Ever since we began homeschooling, I’ve combined all the school-age children for as many subjects as possible. That decision has saved countless hours, both in planning and in teaching. I love to recommend that strategy everywhere we go.
At some recent seminars, several moms have had questions about how to combine the grade levels. So I want to take the next few posts to explain how we’ve done it. We’ll talk about which subjects work well for this strategy, what it actually looks like in practice, how to do narration in a combined group, and a few other tips along the way.
Let’s talk about subjects first. You can’t combine the children for all the school subjects. Some subjects need to be taught one-on-one, going at the individual’s pace. So how do you know which subjects you can teach all together? The answer is in two little key words: “topic” and “skill.”
Some subjects are topical, you just pick a topic and learn about it. For example, you might want to study Spain or the Life of Christ or the Middle Ages. Topical subjects work well for combining the children. It doesn’t matter whether you study Spain when you are seven years old or seventeen years old; either works.
Other subjects are skill-dependent. These are the subjects that you have to teach in a certain order, making sure the child understands one concept before you move on to the next. For example, math is a skill-dependent subject. You need to know how to count before you learn to add. And you need to know how to add before you learn to multiply. Skill-based subjects need to be taught individually, in a certain order, working one-on-one at each child’s pace.
So to identify your Family subjects—the subjects that you can combine all your children for—look through the school subjects you are teaching and ask yourself, “Is this subject dependent on certain skills, or does it just cover topics that can be studied at any age?” The subjects that cover topics can be taught with all the grade levels combined.
Here are the subjects that we have done combined as a family over the years.
- Science (until the high school years, when it gets much more in-depth)
- Art and picture study
- Music study
- Nature study
- Foreign Language (spoken)
What subjects did you come up with? Any different ones? Post a comment and share your ideas.
Next week we’ll describe what combining the grade levels actually looks like.