Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Can You Combine Classes for Kids in Different Grades?

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No matter how long we've been homeschooling, we are curious about how other homeschoolers do things. And homeschoolers who are newer to the game obviously have lots of questions! This series will try to answers some of the questions homeschoolers ask each other. Questions about how we handle some of the little details and about our opinions on different aspects of homeschooling. Questions that we all might answer differently because what works great in one family might not work at all in another. 

How do you teach the same subject to kids at different grade levels at the same time? Can you group lessons together if your kids are close in age? How do you handle kids that are a few years apart but at a similar academic level?

Yes, it is possible to teach the same subject to kids of different ages and grade levels. In fact, most years in our homeschool I taught History and Science to two or three of my four kids together, and a couple of years I had all four together. In order to make this work, I generally read or summarized from the textbook we were using and tried to generate some discussion. I would ask comprehension questions, and would specify which student should answer. For Science, I always tried to choose courses that involve a lot of simple hands-on activities. These made it easy for all ages to participate and get something out of it. For History, I also looked for hands-on activities that could go along with the lesson. I gave the younger kids coloring pages related to what we were studying, while sometimes I encouraged the older ones to take some notes.

When kids are just a year or two apart in age, it often makes a lot of sense to have them study together. Reading, spelling, and math can sometimes be done together, depending on the abilities and learning styles of the kids, but that doesn't always work out. But in most cases, almost every other subject lends itself to teaching to kids that are close in age.

Homeschool co-op classes are usually designed to have two to four grades combined in a group. Our homeschool co-op combines all middle grades (5th-8th) in classes, and all high schoolers (9th-12th). So when I taught Creative Writing for high school students last year, I had freshmen, sophomores, one junior, and one senior. (If I remember correctly) This coming year I'll be teaching high school Literature and Non-fiction Writing, and although the class sizes will probably be just a little smaller, I'll still have a mix of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. The History, Science, Spanish, and French classes have been the same. And it works well! The class size is still small enough that I can grade each student's writing individually, and my expectations for a freshman in the class are different from my expectations for a senior.

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In our co-op, freshmen through seniors studied creative writing together and did great!

When kids are several years apart, but at a similar academic level, that usually indicates one of them has a learning difficulty or delay, or one is particularly gifted or advanced. I think these situations need to be treated with a bit more sensitivity to avoid hard feelings, but teaching at home is probably a better situation for avoiding that. Grade levels are more fluid in homeschooling and it's much more workable to have a student doing mostly seventh grade work even though they are struggling with discalculia and still in the fourth grade math workbook. Or be a high school freshmen who is gifted in math and able to work on trigonometry. It's also generally less of a social issue at home, even though siblings are certainly capable of teasing and belittling each other too. Then again, a parent will generally be on hand to put a stop to anything that crosses a line. From what I've seen in homeschool group situations, like co-ops, little attention is paid by the students to the fact that a classmate may be above or below the "grade level" that would match their age.

So the short answer is Yes! It's possible, and very often it's beneficial to combine classes for kids in different grades!

Do you combine classes? How do you do it? Leave a comment and let me know what works for you - or leave a homeschool question you're curious about.

This post is part of the October 2019 Homeschool Collection on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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LM Preston said...

I love grouping history and literature together for the kids. Especially when it's interactive and visual learning.

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