In most mainstream schools, teachers tend to teach one subject to one grade – which generally consists of learners of around the same age – at a time. In smaller private or rural schools, however, there is a gradual shift to multigrade teaching, which essentially means teaching two or more grades in one class.
Multigrade teaching is also the reality of many homeschool parents. Homeschool families vary in size and often have children across various grades, ranging from Grade R to 12. While the prospect of teaching children in multiple grades seems daunting, it is certainly doable.
If you are about to embark on your homeschooling journey, or if you are adding another learner to the mix in 2021, don’t fret. Multigrade teaching is not as difficult as you might think.
Tips for multigrade teaching
- Know your children: Every child is different. Some do best with every minute accounted for while others prefer a general list of daily activities; some need constant monitoring while others can be left to their own devices; some are energised in the early morning, while others do their best work after dinner. As a parent, you know your children better than anyone. When homeschooling more than one child, create a system that works based on each child’s ability to concentrate, preferences and learning abilities. You know what works best for you and your family.
- Schedule one-on-one time: With a multi-child and multi-grade setup, it is impossible to spend hours every day with each child. Instead, spend short blocks of one-on-one time with each child every day. Just 10 to 15 minutes of direct, focused instruction can be valuable, especially when you have a solid curriculum as guidance. Once you have taught one child a new concept or covered specific content, let him/her work on the rest independently while you spend time with the next child. However, be sure to cover everything your child can’t do independently during your one-on-one session. While waiting their turn, other children can do independent work, read quietly or aloud to one another, or practise other skills.
- Encourage independence: Independent learning can help instil a sense of self-motivation, and responsibility in your children, so allow them to work independently as often as possible. While this may be easier with older children, there are plenty of learning activities younger ones can manage on their own, especially once they are able to read independently. It is vital, to check in when your children work on their own to ensure that any questions they might have or challenges they might face, are addressed to ensure that they stay on task.
- Use all available resources: When you homeschool, you should take advantage of the wealth of quality resources out there, many of which are available for free. Consider educational games, apps, online classes, documentaries, YouTube – the list is endless. In fact, there are a number of ways you can use screen time to your benefit. Also, keep in mind that there are learning opportunities everywhere and in everything, even in what may seem ordinary. Think cooking, gardening, and even shopping.
- Be organised but not rigid: A well-planned and easy-to-follow schedule will ensure that your children know what is happening at different times of the day. This will make life easier for everyone. Remember though that in homeschooling, as in life, things don’t always go as planned. So, be sure to leave room in your schedule for the unexpected. Remember, structure gives children a sense of security.
Advantages of multigrade teaching
Research suggests that teaching children of different ages and abilities together offers a number of benefits. It
- fosters independence,
- encourages cooperation and collaboration,
- allows children to work at their own pace,
- promotes responsibility, and
- teaches organisational and time management skills.
In addition, it enforces re-teaching, meaning that older children benefit as they listen in on lessons being given to younger ones. A review of basics concepts can reinforce and clarify a child’s understanding, even when they may be working at a more advanced level. It also exposes younger children to pre-teaching. By ‘eavesdropping’ on lessons and discussions, generates new knowledge and younger children can get a glimpse of what to expect when moving to higher grades.
Whether you have one child or many, one of the greatest benefits of home education is being able to do what works best for your family. So, consider these tips, then adjust accordingly.