How Do I Balance Teaching Multiple Grades?
I read a question from another homeschool mama that went something like this, ‘How do you balance teaching more than one child in different grade levels at the same time?’ I have three children, ages 9.5, 7.5 and (almost) 6. That translates to me teaching grades 1,3 and 4. It’s busy! I won’t lie and try to convince you otherwise. Last week I posted a blog and I stated that I felt like Grade 1 was this huge milestone. I feel it’s the official ‘beginning’ to school. When my oldest daughter was in grade 2, and my second little lady was starting grade 1, I actually felt hugely overwhelmed. Now it felt like a balancing act. Like I was on a tight rope, holding both my daughters, trying so hard to keep up with everything so that neither of them would fall behind.
I know lots of homeschool families that make this whole teaching of multiple grades thing look so easy. And I just couldn’t figure out what their secret was. The things that they suggested to me, just didn’t work for our family and our schedule, as I also work a full time job from home. (I’ll write about that later) I never felt like I measured up to their level of success when it came to the balancing act of teaching multiple grades and honestly I just felt brutally upset with myself by the end of the day. Because all in all, something would get neglected. I wanted to be ‘supermom’ who had her act together, did arts and crafts and accomplished all the things. But most days I was the mom that would wait till her husband got home from work so I could lock myself in my bathroom for 10 minutes. So what are some things that I learned teaching multiple grades?
- Every family is like a musical band. You can’t compare the Beatles to Led Zeppelin, they are different, both unique. In the same way you just can’t compare your family to another home school family. I was comparing myself to home school families that the dad was the only one working, and the mom got to stay home and just focus on the kids, school, and housework. (Which might I add is still so much) That’s not my life. So why compare myself to that? Each home school family is unique just like all the classic bands. And each is carving their own path in history. Your history, your story – not someone else’s.
- Be patient. Not just with your kids, but with yourself also. You know those times when you’re exhausted, you didn’t sleep the night before and your child is just not applying themselves to their math at all? They literally have 4 questions left – they could finish it in 2 minutes, but instead, they’re hanging upside down in their chair, whining that they want another snack? Those are the moments I’ve had to work HARD on my patience level. Every part of me just wants to scream ‘COME ON JUST DO THIS!‘ But when I get angry, they lose focus even more. So I’ve learned (and am learning) to be patient with each of my children and to be patient with myself. I get so frustrated with myself when I feel like I haven’t checked all the boxes for the day, and that’s just not fair.
- Remember all you did accomplish. It’s second nature to me to remember all things that I missed doing in a day, ‘I didn’t send that paper to the bank.’ ‘I didn’t send that work number to my boss.’ ‘I didn’t get the kids spelling done with them today.’ ‘We forgot to practise our musical instruments.’ Remembering all the things that you missed for the day will only cause your patience for yourself (and sometimes your family) to crash. Instead, at the end of the day, remember all the amazing things you did accomplish. You kept your kids alive, fed, happy, healthy, and educated. All in one day! Those are HUGE accomplishments. Think about it, you’re doing the job of a house cleaner, a cook, a doctor, and a teacher and often times much more. And you did all that! So forget your to – do list. You rocked this day! You should be proud of yourself. Sometimes it just takes changing your mindset, and focusing on something different to get you out of the broken shell of anxiety.
- Spend time with each child individually. What I mean by this is: Pick your most difficult subjects in your house. For us, it’s Math. When I started teaching multiple grades I thought ‘This period is for math, and this one is for science, and this one is for language arts.’ But I’m not a school, and therefore I don’t need to run like one. Is it great to have a schedule? Yes! But I found teaching each of my kids math at the same time was hands down a nightmare. One kid would need help, so I’d be working with her and my other daughter would start screaming she didn’t understand her multiplication. And so I’d head over to her. But then my other daughter would start baulking about her frustrations with her number line. Then my son would want a snack. It actually took double time when we would try to do it all together. I thought it would save time and I was poorly mistaken. What has helped us on many a day, is doing math individually. I like to start with the youngest grade first. Right now my son is in grade 1, so we sit down and work on his math. His takes the least amount of time, and I’ve taught it 3 times now so I feel like much more of a pro. While he’s working on his math, the other two have play time. Or I set them up with a school subject they enjoy. When my son finishes his math, he then can enjoy a break. While I hop into grade 2 with my daughter. It’s much easier for my children to accomplish their math lessons faster when I spend time just with them. Sure some days they’re still flipped upside down in their chair, fussing that they don’t want to do the work. But most days go much smoother when I take this approach.
- Blend different subjects. If your kids are close in age, try blending certain subjects. Like geography, or science. Have a scheduled part of the day where you all sit down at the table and work on science together, or learn some new geography together. Have fun with it.
- Outsource some classes you are having trouble teaching. I outsource our French. Obviously, French isn’t mandatory with Ontario Curriculum. But I want my children to have more opportunities in life. And I always feel like bilingualism can get them one step closer to success. In the past we’ve hired a French tutor. But with COVID looming, and our schedules constantly evolving, I’ve found them some online French resources to help them learn.(But remember, me sharing with you that we do French does not mean that you should feel guilty if your kids aren’t doing French. It’s your homeschool) Or art, I LOVE art. However, it’s one thing that unforatunely gets neglected because I’m always so busy with every thing else. It’s fun to sign them up for an art class at FourCats. They get to get their creativity on and I get to have a nice hour long break from my kids. It’s a win win!
Your Homeschool journey is yours. I think – as with everything – when you start to compare yourself, your family, and your homeschool to other families. All you do is overwhelm yourself, and that overwhelm trickles down into your kids. The days that I’m stressed and anxious, my kids feel that, I let off that negative energy and they begin to get frustrated easier with their school. Just take it slow. You don’t need to accomplish everything today, home schooling is a process, so make sure to enjoy it. As always, I want you to remember that you are a rock star, you made the incredible decision to homeschool and you’re using amazing curriculum from Schoolio. If there’s anyone who can accomplish teaching multiple grades – it’s you.
Jaymee Davis is a stay-at-home/work-at-home/ homeschool mama. She believes that you can accomplish this homeschool thing. And she’s here to help you reach those goals, one step at a time.