8 Affordable Homeschool Storage Solutions

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Before getting into all the homeschool storage solutions I have for you, let me first say this: Homeschool organization is about practicality and not merely about good looks. A Pinterest perfect homeschool room will do you no good unless it's functional for your family and your children love learning within those walls.

Also, with kids around all day every day, there is no way to keep your homeschool area in order unless your organization system is sustainable with everyone doing his part to keep it tidy. The burden can't fall solely on you, mom.

Benjamin Franklin said, "A place for everything, everything in its place." Wise words, but along the way, I've learned a few tricks to make things look organized even when they might not really be as neat as I would prefer.

When I think of practical, affordable, and sustainable storage solutions for my homeschool, I gravitate towards these eight solutions. You likely have many of these around the house already, so you can repurpose them to organize your homeschool.

1. Baskets

Baskets are a versatile way to keep things looking organized. They are great to store read-aloud books, readers, CDs, DVDs, manipulatives, and even games.

Create inviting reading spaces around the house using baskets with favorite books for your children. For example, I keep baskets of books under our coffee table in the living room and other baskets of books beside sitting areas.  I notice that the more I expose and make books available throughout the house, the more my kids read. Keeping them in a basket appears more tidy than in off kilter stacks.

2. Totes & Bins

I am obsessed with totes and bins. (Now you know one of my weaknesses.) I use large utility totes to organize homeschool books, board games, office supplies, craft supplies, etc.

Totes and bins are great ways to keep bookshelves looking organized no matter what state things are inside. They also add color and beauty to your area. I especially use them to store books of different sizes and odd shapes that don't look even on bookshelves.

3. Plastic Containers

Plastic containers come in every size and shape to help you store anything you need from paper clips to board games. I use plastic shoe boxes to organize my office supplies and large ones to organize what I call learning boxes. Inside my Geography Learning Box, I keep geography games, atlases, and map puzzles. Inside my Math Learning Box I keep math manipulatives, dice, flash cards, math games, etc. I also have a learning box for literacy.

One advantage of using plastic containers is I can see what is stored inside. You can label them and stack them together in a bookshelf or in a closet to maximize space. For example, I keep plastic containers with beads, crayons, and scraps of foam and paper underneath our coffee table for fun craft time.

4. Binders

What better way to organize our homeschool paper clutter than with binders? I have binders for everything and everyone in our homeschool.

My main binder is big and bold. It contains our Sonlight Instructor's Guide for Bible, Literature, and History. This big binder is divided into 36 weeks for the year with notes I need to teach my children. Sonlight Instructor's Guides are perfect for busy homeschool moms who need an open and teach curriculum. You can peek inside these awesome instructor guides here.

But instead of opening this big binder and teaching from it daily, I transfer four to six weeks of lessons at a time to a smaller binder. Smaller binders take less space and are much lighter to carry around. I use small binders for our Sonlight Language Arts curriculum and our Science curriculum.

Each of my children has their own binder as well, divided by days of the week from Monday to Friday for their worksheets. Binders are also great to keep samples of your children's work if your state requires a portfolio.

5. Magazine Holders

Magazine holders help me sort books and resources by subjects. It is one of the best ways to make your bookcase look very pretty and organized even for floppy things that don't stand up well on their own.

You can use magazine holders to store spiral notebooks, planners, printables, clipboards, binders and even DVDs. I love the floral magazine holders I bought recently at our local dollar store and a new set of yellow ones I bought at IKEA for only $7.

6. Over the Chair Storage Pockets

This homeschool organization solution of mine came from the dollar store. I can't stop telling my readers and homeschool friends about it. I spent only $1 on each and I love how practical it is.

These over the chair storage pockets hold so much:

The pockets help my children to be more independent and prepared with exactly what they need. Thankfully, the pockets also help this mama to keep her table clean and her homeschool space organized. When we have guests over for dinner, I simply remove the over the chair storage pockets and put them away.

7. Mason Jars

Mason jars are a great way to store pens, pencils, markers, paper clips, scissors, and chore sticks. These jars can be inexpensive if you buy them in bulk at your local supermarket. And, of course, many grocery items come in glass jars that can be repurposed as storage solutions.

Another great way to use Mason jars is to store arts and crafts supplies. You can store cotton balls, buttons, popsicle sticks, craft stems, straws and so much more in jars. And why not ask your children to decorate the jars as well? My daughters love to decorate Mason jars with washi tapes and add chalkboard labels to them.

8. Workboxes

Organizing our homeschool books in workbox drawers has worked wonders for us. We only need one set of 10 workbox drawers for all three children, and we organize them by the daily order in which we use them.

From top to bottom, I use the first drawers for subjects we read togetherthe Couch Subjects™. The next drawers are for my two oldest children's Language Arts curriculum, and finally, the two bottom drawers are for my youngest.

This method works well for our family, but there are other ways to use workboxes to organize your homeschool. For instance, my friend has a set of workbox drawers for each student numbered from 1 to 10 following the sequence of her daily homeschool routine. This works well for them.

No matter what solutions you use, if you have too much stuff, your homeschool area will feel crowded. So continually simplify and get rid of (or pack away) unnecessary things. You only need what you are currently using at reach around your homeschool space. There is no point to keep or display what you are not needing at the moment.

Aim for homeschool spaces that are inviting, comfortable and engaging. You truly can organize your homeschool without spending a lot of money.

Do you have a favorite homeschool organization tip to share with us? I am always on the lookout for new ideas to help me best organize my homeschool.

Begin your homeschool organization with a well structured curriculum in a tidy binder. Try three weeks of any Sonlight Instructor's Guide for free. Click here to get one for any level, preschool through twelfth grade.

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One Way to Respond When Your Child Tells You Something Hard

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One Way to Respond When Your Child Tells You Something Hard • Christian parenting and homeschooling

Sonlight helps you practice talking together with your kids about opposing viewpoints and tricky topics such as poverty, so that when your children want to talk about their own hard things, it all feels more natural. From the earliest programs, the books and discussion questions you share with your children open up all sorts of meaningful conversations.

Maintaining open communication with our children has always been a very high priority for John and me in our parenting. We certainly aren’t perfect, but we strive to create safe places for our children to talk through what they’re thinking, even if we disagree with their conclusions. Especially in the teenage years, we strongly preferred to have difficult conversations with them and hear their hearts, instead of having them process the same things exclusively with their peers.

What to Say When Your Child Says Something Hard to Hear

In that light, here’s a helpful tip I’d like to share. If you need a response at the ready when your children tell you something difficult for you to hear, try this:

Thank you for being willing to tell me that.

This is a true statement that invites further conversation. I assume that you are grateful, after all, that your child chose to tell you. You may not be excited to hear the revelation they shared, but if they are already thinking it, you would rather hear it than not. You do indeed want a real conversation about this. So this statement helps you start off with a true, safe response that tells your child they can be honest with you.

This can be a good first response, whether your 10-year-old comes to tell you he cheated in a ball game, or your 16-year-old is trying to tell you she’s not sure what she thinks about God. Know that it took courage for your children to tell you.

Listen in Love

When your kids open up to you, the first thing they need is for you to listen. That can be very hard when your first natural reaction would be to scream, shudder, or quote Bible verses, telling them why they’re wrong. They probably already know what you believe about the issue. They probably even know the Bible verses you want to share with them. And there will be time to share those things, but what they need first is to know it is safe to tell you this scary thing. They need to know that you still love them and you care about their heart and you want to know what they’re thinking.

So as a shortcut to helping start the conversation off on the right foot, remember this line: Thank you for being willing to tell me that. That gives you and your child a moment to take a breath and remember that you are in relationship with one another. It sets you up to approach things from a place of care and respect as you prepare to listen.

Relationship Give Us the Avenue to Impart Wisdom

You are a crucial guide for your child. And as we all know, the only way you’ll be invited to stay part of the conversation happening in your child’s heart is if you can respect your child throughout it, even if you disagree with them. In the end, your greatest gifts to your children are your presence, your love, and your wisdom. And we must present our wisdom in the context of relationship and love or it will most likely fall on flat ears.

I’ll be vulnerable here and say that I, too, have had my fair share of very difficult conversations with my children. I know the pain when a child says they believe something different than what I hold so dear. And I know the reward of choosing to stay in relationship with the child and stay in their life through love and genuine care for who they are as a person.

Here are some examples to help you imagine some surprising things you may get to respond to someday:

  • ”Mom, I look gross. I hate the rolls on my stomach. I am so fat. Why did God make me like this?”
  • ”When I turn 18, I’m going to tattoo my entire arm, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
  • ”Mom, there’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you, but you might get really mad. Um … I’m not sure I believe in God.”
  • ”Hey Mom, you know that girl from co-op? I think she’s so cute! I’m going to ask her out.”
  • ”I’m so sick of homeschooling. I just want to be with my friends. I really, really, want to go to public school next year.”

Regardless of what your internal reaction may be, this could be the first thing out of your mouth in all these situations: “Wow, thank you for being willing to tell me that.”

Then of course you could say something else that opens up further conversation, such as “It sounds like this has been really hard for you lately,” or “Tell me more about that,” or “Would you like to say more about what’s on your mind?”

Testing the Boundaries of Love

Sometimes our children just want to test something out with us. What will you say if they say they’re going to dye their hair blue? Is there something they could do to get outside your love? Like toddlers deliberately testing the boundaries to see what will happen, children and teenagers sometimes just need to see how we’ll react.

And of course, sometimes it’s more serious than that. Even when the parents do everything right, each child is their own person, responsible for their own decisions. And sometimes all we can do is continue to pray for God’s love and truth to penetrate our children’s hearts.

If you are in a difficult season with one of your children, know that I pray for parents in your situation. It can be so hard to watch someone you love more than words make damaging decisions. If you would like me to pray specifically for you, don’t hesitate to email me at president@sonlight.com.

God bless you as you walk this high and worthy calling of parenting. And thank you for being willing to hear your children. What a beautiful gift to them.


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3 Ways Biographies Enlighten Your Children

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3 Ways Biographies Enlighten Your Children

Biographies are a poignant educational tool, able to leave a lifelong impact. But why exactly does it matter that a literature-based curriculum incorporates biographies rather than simply using textbooks alone? How do biographies enlighten your children on their adventure of learning?

1. Biographies Reveal the Context for Geography and Culture

People’s lives, in context, teach us so much. Once we read Jean Fritz’ Homesick: My Own Story, the Yangtze River is no longer just a squiggly line of cartography. We’re immersed in the bustle of activity around the Hankou city center, and that part of our historical map is brought to life.

When Englishman Hudson Taylor moves to nineteenth-century China and dons traditional Chinese dress, we vividly see the culture of that particular place and time, and our eyes are opened to delightfully diverse differences across cultures. Biographies teach us to view other cultures as particularly and beautifully designed, and not as something which needs to be Westernized upon conversion.

And it’s not just west-to-east-travel stories we should be reading. Reading a wide variety of biographies shapes our global worldview in a positive way, giving us a whole world full of non-stereotypical, nuanced, heroes and heroines of diverse backgrounds.

2. Biographies Enlighten the Context of History and Conflicts

When we read textbook explanations of conflicts in history, we’re given a tidy synopsis of each side’s perspective, and it’s easy to say, “I know what side I would have chosen!” But when we read biographies, we see that choosing sides wasn’t always a simple black and white decision. Biographies reveal the twists and turns such as circumstance and environment, political climate, morals, ethics and beliefs, family ties, physical boundaries of geography, and more.

Textbooks might tell us generalized reasons which spurred waves of immigration, for example, but biographies will clue us into intensely personal reasons behind an individual’s decision to emigrate. Biographies weave an essential human element into the study of history, revealing deep and profound complexities.

3. Biographies Show God’s Hand in the Arc of Time

In our daily lives, it’s easy to lose perspective and view current struggles as disrupting our own plans—I know I am guilty of this all the time. But when we read biographies, we can see how God gently leads his people, and how obstacles and shortcomings become opportunities for His glory. What may be troublesome and even painful in the short term, often is transformed into something we never could have dreamed or imagined. Reading stories like this gives us courage, and strength to persevere.

Biographies also have the potential to make indelible marks upon our lives. As a little girl, curled up on our grey woven couch halfway across the world from here, I read about a young Amy Carmichael—when she was my own age!—pleading for God to miraculously change her brown eyes to blue. Her eye color didn’t change, of course, and years later, those brown eyes allowed her to disguise herself in India and rescue countless girls from a lifetime of temple abuse. I’ll never forget how her prayer for blue eyes wasn’t answered the way she originally hoped; no, God’s answer was so much more powerful. And yet, her life wasn’t without suffering. In her years of being bedridden, Amy Carmichael wrote page after page of profound and impactful poetry.

In Psalm 119, the psalmist prays, “[Lord,] order my steps.”  When we read biographies, we get a glimpse into that glorious ordering. In the course of our own lifetime, we will encounter trials and suffering. We may even endure days and years which are so achingly painful, we might even feel as though they are a waste. But someday, when we no longer see through a glass dimly (I Corinthians 13:12), when the arc of our life is viewed in light of eternity, we will see how God has woven it all together—the agonizing twists and turns we didn’t understand, the seemingly unfulfilled prayers, the untidy ends, the tangled threads, the knotted mess—into a beautiful tapestry beyond compare.

“Not in vain, the tedious toil,

On an unresponsive soil,

Travail, tears in secret shed,

Over hopes that lay as dead.

All in vain, thy faint heart cries.

Not in vain, thy Lord replies;

Nothing is too good to be;

Then believe, believe to see.

 

Did thy labor turn to dust?

Suffering—did it eat like rust,

Till the blade that once was keen,

As a blunted tool is seen?

Dust and rust thy life’s reward?

Slay the thought: believe thy Lord,

When thy soul is in distress

Think upon His faithfulness.

 

Though there be not fig nor vine,

In thy stall there be no kine,

Flock be cut off from the fold,

Not a single lamb be told,

And thy olive berry fall

Yielding no sweet oil at all,

Pulse-seed wither in the pod,

Still do thou rejoice in God.

 

But consider, was it vain,

All the travail on the plain?

For the bud is on the bough;

It is green where thou didst plough.

Listen, tramp of little feet,

Call of little lambs that bleat;

Hearken to it. Verily,

Nothing is too good to be.”

-Amy Carmichael

See the power of biographies firsthand. Try three weeks of any Sonlight Instructor's Guide for free. Click here to get one for any level, preschool through twelfth grade.

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How to Homeschool in an Intergenerational Household

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How to Homeschool in an Intergenerational Household • homeschooling tips • homeschool families

My mom’s bedroom is right down the hall from us. She moved in shortly before my second child was born. She has been a constant in their lives since they were little. She helps feed them, dress them, play with them, and yes, educate them. In our home, Grandma is a vital part of our homeschool experience. We have an intergenerational approach to homeschooling.

Choosing to Homeschool

When we elected to homeschool—a decision my husband and I researched extensively—it was important for us that Grandma also be on board. I value my mother’s opinion and I hope my daughter grows to value mine as well. Thus, when we chose to homeschool, I was very careful to introduce it as something we were going to commit to fully and not merely a passing fad in our parenting. Fortunately, my mom quickly understood the myriad benefits of homeschooling and was on board with the decision.

My mom has been instrumental in their education from day one. I’d be hard pressed to find a day when my mother wasn’t singing nursery rhymes, reading books, or letting my children help her prepare something in the kitchen. So when we began to research curricula, it was essential that we all be comfortable with our choice. All three of us would be working together to raise and educate our kids. We would be homeschooling in an intergenerational home.

Choosing Our Curriculum

One of the best decisions we made was to use Sonlight as our base curriculum. The materials are well suited for use with a family that has more than one pair of hands in the “homeschooling kitchen.” As I type this, I can hear my mother laughing while enjoying a read aloud with all three kids in the other room. While dinner is being made, my husband will likely be pouring over one of the Usborne Science books with the kids in awe over the amazing facts and beautiful illustrations. We benefit greatly from being able to complete the Read-Alouds, Bible stories, and Science experiments as a family, with all three adults participating.

Having other adults interested in what the kids are accomplishing provides a built in show-and-tell. My daughter loves to show her Timeline Book to her father and grandmother and introduce them to the characters she has met this week, whether Adam and Eve or Abraham Lincoln. The children involve all of us in pretend play featuring their favorite characters. For example, while reading The Boxcar Children, we built pretend campfires, pressed flowers, and learned how to wrap a dog’s injured paw.

Like every other homeschooling family in the world, we have exceptionally good and exceptionally bad days. Homeschooling with three strong-willed and opinionated adults in one house can get tricky. Keeping track of who is doing what when can become overwhelming at times. More than once we have found ourselves promising a trip to the park when another adult had already planned to finish a Read-Aloud. Through trial and error, our family has identified key strategies for making the most out of homeschooling in an intergenerational household.

7 Key Strategies for Homeschooling in an Intergenerational Home

1. Commit to homeschooling.

While this may seem obvious, it can be almost impossible to homeschool successfully without everyone in the household being on board.

2. Communicate regularly.

Clearly communicating your goals as a family is key for peaceful learning. We have a clear plan showing what activities have to be completed before moving on to the next level of activity.

3. Have adults take ownership.

Make a clear notation of who will be covering which items on the to do list or in the Instructor's Guide (IG). We know several families that have success with Dad covering Science, Mom leading Language Arts, and Grandma reading the read alouds. We chose not to do go this route because we wanted the kids to see each of us working with them on the different subjects even if they were not our favorites. Instead we typically let the child choose what he or she wants to do with us next and then sign off when it’s done so the next adult up to bat can see what was covered.

4. Track what items have been completed.

Make sure that all the adults are familiar with how to track completed assignments. We simply place the child’s initial after the completed assignment on the IG. You may also find it beneficial to discuss what needs to happen in order for the assignment to be deemed complete; decide if  you are looking for coverage or mastery of the material.

5. Suggest or prepare activities in advance.

Making sure all necessary materials for a science project are available or the current Read-Aloud is nearby can help ensure schooling gets done. Our current Read-Aloud is always kept at the same place in the kitchen. Sometimes we have more than one Read-Aloud going at a time, so that whichever adult has started the book can also finish the book. We enjoy the stories too and don't want to miss out on any chapters!

6. Be flexible.

Life is going to happen. Sometimes reading aloud is the only thing that gets done. Perhaps there is a struggle with some element of handwriting. We do our best to be patient, pray, and be prepared to adjust routines as needed to best fit our family.

7. Keep the focus on the family.

Focus more on relationships and connection versus mastery of academics. Family should always come first. For us, God is at the very heart of family. Learning and education should never come at the expense of these relationships, but foster, encourage, and grow the family.

Sharing the responsibility of homeschooling over more than one generation can be challenging, but hugely rewarding both for the kids and for the adults! If you have family either nearby or sharing a home with you, I encourage you to include them in your educational plans. I hope you too will be able to find the joys that can be found in intergenerational homeschooling!

A clear homeschool plan—such as the ones laid out in Sonlight Instructor's Guides—is key for intergenerational homeschooling. Try three weeks of any Sonlight Instructor's Guide for free, preschool through twelfth grade.

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Finding Your Homeschool Box and Then Teaching Outside of It

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Finding Your Homeschool Box and Then Teaching Outside of It • homeschool encouragement

Nothing has taught me more about my children than homeschooling. No other situation or experience has given me such a close look at their personalities, likes, dislikes, passions, and frustrations. However, this lifestyle has also given me a closer look at how I'm wired too: I'm task-oriented.

  1. I want to know the goal.
  2. I want the game plan up front and broken down into predetermined action steps.
  3. I want a list with pretty boxes to check off.

Not only do I love those neat and tidy boxes on my list, I also like to fit inside “the box.” I like to know my place. I like to know where my piece fits in the puzzle. To me, “the box” gives meaning. The box helps me understand myself.

We All Have a Homeschool Box

We just finished our third year of homeschooling, and I've come to learn that though homeschooling is outside of the box for many, it is still a world full of its own type of boxes. Oh, how I'd love to squeeze us into one of those easy-to-understand categories and simply be able to say, “We're classical!” or “We unschool” (which is another box entirely)!

Finding Your Homeschool Box and Then Teaching Outside of It • homeschool encouragement | Andie Wade of Central Asia

But when you homeschool overseas with hardly any other homeschoolers (not to mention a useable library) in sight, those preconceived boxes become meaningless. You're faced with the task of creating a brand new box. So what does our expat homeschooling look like?

In a nutshell, it is a classically-bent, unit-study-loving, interest-led-when-applicable, worldschooling-when-there's-opportunity, semi-year-round-depending-on-our-travels, unschooling-on-the-tough-days kind of homeschooling.

Take that, box!

On paper, it's enough to make my list-loving self completely lose it. How could a box-checker ever thrive in such a situation? Moving overseas, homeschooler or not, makes all your preconceived boxes null and void. Believe me, it's a painful learning process. But I know I'm a better person for it—definitely a better homeschool mom for my kids who have never lived long term in the American, box-driven, list-checking culture. All together we can explore the fact that learning comes from life, not a list.

Inventing My Own Homeschool Box

The first thing that appealed to me about Sonlight (after the amazing books, of course) were the Instructor's Guides (IG) with beautiful boxes to check off every day. Here is a curriculum that is one big list. But no matter where you live, life never goes according to plan on a daily basis. There are places to go, people to see, bad attitudes to suffer through—all things that could potentially dismantle a day.

To counter this, I reinvented my box. Instead of a daily schedule, I shoot for a weekly list. For example, an assignment scheduled on week 14 day 1 of the IG could get done at any time during week 14. To zoom our schedule out a little more, we take a week off after every six weeks. So if that science experiment (a.k.a. the bane of my existence) assigned during week 2 doesn't get done until week 5, I can still function. I can still see our progress. I can still fit it in my own reconstructed box.

All Homeschool Boxes Aren't Created Equal

The danger of boxes is that we too easily fear what's outside of them. And once we stumble upon someone who claims to be sharing our same box, we start comparing. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I think where homeschooling is concerned, truer words have never been spoken. Even if we were doing the exact same curriculum but were still living in the States, our experience would look vastly different.

Finding Your Homeschool Box and Then Teaching Outside of It • homeschool encouragement | Andie Wade of Central Asia

Sometimes, my mom-guilt kicks in (I know you can relate) and unkindly highlights ways that our situation is robbing my children of opportunities. However, when I have more clarity, I'm able to see how our current life offers experiences the vast majority of their American peers will, perhaps, not ever have.

  • World history and the Bible come alive when you call an ancient city home.
  • A slower, simpler life gives them the gift of a longer childhood.
  • Being constantly surrounded by people who look, speak, and think differently than they do is growing my children's hearts and minds in ways that I probably don't even realize.

A mom who is able to relax her box-boundaries and put aside her pretty lists is one who can encourage her children's unique personalities to flourish.

Some days, I still long for my list on pretty stationary inside my box, wrapped up in a cute ribbon. But these days my box is bigger and the sides are pretty beat up from being cut open and crudely taped back together in different shapes over and over again. There's no need to wrap it up in a pretty ribbon when I know I'm going to end up reshaping it soon anyway. I've even poked a few air holes in the sides for good measure. I love where our homeschooling journey has brought us thus far, and I'm very much looking forward to see where it takes us from here.

Sonlight gives you options for creating a unique homeschool experience that fits you! Go to SmoothCourse and get started today.

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Do You Need to Give Each Child the Same Homeschool Experience?

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Do You Need to Give Each Child the Same Homeschool Experience? • homeschooling multiple children

My four children all had very different experiences in regards to their early education. Things simply weren’t equal for them.

  • Amy went to Christian school through fourth grade.
  • Luke went to Christian school only for kindergarten.
  • Jonelle and Justin started homeschooling in kindergarten or preschool.

Amy remembers growing up in California, but Justin’s memories all come from after we moved to Colorado. Jonelle usually tagged along with what I taught Luke, and Justin says I never taught him Algebra (though I dispute that claim!).

Public Schools Provide the Same Educational Experience

Public schools can be very focused on moving children along in lockstep with each other. Many teachers lament how much time they have to spend teaching to the test. They have specific goals they need to meet at each grade, regardless of what the individual children in their classroom actually need.

But with homeschooling, you don’t have to teach to the test. You can teach to your reality.

No, You Don't Have to Give Each Child the Same Homeschool Experience

If your reality is that your first child has learning challenges and your second child is a math prodigy, then you can tailor their education accordingly. If one teenager loves to write and the other wants to be an engineer, you can take them down different paths. If one child requires structure and schedules, but another is more of a free spirit, you can adjust accordingly. If your reality is that you just adopted a child and your whole family needs time to adjust, you have the freedom to prioritize family time in your schedule.

I appreciate some of the wisdom from Siblings Without Rivalry here. The authors write,

"...children don’t need to be treated equally. They need to be treated uniquely."

Instead of trying to replicate a certain educational experience for each child, it’s far better to see what each child needs and give them that. And instead of trying to make your family look like some ideology’s concept of the perfect family, you can treat your family uniquely as well.

Your Homeschool Experience Will Flex as Life Changes

As your family grows and changes, you can play to your strengths at each stage. When you just had one child, you could give her your undivided attention as you constantly read to her. That was a strength of that stage, and you made the most of it.

When your second was born, he simply didn’t get as much of your undivided attention. But he did get the additional love and attention of an older sibling from day one. And he benefited from parents who had a little less anxiety and a little more wisdom the second time around.

As you and your family grow and change, you can continue to look at your particular family situation and your particular students and make the best decisions you can … even if it means a younger child’s experience is different than an older child’s.

Homeschooling Multiple Children—Uniquely

For example, I advocate combining your children in the couch subjects when you can, and providing individual levels for the table subjects. So when you choose your History / Bible / Literature program, you can combine children within a few years of each other. Same for Science. Gather on the couch and read and learn together with those great books! When it comes to Math, Language Arts and Handwriting, you’ll probably need to sit your kids at the table with their own individual levels.

Combining couch subjects inherently means your children will have different experiences. You might start World History when your first is 8 and your second is 6. Of course, an 8-year-old and 6-year-old will get different things out of the same books and conversations. But both children will be learning age-accessible material in the context of a loving and inquisitive family. And that’s what counts. There is no magic window of time in a child’s development in which they must study any particular period of history.

Or maybe you were more scheduled and rigid when your first-born started kindergarten. By the time your fourth started, you’d relaxed a lot. But both children experienced kindergarten in the context of your loving family. Great!

So let go of any guilt around the idea that everything needs to be equal for your children in order to be good. Your children need you to treat them as unique individuals. And that is one of the greatest strengths of homeschooling. You can treat each student as the unique individual he or she is. You can treat your family as the unique, messy and beautiful entity that it is.

May God bless you as you raise your unique family according to your unique situation!

Ready to design a unique educational plan for your children? Go to SmoothCourse and get started today.


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7 Realistic Ways to Homeschool Multiple Levels with Ease

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7 Realistic Ways to Homeschool Multiple Levels with Ease

I’ll be honest. One reason I love Sonlight is because I can use a single program, branching off as necessary to match the various ability levels of my kids. However, this year, I really wanted my younger children to go through History / Bible / Literature (HBL) Level B (because every child needs Intro to World History, 1 of 2 in their life!) while my older children needed and wanted to stay on course and move on to Sonlight HBL F for ages 10-13.

So here I am, back once again in the land of multiple children covering multiple Sonlight Levels. It’s okay though. I’m not new to the concept. Today, as I am doing my summer planning for next year, I’m reviewing my best strategies for teaching multiple children in different levels. These aren't pie in the sky tips. These are realistic methods that have worked for me in the past and that I'll be implementing again for a fresh season of homeschooling.

1. Divide Time into Blocks

This is probably my best tip for homeschooling multiple Sonlight Levels—block your time. Here's how I do it. Every morning, from 9:00-10:00(ish), I have a Math Block. I rotate my kids through their lessons in 15 minute time slots. If someone isn’t grasping the concept in 15 minutes, I make a note to revisit it later in the afternoon. Frustration usually sets in at the 15 minute mark anyway, so it’s actually a good time to take a break.

After a nice, long recess, we gather together again for a Language Arts Block. I follow the same principle here. We rotate through 15 minute time slots and go through the Language Arts assignments for the day. While I’m working with one child, the others are doing some of their independent work for the day.

After lunch and another recess, I’ll run Sonlight Blocks. This is where we get together, read great books, have in depth discussions, and do any science experiments or activities listed in the Instructor’s Guide (IG). If my younger kids want to sit in while we do Level F, that’s okay. If not, that’s okay too.

2. Encourage Independence

I approach homeschooling as a full time job. I generally don’t try to clean house or do other things during the day, so my kids get a lot of my time. However I also require a good portion of independent work time from my children.

Once we’ve gone over their Math or Language Arts assignments, they have practice work to do independently. When they finish their list and their rotations for the day, they are done and can have free time. If they don’t finish, they have to keep working. This incentive seems to be all my kids need to encourage them toward independence.

If they have a question, they know that I’m available, but they also know that they are personally responsible for their work to be completed well. If you want to move your children towards more independence, look at your schedule and figure out which assignments your child could do without you. Get a simple assignment book to write down their solo assignments each week, and train them to work through their list every day.

3. Use Audiobooks

Audiobooks are essential when you’re teaching more than one level. This year, I was able to purchase several audiobooks for Level B which both gave my voice a rest and also served as a genuine time saver. Libraries usually keep a great selection of audiobooks to check out anytime. When we use audiobooks, I will simply write in their assignment book, “Listen to two chapters of Charlotte’s Web on my phone.”

4. Combine Where You Can

Remember that children don’t necessarily compartmentalize things like adults do. Just because you are studying the Great Wall of China with one child doesn’t mean that same child wouldn’t enjoy listening to a Read Aloud about Lewis and Clark from another child’s level. If you have a book that you think everyone would enjoy, by all means, read it to everyone. You can either skip a book in the other level, double up, or use the audiobook option.

When you choose your levels, consider selecting complementary levels. For example, I find that Level B goes well with Level G because both are World History. Levels D and E are excellent companions to Level 100. If you can, schedule these levels together, and you’ll be surprised by all the concepts you can combine. (See the full Sonlight History Scope and Sequence here.)

5. Save Skipped Books

When you teach multiple levels, you’re going to end up skipping a few books. You just are. Accept it now so when it happens, you won’t be bummed. I am never bothered by skipping a book here and there though, because I know that I’ll come back to those books for summer reading.

Like most homeschooled kids, my kids don’t really ever have a total summer break. I’m always reading something to them, so having a few leftover Sonlight selections to read in the summer is never a problem.

6. Think Outside the Box

I know some families that don’t do Science during the school year; instead they spend their summers working through the Science IG. Sometimes we fall behind on our HBL work, so we continue our Bible and history readings through the summer. Think outside the allotted 36 weeks. There’s more than one way to execute your plan.

7. Organize, Organize, and Organize Some More

Spend a few days in the summer time preparing for the school year. Take apart the IG for each level and file it in hanging file folders labeled by week. That way, you can grab all the week’s IG pages for every level and every subject in one swipe. Bind, file, or place in a folder all your kids’ activity pages and workbook pages for each week as well so that they are easy to grab and hard to lose. A little bit of planning in the summer time goes a long way when you’re in the midst of a busy school year.

Teaching multiple levels is actually easier than you might expect when you don’t overthink it. Don’t stress, and don’t be afraid to take it on. You can do it, and your kids will love it!

If you are wondering how to teach multiple levels with your particular mix of children, our Advisors can help! Click here to connect with your homeschool consultant.

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