Homeschooling Multiple Ages

Homeschool 315

People often wonder how homeschool parents can teach so many different ages at once. Society has been conditioned by the public school experience of different ages being segregated. It makes what should be a normal part of family life seem like a daunting task.


I love having my boys (16, 12 and 7) all working together at the table. Even though my youngest might not be able to fully comprehend all that we’re discussing, he definitely gets the benefit of repeated exposure to new concepts. Plus my older boys get the benefit of repeated practice on the basics by helping him.


It might take some juggling to find what best works for YOUR family when you’re schooling kids at different levels, but remember that grade levels are a very arbitrary thing and they don’t have to rule your homeschool.


You decide what you want your children to learn and just dig in. I’m sure that there will be something for everyone – from oldest to youngest.


Enjoy every minute!


– Nancy Carter


From my wife’s point of view, teaching multiple ages is probably one of the hardest things about homeschooling; especially when you have a truckload of kids. I know she often feels like she doesn’t have enough time to devote to each individual child. From what I can gather from some of the phone calls that she receives from other stressed-out moms, apparently she’s not alone.


But from my perspective, the one that sits in a nice, quiet office in the basement, that’s the best part of homeschooling. In fact, I think it’s the best way to learn . . . being surrounded by a bunch of other family members. Why? Because your children are learning a whole bunch more skills than math and English.


They are learning how to function as a family, that life doesn’t revolve around them, that sometimes they have to wait or help others, and that they have to work as a team to accomplish anything.


Those are vital skills that need to be mastered. By teaching a bunch of children at the same time under the same roof, they will master those skills.


So, I’m not going to give you any advice on how to devote time to each individual child . . . because you may not be able to do a lot of that. But let me say, that’s OK.


So keep up the good work . . . while I go back to my nice, quiet office.

– Todd Wilson


Teaching multiple ages. My first thoughts went something like what Todd Wilson’s might be:

Babies – put them in the swing with a good dose of sleep inducing music.


Toddlers – send them to the backyard with a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a big spoon.


Elementary kids – Buckle them to their little school desks making sure their hands are free to write down the answer to every problem in every workbook, correctly.


Older kids – Banish them to their separate rooms to mope until their work is done with threats of having to baby-sit the others if they don’t.


OK, I am totally not serious, but some days we just wonder how we can teach all these ages all at the same time. Well, the beauty of home educating is that you don’t have to do either–you get to do them:


You don’t have to teach: A lot of learning is done without you specifically setting time aside to instruct. Learning happens in living life together. What kind of learning? Older kids learn how to interact with younger ones; young ones hold conversations with adults; everyone learns how to be on the same team working toward the same goals, and they all learn to serve and love each other. You get to teach whatever you choose as a family to learn.


You don’t have to teach all at the same time: While I am working with Caleb and Mercy on phonics, Hannah is working with Joshua on science, Christopher is reading to Hope, and Jonathon is working with his computer math tutor. And then we can switch subjects and partners. Other days, Mom is doing her computer work right next to the table where all the independent students are gathered around doing their assignments while the younger ones are playing games nearby. You get to teach all at the same time as you gather together to study the Bible or history, or read aloud their favorite books.


What Johnny doesn’t get today because you are working with Susie, he will get tomorrow when you are working with him. Do as much as you can all together. Being together as a family reading and talking and laughing and learning–it can’t get much better than that!


– Deborah Wuehler

Nancy Carter is happy to call herself a relaxed homeschooler. After years of teaching in the public school system, she cherishes being able to learn together with her own children. You can read more of her family’s Lessons Learned on the Farm at


Todd Wilson, “The Familyman,” is author of “Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe,” “Help! I’m Married to a Homeschooling Mom,” and “The Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons,” and is a dad, writer, conference speaker, and former pastor. Todd and his wife  homeschool their eight children in northern Indiana when they’re not traveling around the country encouraging moms and dads. You can visit Familyman Ministries at


Deborah Wuehler is senior editor for The Old Schoolhouse ® Magazine. She resides in Roseville, California, with her husband Richard. They are the parents of eight children: three teenagers, three elementary, a preschooler and a baby. They have been homeschooling since the birth of their firstborn who is now graduated from high school.

Used with permission from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
Copyright 2009, The Homeschool Minute