Reggio-Inspired Valentines Day Part 3: Fall in Love with Family-Style Learning


How to homeschool kids of different ages

Homeschooling your kids is a challenge in itself. Add kids of different ages, needs, learning styles and ALL.THE.HOUSEWORK. and it can go from feeling challenging to downright impossible!

Here to help you work through those challenges, and offer some practical tips on homeschooling multiples is ATJL alumna Kimmi Nguyen-Lehr, mom of 3 and full-time homeschooler.

In this 22 minute interview, Kimmi shares her insights, strategies and even some of her honest struggles as she homeschools 3 kids under 7. She talks about her kids' learning differences, how she plans for three different ages, what a typical day looks like, and the value of play-based learning.

Kimmi shares some excellent advice for parents, and I thought I'd offer up some ideas as well. While I'm not currently homeschooling our three girls, I have honed these tools from years of teaching in the classroom, and implementing these ideas in my early years of raising and teaching our girls at home.


1. Apps

Technology has come a long way, and although not all apps are created equal (nor can they ever replace the deep and meaningful experience of hands-on learning), there are some valuable apps and websites to free up time and space when you need to work 1:1, or to simply get stuff done.

Here are my favorites for ages 3-7

2. Adaptations

In the classroom, a class of 30 children is never a uniform group of same-level learners. Teachers must adapt and differentiate lessons to reach children of varying levels and learning styles. And this is exactly what Kimmi talks about in the interview. In ATJL, we call this family style learning : knowing the overarching learning outcome, and adapting the "how" to meet the needs of each learner. 

Below are a few examples from the Artful Teaching. Joyful Learning.® All-in-One Curriculum, and how we adapt learning to various levels.


Toddler: Draws a picture of each family member. Has help to hang them on the mobile.

Kindergartener: Draws the picture of each family member. Labels each drawing with "mom," "dad" etc.

Older child: Uses descriptive language to share about members of the family. "This is my dad. He likes to go fishing up North. He is funny and kind." 


Toddler: Plays with playdough, experiments with materials.

Kindergartener: Draws a few feelings cards. Names the feeling. Relate is to a personal experience. Represent that feeling with playdough, and tell a story about it.

Older child: Chooses a feelings card, represents it with playdough and loose parts, then writes a story about it using Writing Template printable.


Toddler: Helps hunt for numbers. Names the number with help. Hop that number! Helps to build the number line with support (1,2,3)

Kindergartener: Puts the numbers in order. Builds a growing number line, using 1:1 correspondence.

Older child: Circles all even numbers. Skips counts by 2's. How many more in 10 than in 3?

3. Boundaries

B is for Boundaries! When we are clear with boundaries, set them up from the get-go and  hold them firmly, our children are less likely to resist, and more likely to go with the family "flow."

Try this teacher trick!

I used to teach reading in small groups in my Kindergarten classroom, while the other children played independently. During this time, I would wear a fancy hat (sombrero!) and the children knew, when I was wearing this hat, I couldn't be interrupted. You could try this at home. It's a visual cue that sends the message: "I'm busy right now, please play on your own until I finish."

Another idea is to set a physical boundary. While working 1:1 with your child, designate a special area (use masking tape or a rug) where your other children are to stay and play. This way, you can keep an eye on them, and they know they must stay within the space and not leave it to interrupt you.

If you need 1:1 time with your older child, be clear with your preschooler about the expectations and boundaries. Use a visual timer so your little ones can see the movement of time through clear, visual signals. 

4. Busy Bags

Image via Hands On as We Grow

Whether you are preparing for a long flight or road trip, or a trip to the Doctor's office, moms know the importance of having on-the-go activities ready for curious minds and little hands. It's important to keep these activities novel so they don't bore your child. New, fresh and special is the name of the game! 

Host a Busy Bag Exchange!

When I was a young{er} mom, I joined a coop where we each took a Pinterest idea for a busy bag, and created multiples of the same activity. We got together and each exchanged our work so we'd have a set of 10 unique busy bags for our children. These were SUCH a hit. Just Google "Busy Bags" or "Toddler Busy Bags" to get ideas. Call up some homeschool mamas and build your bank!


Image via Unoriginal Mom

These busy bags are the perfect activity to pull out when you need that 1:1 time with your child. Store them in a covered box so that they only come out at special times, when you need your younger child{ren} engaged and playing independently.

5. Cooperation and Collaboration

 Some of the best learning happens when we are able to teach what we've learned to others. Enlist the help of your older children to help your younger ones. Get them involved! Reading books to younger ones, quizzing sight words, math facts, letter recognition are skills that are manageable for an older child, and often, handing the "teacher hat" to a competent sibling not only grows their confidence, but also brings a greater connection. 

6. Connection

And speaking of connection, carving out time for one-on-one learning with each child each day, even for 10 minutes, is one of the best ways to build strong bonds. 

These strong bonds form the basis of trust, and will open doors for growth, learning and  partnership. Every time we build up connection with our child, It's like putting "money in the bank" for resilience, cooperation and self-regulation. If your child feels disconnected, his learning and attitude towards learning may be stifled, and behaviour may not be as cooperative.

1:1 reading time, puzzles, individualized math work and music practice are great ways to leverage learning on a 1:1 level. 

Do you have suggestions to add for homeschooling multiple ages? Share them below so that we can help each other out!

I want to thank Kimmi for taking the time to record this interview, and for being such a vibrant member of the ATJL community. 

If you're in search of a family-style, all-in-one, K-1 curriculum that can be adapted to kids of all ages, check out Artful Teaching. Joyful Learning.® Doors open again soon!



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