Back To (Home) School: My Students; Teaching Multiple Grades & Learning Styles

Having 3 kids will teach you many things. Among these, having 3 (or more) kids will really demonstrate just how unique and different each child is, and how they have different ways of learning. No two of my three children have the same school strengths, interests or learning styles. One of the most confusing things in the early years of homeschooling was how I could try the same exact approach and do the same exact things with Drama Queen that I did with Princess but it wasn’t working. “But why not??” Because – they are not the same, they don’t think the same, they don’t learn the same. It was all very frustrating when I didn’t understand what was going on (and when I sometimes forget) but paying attention to my kids more closely has taught me to see them each for their unique strengths, interests, and talents.

My Princess

There are two kinds of princesses. The haughty, snooty, spoiled rotten kind, and the frilly, girly, graceful and sweet kind. My princess is a kind princess, even though she’s on the cusp of pre-teenhood (as she’s fond of reminding me) and even though she already falls prey to the uncontrollable surge of hormonal mood swings. OH MY. She’s in 5th/6th grade (depending on who you ask) and I can’t believe she’s almost to middle school! When did that happen?

Princess is my visual child, my artist. Though she learns best by seeing things, simply reading material alone is not enough. She does well when she takes notes and when I can give her a picture or small video to go along with the material she has just read. Her favorite subject is history, though she easily gets bogged down by long lists of dates and places to memorize. She has NEVER enjoyed math, though we’ve finally had some big successes once I thought to adjust learning math facts for her learning style. (DUH Me, right?)

Princess also likes to *do* things… like science projects, dressing up & acting out parts, that sort of thing. I think the drawing fits in here, too. It allows her to take what she visualizes in her head and create something with it, put it on paper. All of these are things I’ll be keeping in mind as we go into our school year.

Drama Queen

Drama Queen, age 7, likes to talk. BOY. DOES. SHE. EVER. (She comes by it honestly.) But as much as she like to talk she also likes to move. I had a hard time trying to decide exactly which one was her stronger learning style. But when it comes down to it doesn’t really matter, I need to incorporate both and I still need to address her need to wiggle while she learns. Because that girl can’t sit still! Once I figured out she HAS to wiggle to learn though, I figured out I could do stuff like bouncing a tennis ball back and forth with her while reciting math facts out loud.

Me: “2 plus 2 is..” (bounce the ball to her)
Her: “Four” (bounce the ball back to me)
And so on.

By doing things like patty caking (you know the complicated kind, what’s that called) or bouncing balls back and forth while memorizing or reviewing information, Drama Queen can actually focus on the learning and believe it or not she actually answers faster. Weird, huh! This has been a real challenge for me because I cannot think when they fidget!! You can imagine how frustrated we both were when she was fidgeting on my lap while I was trying to teach her to read and I kept telling her to sit still and then tell me what the next sound was. Lesson learned: She can’t sit on my lap while we’re doing school. ; )

Drama Queen, by the way, comes by her blog name for a reason, and if you knew her when she was 3, you’d know why! Fortunately she’s mellowed out greatly. She despises learning to read. She likes math. And like her sister, she loves to do hands on science projects. She loves to sing (which she could be fairly good at with some practice) and she’s not so great at fine motor skills so she’ll be PRACTICING her handwriting a lot this year!

The Little Prince

If the bloggy name “Little Prince” sounds spoiled, well, I plead the 5th. I TRY really hard not to spoil him any more than I did the girls but well, he IS the baby! So it’s something I really need to stay strong to avoid. Most days he’s acting more like a dragon slayer, kungfu warrior, a dirty pirate or space alien rather than a little prince, but in between he’s a big sweetie. The imaginative capabilities of a 4 year boy just astounds me, and has really caught me by surprise. It’s also forced me to grow and change and learn to let some things go and let boys be boys from time to time.

Being 4, Little Prince isn’t really “required” to do a lot during the school day but being the only one not doing school work can be a lonely thing sometimes. Sometimes he wants to be involved but most times has very little attention span for it (unless it’s an educational computer game of course.) He seems to learn by osmosis – seriously, just ask him what a cumulous cloud is/does and what a therapod is. Though he may actually talk more than Drama Queen, I’ve only just realized how much of his world he’s taking in visually. He has a stack of encyclopedia type picture books he likes to look through and he absorbs every drop of information he can out of them. I think if he could read the captions himself he probably wouldn’t ask me nearly so many questions. Well, maybe. ; )

I can already tell that his main areas of interest are science related so even though Little Prince is more than welcome to entertain himself otherwise, I fully expect him to want to be involved with our science projects and experiments. For all the times he’s not, I’m planning on stocking up on a lot more picture books and hands on tinker type toys for him to learn with this year.

Teaching Multiple Grades

Teaching multiple grades was a whole lot easier when one was in 1st grade and one was in preschool and the third one wasn’t even here yet! Kids grow, though, families expand and things change. A LOT. Over the years we’ve adapted, adapted, adapted to our changing circumstances: doing school during the baby’s nap time, teaching some simultaneously though not together, teaching one student while the other one played with the baby.. you name it. It’s a balancing act and it can be hard to figure out. A wise woman once told me: “You’re not a public school, it doesn’t have to look like a public school setting.” SO. TRUE.

I often wonder what teachers in one room school houses did with all the kids on so many different levels. I bet you we could learn a lot from them. As I’ve pondered what kinds of things they must have done to make it work, I’ve come up a few ideas that may help us this year. Those are:

  1. Teaching the “Three R’s” individually at level. By this I mean using curriculum & teaching methods that fit the child’s learning style and at their ability level and individually. I’ve scheduled a set time to work on math, but I can have the preschooler play with math blocks and the 2nd grader run through some flash cards and math facts on her own while I teach or review a concept with the 5th grader. After I set her to work on her assignment I can work one on one with the 2nd grader, teaching or reviewing a concept. After I get her started on her assignment I can sit down to work on simple counting and math concepts with the preschooler.
  2. Combined teaching for science, history and bible with individualized projects & assignments. We’ll be going through a science (or history or bible lesson) together as a group and then I’ll give them each different projects according to their interests and abilities. I may have Princess write an essay, draw a picture or build a model. I may have Drama Queen memorize a skit, write a song about it, or draw a picture. And so on and so forth.
  3. Fewer science and history lessons per week and longer time periods spent on each one. This year we’ll be doing science and history each only twice a week (on different days) but I’ve allotted an hour and a half available for each session. We won’t be doing experiments every day but this should allow for more time spent on doing experiments and creating projects that will help make what they learn more fun and memorable. And what about that hour and a half on the fifth day each week? I’ll be mixing it up with educational videos, from NASA and National Geographic and History.com, etc.
  4. Four year olds still need naps. They don’t want to. They don’t think they do. But they do need to lay down and rest at the very least. But he won’t if he thinks we’re all doing something he’s missing out on. The solution? An hour of quiet reading time after lunch. He has to lay down in his room. The girls have to lay down and read for an hour for required reading. It’s a win/win.

I imagine one room schoolhouses didn’t have preschoolers. I can’t imagine what they’d have done with them without dvd players and legos! Teaching the two different grades last year with a preschooler under foot was a challenge but we made it and both of the girls actually had some pretty major successes, too. This year will hopefully go a little bit smoother since I know I can do it, Little Prince is a little LESS little and I’ve adjusted our approach a little to accommodate where we’re at right now. Here’s hoping anyway – right??

Now it’s your turn.

I want to know what you’ve learned about teaching multiple grades. Or have struggled with. Or if you have any questions or tips. You can write a post about this or about your “students” or an all-in-one post about everything. You can even link up a post you’ve already written so long as it’s on topic and links back here. See how easy going I am? Everything links up on the same linky list on yesterday’s post. You can also list your blog on the homeschool blog linky or list a post with curriculum for sale.

Here’s a link to the main carnival post (with the linkies).
Here’s a link to yesterday’s post about planning & scheduling.
Here’s a link to Wednesday’s post, “Our School Day.”
Here’s a link to Thursday’s post, “Our Curriculum.”

Come on, what are you waiting for? Share with us!

This post was also submitted to The HomeSchool Carnival.

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Carol J. Alexander
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Carol J. Alexander

What I’ve learned teaching multiple grades:
Older ones can help with younger one.
Highschoolers can get up much earlier than the rest of the family to do school work so that they are available the rest of the day to help mom, help siblings, or work a part time job.
Do as much as possible as a family.
Do reading and math first. After that, don’t watch the clock. Let the children’s interests lead.
You have a beautiful site.
Blessings,
Carol

Christine from Teaching Jobs Today
Guest
Christine from Teaching Jobs Today

Good point about each child being unique. Someone once said something very smart to me. She said, “You have to realize that your children aren’t really just your ‘children.’ They’re little ‘people.'”