I have seen this question come up often on local home education Facebook groups and alike, and there never seems like enough space in a comment to write what I would really love to write.
As you know we have five children. I realise it is easy to forget when you look at them now aged 22, 20, 18, 16 and 10 that they were all little once and being home educated together, because I do it all the time. But believe me, they were all little once and they were definitely home educated.
So how did I do it?
I changed my educational philosophy many times over the years of our journey, more often than not to suit the season of life we were in and the educational needs of our children. So we never stuck to just one label or way of doing things. Currently with Boy 10 we lean-to a more autonomous approach.
The first thing to sort out in your mind, is how you want to home educate. You need to come up with an educational philosophy that suits you and your children. You don’t have to follow the National Curriculum (we didn’t really- other than the occasional book when I freaked out). You can use other resources to aid you, or you can take a more natural approach and unschool.
Once you are sorted on HOW you want to do it, it really is sorting out WHAT you are going.
If you decide you want to follow the National Curriculum, and you would rather it be more school at home, then the simplest thing to do is to just buy books that cover the National Curriculum for the right stage of your child.
I always found Letts to be a helpful company if we ever bought book, as they used to allow Home Educators a discount on their material. I am not sure if they still do, but it might be worth finding out. You can visit their site here.
But there are other companies too that write these kind of books. It can work out expensive if you want to cover all the subject areas for multiple children. It might be worth considering covering Maths, English and Science this way if you want to stick to National Curriculum and using another approach (like hands on learning) for other subject areas.
You can sometimes find home educators (or others) selling unused books second hand in online communities like Facebook.
If you’ve never seen a lapbook, this video provides a great visual example.
Essentially they are a clever way of doing project work, and keeping that information safety stored in an attractive way, that makes it easier to keep and look back on.
I sometimes used them when the kids were little, because you could target topics at various ages, and they could work on their project at their own pace and developmental level.
They are of course not the only company producing lapbook material, and a Google search will provide you with others.
This blog claims to have the biggest list of Free Home School Lapbooks ever!
Once you’ve done a couple, it’s not hard to come up with the material for your own self-styled lapbooks if you are so inclined. A lapbook is really a unit study, that is being stored and presented in a particular style.
Like the lapbooks, a unit study can be a great way of bringing several age groups together, and they can something you design yourself, or you can use one that has been prepackaged for you.
Often they cover several areas of the curriculum all at once, and can be used by multiple age groups. Or like this one, Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers
While the above book is one you would need to buy, the internet is full of free resources that can make your home ed journey more cost effective. Pinterest has whole boards dedicated to Unit Studies.
This one by Home Ed mum Lynn Seddon is a beautiful way to study nature together over the course of a year. It is based on a Charlotte Mason approach to education, and is a fab way of bringing your family together while learning. You can read more about it by clicking on the link.
Use your Computer
Our computer has been invaluable to our home education journey. It doesn’t in anyway replace books, as I still value going to a book shelf and picking up a resource book to use. But it has made it a little easier to home educate multiple children.
Often companies will do a discount for siblings (although not all will). It can be helpful to schedule one child to do an activity on the computer, while sitting down helping another one do something one on one.
Currently Boy 10 is using IXL Maths and English, working independently on the tasks.
He is also enjoying Mystery Science, and my hope is to extend our usage of this in the New Year by doing it together, and filling it out more.
But there are loads out there if you want to integrate them into your year
I have found the group PopArt Home Education group on Facebook to be invaluable, but please if you join, bear in mind these are parents accessing resources for their own children and offering them to yours at the same time. Please treat them respectfully.
(Disclaimer -we have not used all of these below, it is simply a list I have compiled)
Hands on Learning
I love hands on learning and to be honest, most of our home ed experience is made up of this. I think there is nothing better than learning about a topic from people who are passionate about it. But not only that, I love learning alongside my kids, so it becomes a holistic experience for all of us.
Places like the National Trust have an Educational Group Membership which they have extended to Home Ed families, and I believe English Heritage will offer free entry to educators if you book ahead.
In terms of other subject areas, there are many places in the community where you can begin to access free or inexpensive lessons and experiences. If you join local Facebook groups, getting a group together to bring down the cost is also an option.
Museums, art galleries,universities, theatres, community and sporting groups often have educational officers that will help you access the programs they provide.
While you can have all your ducks in a row, with how you are going to go about your home education sometimes it is the simple things that can add stress. Thinking through how you are going to spend your time during your day can help stop problems arising later on.
I am not a scheduler by nature, in fact I am a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal truth be known, so I can understand when you have to go beyond your comfort zones to make things run smoothly.
When the children were little I used to do things like this;
- While reading a story out loud, I may get them to draw a picture, or practice hand writing, play with Lego.
- If I needed to work with one child on something, I may set another child to play something with an even younger child. Or read them a simple book play with Lego or watch an educational dvd or program together. Things like The Magic School Bus, while feeling very retro now, at the time where great resources that I could put on to help buy myself some time.
- Utilise resources online like Khan Academy, Wonder Quest or the myriad of documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime. It’s a great thing to be able to whip on a show, if the phone rings and you suddenly have to leave the room, or you need to work one on one with a child.
- Make natural use of time where your children are in other activities. If your 9-year-old is in a drama group, for example, take along something to do while you are waiting with your 5-year-old.
Make use of everyday situations-Natural learning
As you start to home educate, you suddenly start to see the world from a different perspective. You start to view life as one big learning adventure.
- Baking with kids suddenly becomes an opportunity to cover maths topics like measuring, weighing, time management, doubling (addition and multiplication), fractions etc. You can also bring science in with how different ingredients react, density of oil and water, how the cooking process changes ingredients, solids, liquids etc.
- Walking in the park (beach or any new environment) gives you an opportunity to look at seasons, trees, mini beasts, different environments, conservation, den building, look at art, talk about the weather, clouds, people, different races, different animals, caring for pets, town planning, recycling, caring for our environment, mapping, fitness.
- Art, music and inventors can be a great way of looking at history while bringing in fascinating studies and they can be brought into life quite incidentally, or in a more focused way. When my children were little we used to borrow a different CD from the library every week. I used to choose things that were really different, and just play it during the week. We listened to all kinds of music from many different cultures and genre’s. We didn’t put it on and all sit round gawking at the CD player, but we would put it in the car or have it on in the house while doing other things. Looking at who made things in your local environment can also be a great way to learn. Talking about electricity, who invented it? What else did they invent? Who else was involved in that process? How does it help us today? How have our lives changed? Question everything!
- If you meet someone from another culture, learn about that culture, look at geography, make some food, ask stories about their childhood.
- Set the learning tone. I don’t think that I am a particularly knowledgeable person. I don’t retain facts and figures. I can barely remember what movies I have watched sometimes, that is not the kind of learner I am. It is not uncommon for Boy 10 to ask me a question in the car about something, and I tell him to Google it. I am not the wise imparter of all knowledge in my house hold. I am a fire starter of inquiry. I would much rather show my child how to learn something for themselves and to learn it along side them, than feel that I have to pour a bucket of information that is important to me, all over them. When you are all doing that together it can be a great way to learn.
Allow them to play
Some of the best things my kids came up with when they were littler, came out of the times they were left alone. They wrote scripts, and made movies. They learnt magic tricks, sewed clothes, wrote stories, made art, experimented, came up with crazy games, wrote songs, learnt dances, learnt new tricks on a trampoline or swimming pool. They practised hand stands and cartwheels, kicked balls, threw balls, played board games, climbed trees, made dens, jumped rope, rode bikes, played wonderful games filled with imaginary characters and story lines, dressed up, tried crafts, whittled, taught themselves a song on an instrument, baked, made dinner, read books, listened to music, built whole worlds in Minecraft, made friends on Skype from all over the world. Grew things. All of those activities could be tied into educational principles, if I took the time to think about it. But really, I was just happy to call it life.
We are afraid these days of our kids getting bored, but really it is often in those times, that they become the most creative. It is a really great challenge as parents, to not try to fill their every waking minute with ‘educational’ experiences.
We somehow feel like failures if they aren’t always doing something ‘productive’ that we can measure. We are worried that they will fall through imaginary cracks in the educational universe. But they won’t. Those times that look unproductive to us, can be the MOST productive times to inquiring minds, who want to spend time doing the things that are important too them.
I would love to hear your thoughts on how you have home educated multiple children and made learning a family affair.
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