While combining children is often a homeschool necessity, I’ve learned that combining skill subjects rarely works out. Children really need to work at their own, unique levels for those subjects in order to prevent gaps and have a strong foundation in each skill.
But combining kids in content subjects can be a great fit!
Getting Everyone Together
Like many families, we used to do our together subjects during Morning Time (aka Morning Basket). Then we made a dedicated day for it, using Wednesdays. This gave us a nice break in the middle of the week.
Recently we started having a lot of busy weekends and it was really tough to dive into school on Mondays.
We took a vote and decided to move our together subjects to Mondays. This gives us a gentle, but still academic, start to the week and we all (usually!) look forward to it.
Subjects We’re Combining This Year
I combine our 6, 9, 10, and 12 year olds for several content subjects. Everyone does Bible, geography, and science together and the older two do history and music appreciation together. The rest of the week, we do our virtue study together as Morning Time.
In Christian Studies II we’re studying the Old Testament, beginning with the conquest of Canaan.
We tried doing States & Capitals last year, without the student guides, and it really fell apart. We’re trying again with the guides and it’s going so much better! The kids needed something tangible and the guides are a ready-to-go notebook/journal for them.
For science we’re using the Mammals study from Memoria Press and the kids are having a ton of fun with it.
- Classical History
This is my second time teaching Famous Men of Rome and I’m really excited to go through it again.
We just started Music Appreciation I this week and I already love it!
Our Routine for Together Subjects
My husband and I really like the Christian Studies program, but we didn’t want it to feel like an academic subject. We decided to skip the quizzes/tests, just focusing on reading, discussion, and memory.
While reading the week’s bible story, we stop to talk about what is happening, and sometimes I’ll point out themes from the Teacher Guide. We also use the Teacher Guide maps to find places mentioned in the story, and see how they relate to other places the kids have learned about.
I chose specific memory passages from those listed in the Teacher Guide and we work on the current verse until we reach the next one. I also added it to their daily recitation.
In addition to the verses, we’re memorizing the books of the Bible.
Next to scripture study, combining children for homeschool geography is one of the easiest ways to combine wide age spans!
We start States & Capitals with a quick recitation of the ones we’ve learned so far. I do this a few different ways, depending on the week:
- Point to a map and have the kids say the names together
- Ask a specific child to find a state and then tell us its capital
- Point to the map and ask a specific child to tell us the names for that state, rotating through the kids until we’re done.
Next we open our spine for the States & Capitals set, Don’t Know Much About the 50 States, and the kids open their student guides. They keep these open while I read some facts about the current state. While I read, the kids write down the abbreviation, capital, and nickname.
My 6 year old isn’t ready for that, so she draws a picture of the state bird and flower on the map. Those who struggle with spelling just copy from the book (I often read the facts upside down while showing them the book, lol).
When we read the Fun Facts for the state, I’ll add any personal connections we have to it such as family history, travel experiences, etc. When reading about New York, I was able to tell them about their great-great-grandfather who entered through Ellis Island in 1912, and ancestors who lived on both sides of the Niagara Falls region.
After we read, each child chooses a Fun Fact to record in their guide. This can be anything they found interesting, amusing, or just plain weird (Stinky Sneaker contests in Vermont, anyone?).
Instead of writing a sentence, my 12yo had the idea to draw pictures on the state’s map. I loved this idea and now they all do it. It’s been especially great for my 6yo.
We usually study two states and then close the lesson by reciting the states and capitals we learned that day.
There’s a review lesson after each region so after we write the states, capitals, and abbreviations for that, we look up the region’s landforms and mark those on the review map.
We also like to watch YouTube videos about some of the Fun Facts. My 6yo didn’t understand what granite was (New Hampshire), so we found a video explaining that.
We watched another video about Quoddy Head Island in Maine (the easternmost point of the United States), and this one about a modern day maple syrup maker!
We’re learning about Mammals in science this year and I think it’s the kids’ favorite study. We start by reciting facts we’ve learned so far. For this I use the Review Box prompts from previous lessons.
The kids love animals so there’s often a LOT of chatter while I read.
To maintain my sanity, I remind them that if there’s a picture of the animal I’m reading about, I will point to it while I read. If they have a question, they have to wait until I’m done with the current page (I do this with picture books and read-alouds, too!).
After reading, they pick a few animals for me to look up on Google 3D and/or YouTube.
This level of engagement is going really well for Mammals. I’m thinking of having them choose a hands-on science activity as a capstone review when we finish the book.
I’m only combining children for homeschool history if they’re close in age. It allows us to go deeper in the study. It also gives the younger ones more time to learn about the world around them — before trying to understand the world at large.
So at this point, my 6 and 9 year olds are free to go play while I dive into history with the older kids.
We get ready for our reading by going over the Facts to Know and Vocabulary, but I only have them write definitions they don’t already know.
Next we read the comprehension questions so they know what to listen for as we read. We take turns reading and they mark the related page numbers when they hear the answer to one of the guide questions.
I then have them circle the questions I want them to answer during the next day’s independent work, and any activity I would like them to do as well. (My daughter decided to do extra!)
I’d like to do the Activities section together sometimes, but it will depend on attention spans.
We just started this course today so we don’t have any flashcards to review yet. Next Monday we’ll add the flashcards and review them each week before we open the student guides.
Music Appreciation I is a brand new course for us and I already love it!
It goes pretty deep so, again, I’m only combining my older children for this homeschool music study. The younger ones can definitely listen to the music though!
We watch a video of the song (Memoria provides a playlist with YouTube and iTunes links), and then read a brief history of the time, composer, and story surrounding the song.
The week’s song is the basis for introducing music theory and development. Afterwards, we listen again, finding these elements within the piece.
There are tests every four chapters, but I think we’ll turn them into review lessons instead. I’ll also use their contents to guide our memory work focus throughout each unit.
What About MP Enrichment?
The older kids did MP’s Enrichment (their dad actually led it one year!) and they absolutely loved it. I definitely want my Kindergartener to experience it as well. As much as she loves working with her older siblings, she’s still only six and shouldn’t have to miss out on the K-2 focus of the Enrichment program.
The plan is to make that our Tuesday-Friday Morning Time each week — but we’re going to finish our virtue study first.
How are you combining children in your homeschool? Would a “Monday Basket” be a good fit for your family?
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