for homeschooling them. We will likely have more kids after this too, so I need to learn more about this subject!


  8. Morgan
    July 28, 2009 | 5:01 pm

    Although it’s going to ages before I’m homeschooling, I’m interested to see what you do. Even as teacher, you often have kids at different levels. Really anything you say will be helpful!


  9. Nicki
    July 28, 2009 | 5:39 pm

    Yes, you’re driving me crazy with how slow you’re posting about homeschooling! What do you do all day, anyway? : ) Yes, I want to know which curricula works well with multi-grading. Yes, I want to know how you make sure the older ones are challenged and the little ones are not overwhelmed (or bored, or noisy). I especially want to know how you handle the smaller, busier, noisier kids, as I have a small, busy, noisy boy who wants to be a part of everything (no, I mean he wants to be the CENTER of everything!) Thanks in advance. Waiting by the computer…


  10. Amy
    July 28, 2009 | 6:14 pm

    I also teach multiple kids with the same curriculum. But what I want to know is how you have managed having your children all so close together!!! I always say the spacing of my 6 is my secret to sanity! And we didn’t space them, God actually did! And I only have 6, ages 12 months to 16 years.
    I have been reading your blog for awhile, but never comment. I enjoy your blog!


  11. Shannon
    July 28, 2009 | 7:02 pm

    Hi Kimberly, I have been lurking with google reader for a while now and am loving your blog. Anyway, I think I would like to know about everything you just mentioned. I only have 2 children (ages 6 & 2 1/2) and I already have concerns about how I will do it once the little one gets into a formal school schedule. Thanks!


  12. Whitney
    July 28, 2009 | 8:19 pm

    “Yes” to all of your sample ideas for posts. I’m starting my 4th year homeschooling and my school-age kids will be 6th, 4th, and 3rd grades. I’m not going to go into all of the ways that I have done “school” over the years so far but will just say that every year looks different by the end than how it looked when it began. 🙂 I love the IDEA of multi-grading and I do it somewhat but I’m considering it for more of our day starting this year. Sonlight is great for multiple levels and I used it last year and will continue somewhat but its a little too structured for me and I want to try some different approaches this year. (Loving the run-on sentence from the homeschool mom?) Anyway….surely Bible, science, history, literature read-alouds, writing, some language, some reading, and even some math can be taught together. I’m curious about the whys, whens, and hows of your system. God’s rich blessings on you, Whitney btw…I also have a 4, 3, and 1 yr old.


  13. MomStarr
    July 28, 2009 | 9:03 pm

    You know all my questions since I have bugged you for…has it been 14 years? No way!! I am starting next year multi-grade-teaching and we have been trying out some of the routine already this summer. So please be patient with all my upcoming questions if they don’t get answered here!! 🙂


  14. Rachel B
    July 29, 2009 | 12:44 am

    I am starting Homeschool this year with my 1st grader. But I have 3 other children, 1 will be at preschool but I have a 2 year old and a 1 yr old. My questions about homeschooling are:
    1)How do you keep your young ones focused while you run to help the smaller children & also clean?
    2)How do you motivate if your child is NOT interested in the topic, doing handwriting skills, or doing any subject which you feel is important..but they dislike. HOw do you motivate that?


  15. Gentile
    July 29, 2009 | 8:34 am

    I am interested…trying to find ways to simplify my homeschooling, yet be sure everyone gets what they need!


  16. Melanie
    July 29, 2009 | 11:26 am

    My question is how to keep the littler ones occupied. I am guessing that they do not sit through as many of hours of school as the older ones? I am also guessing that the older ones can do more independently, BUT, I have had trouble this last year (which was my first year “officially” homeschooling), with the variety of ages in my home. I have a unique situation being that I have four of my own children and then four neices and nephews living in our home as well who are in public school by their moms choice. My children were 6, 4, 2 and newborn this last school year and I watched my 2 year old neice all day as well as her Kindergarten brother for the second half of the day, and the rest after they arrived home from school. There ages were 8, 7, 5 and 2. I just had such trouble with all of the different schedules finding ways to get focused time with each child for one-on-one learning, mostly math. We would do as much multi-age subjects as possible but I couldn’t come up with enough to meet all of their attention spans many days and then I couldn’t come up with enough activities (that kept the two year olds especially out of trouble) during the follow up times with the older kids. Sorry for rambling, hopefully I am making sense. I understand that most people do not have 8 kids in such close proximaty and with so many different school schedules but if anyone has any ideas to try I would greatly appreciate it!


  17. Jamie
    July 29, 2009 | 10:24 pm

    I’m interested as well! I have a 6 year old (close to 7) and a 9 year old. We’re also expecting a baby in October. This school year we’re teaching both the same as far as most subjects go, but each has their own level of math and language arts (English, spelling, writing, handwriting). I’m very curious how you teach those to many levels. Most places I read say to teach to the oldest, but I often find myself settling for “middle ground”. I don’t honestly know what’s best there. Would love to hear what you think.


  18. Jen L
    July 29, 2009 | 11:12 pm

    I have enjoyed so many of your posts on homeschooling and many other topics. This subject specifically is at the top of my list as I am beginning my oldest’s third grade year while ‘doing kindergarten’ with my second plus a two-year old. Any and all related posts are very welcome. Thank you for all you have shared!


    Raising Olives Reply:

    Thanks for all of the questions and interest! I will attempt to address all of these things in upcoming posts. 😉 Slowly of course.

    I have a lot of soap operas that I MUST keep up with. 🙂


  19. Tristan from the Crew
    July 31, 2009 | 2:03 pm

    Yes, please post tips! I’ve only got 5 children so far (age 5 mos to 8 yrs) and I’m interested in tips for language arts. We multi-grade science and history pretty easily, and art and p.e.(ha!), but how can I work with them all on spelling and grammar and writing at once?

    Loving the blog BTW!


    Raising Olives Reply:

    Since it seems that their is some interest in multi-level teaching 😉 , I will be posting specific posts on each subject and how we combine and how I adapt to work with the bigs and the littles, at least that is the plan. My next post will hopefully be next week and I’ll talk about homeschooling with little ones around.

    Thanks, and no need to use the word “only” in regards to 5 children. I’m just older than you! 😉


  20. Mama Mirage (Jessica)
    August 12, 2009 | 3:35 am

    Okay, I have absolutely no idea what multi-grading even means. *blush* Okay I think I might kind of get the general idea… sort of. Maybe.


  21. Jenn
    April 6, 2010 | 8:29 am

    I know this is an “old” topic but I found it as I was looking through the Sonlight posts… I am wondering if you have a post somewhere covering how you teach language arts. I can’t imagine how language arts could be done in a multi-grade way but I’m very interested!

    I love the new look on your blog, btw!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    No, I haven’t posted about this yet. It is on my list, but it’s been on my list for a VERY long time.

    Let me try to share it in a nut shell.

    We follow a CM type approach.

    From very early on the children narrate and narrate often.

    Then when the children are able to form their letters properly we begin with copywork, when they are able to consistently copy their passages accurately they move to dictation and when they are able to reliably write down a passage from dictation with no spelling or grammar errors (or only occasional errors), they move to creative writing. For that move I simply say, “I want you to narrate on paper a description of Marjan (a character from one of our books).” They write every day.

    Teaching with this method with multiple levels is very easy. I choose one passage to use each day and depending on the child’s level they either use that passage (or a portion of the passage) for copywork or for dictation. The oldest 4 do creative writing (although both the 9 and 10 year old still do dictation work). I give the same assignment to each of them with different specifics. For example, “Narrate on paper the role of women in the golden age of the Arabs. Amber (13)and Kaitlin (12) I’d like you to pick 3 different aspects to discuss in a 5 paragraph paper. Matthew (10) and Alyssa (9) just 3 paragraphs.”

    Now throughout all of this copy work, dictation and writing I address problems with spelling and grammar as they arise by teaching the rules. For example, when they come across quotation marks for the first time I teach them the rules for quotation marks, the comma and attribution. Any time they make a mistake with one of those things we review the rule. Same for spelling.

    Then when I have a group of children who are old enough, I go through a year of intense grammar training with that group. I teach nomenclature and specific rules that may not have been covered in our life and use approach. Since they already know how to apply and use all of these rules, teaching the reasons is quick and painless.

    Are you familiar with the Suzuki approach to music or how we teach our children learn to speak, walk, ride a bike, the Word of God or even many effective programs for teaching a foreign language?

    In all these cases the children learn how to do and after that they learn the reasons why. This is what we do with language arts.


    Youthful One Reply:

    Thank you for this!!!


  22. […] teach  multiple levels together a […]

  23. howdoihomeschool
    June 24, 2010 | 6:07 am

    So good to have help on how to teach multiple ages! I’m about to being homeschooling my 9, 7, almost 6, 5 and 1 yr old, not to mention #6 coming in September. I’m so excited, but the idea of all these different ages has been so daunting to me. I love reading different success stories, schedules, and ideas on the subject! I look forward to browsing around your blog for tips and maybe even linking a few on my own blog.


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