how do I combine a subject for multiple-aged children? I'm new to all this…

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  • momtomany

    Hi. I’m new to Charlotte Mason, but not to homeschooling.  My eldest is 18; she’s preparing for college.  The ones I’m homeschooling now are girl14, boy11, boy7, boy5.  I’m trying to just read more to our boy3, teach him colours, counting and so on.  We also have a girl20mo and a little blessing due on Christmas Day.

    Because I have been homeschooling several children for years now, we’ve really come to rely on workbooks and textbooks for example Saxon Math (this one I’ll continue to use), Wordly Wise, Spelling Workout (only sometimes), Apologia Science (love these), Abeka Math (used before Saxon 5/4), Abeka Grammar (we skipped their composition), various handwriting workbooks.  I’ve read good books to them, including lots of historical fiction.  When I was worried that Geography knowledge was suffering, I used an Abeka Geography textbook course once… we’ve sold that one.  The girls were voracious readers and so I think that helped them a lot, but our boy11 doesn’t care for reading at all and I feel he is academically behind for his age.

    Well, our kids don’t really enjoy doing schoolwork at all.  Often our girl14 likes the books I choose for her to read though.  I was feeling so discouraged and then I found out about Sonlight, so at the beginning of this year we bought 3 Cores of Sonlight (fortunately many books second hand at about a 50% discount).  I read lots about combining more than one child into a Sonlight Core, but with an advanced girl14, a boy11 who’s a bit behind, and a just learning to read boy7, the idea of trying to ‘tweak’ a Sonlight Core seemed overwhelming.  So before our summer break we got through almost 1/2 of their Sonlight Cores.  We liked the reading books, and I did most of the read-alouds (girl14 read a few of them herself though)… I didn’t find the amount of reading too much for me.  I like that the novels are planned to work through a specific time period.  I liked having an outline of what to accomplish each day (I’m a checkmark girl!)  I’m not going to continue with Sonlight though, because I find it too expensive right now.  Also, I didn’t really like the writing assignments (and hardly ever had them do them).  So I still feel like their composition/writing is lacking.  I had enough time to do most of the 3 Cores, but no time left over for music, art, piano, foreign language, scripture memory (it peetered off), or typing (for boy11… girl14 can type well already).  There was little time for outdoors.  My girl14 did some needlecrafts, but hardly any crafts for any of the others.  Hardly any time left in a day for errands, housework, or playing outside.  This is maybe partly due to a lack of a specific schedule, so they are getting several ‘breaks’ throughout their school time.  There was no narration, dictation, notebooking, tests, and very little composition of any kind.

    This summer I’ve been reading all about Charlotte Mason homeschooling and I’m excited.  I want to be doing those subjects that we are missing (esp. piano, foreign language, art/music appreciation, outdoor time).  I want them to be using their creativity to cement what they’re learning (narration/notebooking).  I want to get away from the drudgery of grammar workbooks, (although I still want them to have a strong knowledge of proper grammar).  Things just need to change… I want them to find school interesting and, for the most part, enjoyable.

    But in order to add in more subjects, I realize I’m going to have to have a more organized plan and that includes combining some subjects.  I have NEVER done this before though.  I think I can figure it out for art/music appreciation.  None of them know more than a couple words of French, so that can be together somehow.  I think I’d rather keep literature separate though… I enjoy reading to them individually before bedtime.  But Bible and History… I have no clue how that works when you try to combine different ages.  I feel so overwhelmed trying to plan all this.  What does a family history ‘lesson’ typically look like?  Or a family Bible time?  Our summer break has been several weeks now and that’s longer than I would’ve liked… but I’m pregnant and, well, tired.  I feel an urgency to get back to schooling (I am also desperately craving some structure to our day) and I want to get some good learning in before the wee one in my belly needs some extra time from Mommy too.

    That’s a long post, sorry.  I guess I am looking for a better idea of how to combine a subject for a broad range of ages/abilities.  Or can anyone recommend a good resource that would show how to do Charlotte Mason for a large family?  Ach, change is never easy, I know… I have to keep praying because I want homeschooling to be enjoyable and positive and beneficial… it doesn’t feel that way lately.


    I think the All Day CM Seminar DVDs and then the Planning your CM education Text would be fantastic resources for you.  You could even have your older children watch the DVDs with you (My 7 and 5 year old even watch them with me, but they don’t get to watch many movies – so if it’s on TV then they watch it – lol!).


    I can share an example of how a history lesson works all together, though my children are younger (10, almost 7, almost 6, 3, 2, 9 mos, and baby due in Jan). 

    Here is what we do.  We bought the books for SCM’s Module 4 (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, and Epistles) AND we bought the inexpensive SCM Family Handbook for that time period.  It lays out which books to buy for the following groupings:

    Family Read Alouds
    1st-3rd graders
    4th-6th graders
    7th-9th graders
    10th-12th graders

    Each day’s lesson tells you:

    • What chapter of your Family Read Aloud to read together.
    • What chapter in their own grade level books to read that day.

    In practical application here is our history day.  Today I read one chapter from Famous Men of the Middle Ages to all my children, including the littlest ones.  Often we have out playdoh or paper to draw – something to keep hands busy.  The oldest 3 narrate to me about the chapter.  Family time took maybe 15 minutes.

    Next I read aloud the day’s selection from the 1st-3rd grade book to any children in 3rd or younger, today was Viking Adventures by Clyde Robert Bulla, and it was 2 chapters (both very very short).  After the first chapter they narrate, after the second chapter they narrate.  The whole 1st-3rd grade time took maybe 15 minutes including their narrations.

    While I’ve been reading to the younger ones from their book my 5th grader has gone to read her day’s assignment from her book.  Today it was the first half of a chapter in The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway.  She came to me and narrated orally, though she sometimes does a written narration instead.  This took her all of 12 minutes maybe, if she does a written narration it takes closer to 20 minutes.

    Ta Da!

    I love having the Simply Charlotte Mason Family Handbook so it coordinates the books for all the ages in my house – they’re all reading the same general topic (vikings) though it’s in books appropriate to their age/level.


    Rebekahy:  I did get the Planning Your CM Education eBook already… a nice resource, I agree.  The DVDs cost more and I’m still thinking about it.  Thank you for your suggestions.

    Tristan:  Thank you for your lengthy and detailed reply.  That definitely gives me a better idea of how to make it happen.  And the fact that you are doing this with so many littles is encouraging too.  Our first children were spaced apart more, and the last few a little closer together… so homeschooling with several littles is still an adjustment for me.  I looked at the SCM Family Handbook sample pages.  That in itself is a helpful resource I find.  I’m not going to get the Handbooks… I want to use a four-year History cycle (we have Susan Wise Bauer’s “The Story of the World”), and I don’t want to be purchasing that many books that I don’t have already.  But the sample pages have given me some more ideas of how family time History, Geography, and Bible can be done.  Thank you very much.

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