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One-room schoolhouses are not a thing of the past. Many families today are simultaneously educating several children. If you are home schooling two or more children at once, you probably already realize the need for careful planning. But how do you arrange your priorities so that you balance teaching and household duties?
Begin by ordering your teaching materials early-before summer-so that you have the summer to plan. Ordering early gives you time to read through the teacher's manuals and to familiarize yourself with the materials. This initial reading may also spark ideas to use for teaching. During the summer you can collect or make teaching visuals. Older children and grandparents can help you with this, as well as offer other ideas for visuals.
While you are planning, schedule some group projects in which the entire family can participate. Children of all ages enjoy outings, camping trips, and games. Other possibilities include letting the children help in family business, having each person take a turn in leading family devotions, and holding oral readings and music concerts.
When you begin teaching, combine some subjects that are on the same age level. For instance, use science topics for composition assignments, or integrate math and writing by having your child write and then solve his own word problems. If your child is on the junior high level, you may want to combine Heritage Studies with Earth Science; for example, study the effect of weather on different landforms, particularly noting changes brought about by hurricanes and tornados.
Combining subjects helps your children understand how different subjects relate to one another. You may sometimes find it more advantageous, however, to teach complex subjects individually so that you can concentrate on a particular topic, rather than divide your attention between two topics.
Alternate independent activities and directed teaching. While one child works on independent worktext activities or does some household chores, you can teach another child. If your children are close in age, try to integrate some of their subjects during directed teaching. If they are not close in age, give the priority of your time to the younger children. While you work with them, the older children can work independently on math problems, research, or other activities. For high school students, supplement their studies with specialized assistance from community resources (e.g., the library and museums).
Teaching several children requires making the most of each school day. One of the best ways to do this is to have the children help one another. Older children can quiz younger children over subjects such as the alphabet, numerical recognition and sequencing, and Bible memory verses. Older children can also drill one another in the multiplication tables, capitals of states and countries, and dates of important historical events.
Another way to improve the use of your time is to incorporate Bible subjects into family devotions. Review content, verses, catechisms, and songs. Placing missionary prayer cards on a world map can help your children review their geography, in addition to praying for missionaries. If your children put to use what they learn, they will be more likely to remember the material.
Not all lessons will come from the teaching materials you are using. Many lessons will come from unexpected circumstances, such as household repairs. Keep a do-it-yourself book around the house so that when something needs to be fixed, you can fix it. Not only is this informative for your children, but it is also excellent practice for you. You may also want to have your children keep a journal about what happens each day. Try to think of ways to bring lesson material into daily occurrences. For instance, use recipes for practice with fractions, match silverware and glassware of different shapes and sizes, or classifying foods or clothing.
As you are planning, be sure to think of ways to make your work easier. Meal planning can save you much time and effort, especially on hectic days. Prepare meals that can be frozen and cooked later or heated up later, such as casseroles. Cleaning and laundry can be scheduled on a rotation system. For instance, clean the bathrooms on Monday, wash linens or Tuesday, and clean bedrooms on Wednesday. Of course, your children can learn many practical lessons by helping you with the household duties.
Be sure to allow yourself some time to relax, and be flexible. You don't have to follow the same schedule every week. You will probably find that teaching more than one child does not always have to be a great deal of extra work because your children will be helping you and one another.