Combining Homeschool Grade Levels, Part 3

Homeschool family with multiple grade levels combined

Many school subjects are easy to do all together as a family regardless of the ages of the children. Last week we talked about how to combine the grade levels for subjects that involve books. This week let’s look at subjects that are more hands-on.

Picture Study

When you do picture study the Charlotte Mason way, you are allowing each child to form his own relationship with the picture and artist, so it’s easy to combine all your students.

Simply display a picture and mention the artist who created it. Have the children look at the picture until they can see it clearly in their minds’ eye. When all the children are ready, turn the picture over or close the book and ask them to describe the picture. (We talked last week about how to do narration with a group.) When their narration is finished, display the picture again and notice together any new aspects. Continue to study works by the same artist for several weeks until the children become familiar with that artist’s style.

Music Study

Music study is done in much the same way as picture study. Listen to the music of one composer at various times throughout the week. Tell children which composer you’re listening to. You could play the music in the vehicle while running errands or play it at home in the background during a meal. (Be sure to begin the CD at different songs to make sure the children have a chance to hear more than just the first selection.) Continue listening to pieces by the same composer for several weeks until the children become familiar with that composer’s style.

Nature Study

Charlotte took her students on the original “field trips” by spending one afternoon per week outside in the fields, meadows, and woodlands. This time outdoors provides the setting for nature study.

Encourage children to look carefully at various aspects of nature around them and to enter their observations in their individual nature notebooks. The complexity of the child’s nature notebook entries can develop with the child as he grows. Their entries can include pencil sketches, descriptions, watercolor paintings, or chalk drawings. Be sure they label each entry with its name, location, and date observed. Use field guides to help identify children’s findings.

We’ve been enjoying the Handbook of Nature Study blog recently. Harmony Art Mom has done a wonderful job of making nature study doable and enjoyable for the whole family.

Foreign Language

Charlotte emphasized that children should learn a foreign language just like they learn their mother tongue: hear it and speak it first. So if all your children are learning the same foreign language, you can easily combine them for these beginning “hearing and speaking” lessons. Make sure the children hear the language as a living language, spoken by a national regularly. They can learn new words, phrases, sentences, short stories, rhymes, and songs. They should be quite familiar with the language’s sounds and accent before they ever start reading or writing it.

Tammy’s blog shows how she took this idea of focusing on hearing the language first and put it into practice. Great idea! You could use some of the same concepts for a group of children.

You’ll find that combining your children will save you planning time and simplify your teaching. It will also provide some great character-building opportunities as you encourage the children to protect the younger and respect the older. Plus, learning together can build many lasting memories.

So as you make plans for your next school year, I encourage you to think about combining your children for as many subjects as possible. Our free SCM Curriculum Guide is set up with Family subjects and Individual subjects, and will give you specific suggestions for both.