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     The Old Schoolhouse Magazine


September 7, 2011      


Teaching Multiple Grade Levels   


Deborah's  Picture   

Teaching multiple grades is like running a three-ring circus. You have many different things going on at different places all under one tent, and you are the ring leader. And, of course, there are the class clowns and wild animals to deal with!


Here's what that might look like:

  • You gather everyone together for devotions and history, then you break up
  • You have the preschooler occupied with clay or cookie dough at the kitchen table.
  • You have the kindergartner working on reading with you while the second-grader is reading her Bible and journaling nearby.
  • The fourth-grader is working on his math, language and spelling workbooks.
  • The seventh-grader is on the computer for math and typing, and then he switches places with the fourth-grader.
  • The high-schooler is almost completely independent because you have already pre-planned out his week/month/year together (Oh, the TOS planner is great!)
  • You all work on a unit study together with activities for each grade level.
  • You as the ring leader are going from person to person when there is direction or help needed.

It's what I call "popcorn teaching," as I jump up from one task to another and sit for a few minutes, then jump up again. Tiring? Definitely. Worth it? Always. Older kids learn how to interact with younger ones; young ones hold conversations with adults; everyone learns how to be on the same team working toward the same goals, and they all learn to serve and love each other without any unwanted influences bombarding them.


Does it always work out smoothly? Not in my house. We have interruptions galore, but we press on. Multiple grades can mean multiple challenges. It can also bring multiple blessings.


Do as much as you can all together. Enlist help from older siblings. Take advantage of nap times. Do lots of read-alouds and books on tape. Play classical or worship music quietly in the background. And for those days when your strength is exhausted from giving and giving and giving again, let me share some of the words of one of my favorite hymns:


He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,

He sendeth more strength when the labors increase

To added affliction He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

His Love has no limit, His grace has no measure,

His power has no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth and giveth and giveth again."

(Annie J. Flint 1866-1932) Listen here!


Enjoy the freedom of keeping them Home Where They Belong,



TOS Senior Editor




 TOS Birthday Bash!  


 The Old Schoolhouse is celebrating with a Birthday Bash in September, and we would love for you to join us! Stayed tuned to THM for complete details, and be sure to watch for our BIG Birthday Bash announcement on September 20th! Save the dates and join us for a time of celebration where YOU receive the gifts! 


Birthday Bash Facebook Party

September 22 - 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (EST)


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and join the party!  


Special guests, freebies, door prizes,  

and more!


Meet-and-Greet with the TOS

Family  of Columnists

September 29 - 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (EST)


Join us for a special live event! We are having a webinar party with our new columnists, and we will have freebies, door prizes, and an evening of homeschool encouragement!


Registration is FREE and limited to 1000 live attendees. You can sign up at this link



Hey from Gena   Gena Suarez 

Gena Suarez, Publisher of TOS  


Teaching multiple grades. Yeah, that's a doozy for a lot of moms. I mean, seriously, how do you work with a high schooler while you have the 4-year-old pulling everything out of your underwear drawer and building a tent? (Don't ask.) Sometimes I feel like I'm all mixed up; one of these days I'm really going to lose my marbles. I can just see myself telling my oldest one to make sure he uses the potty (properly) while barking out orders to my youngest to go thaw something out for dinner. Err . . . scratch-reverse that. It's just funny because you have to be all things to all (they expect you to be-The Mama), and sometimes you wonder if you can even BE you that day. Where's the coffee? Forget the coffee; where's my bed?  


But seriously, I guess it's a day-by-day process. Focus on relationship building; make sure eye contact is happening. I have one child to whom I am constantly saying, "Look at me! I am talking to you!" Drives me nuts when you're trying to hold a conversation with your kid, who both listens and talks with his eyes rolling all over the place. I tell him, "I don't have eyes in the back of my head; get back in here and look at me while we're talking." Meanwhile, the 4-year-old has climbed up the curtains or something, and the 1-year-old is gazing intently at me while I'm bumbling around trying to deal. "Look at your baby sister; how come you can't stare at me like that when I'm talking to you?" (Why would the kid want to? I'm looking and sounding a little half-crazed at this point-and the day has only just gotten started.)


Never mind, Mommy-readers. This is rambling and not really going anywhere, is it (who put me in charge of this column)? Look at me when I'm emailing at you! Sigh. Didn't work?


I guess relationship is key. Maybe I'm the one not making enough eye contact. Time to close up the computer and go find someone to stare at-er-talk to. So I guess it boils down to this: Relationships with all your kids, no matter the ages, are what's important. 


So what if math gets skipped today with the eighth-grader if it meant you were dealing with heart issues for several hours with the 10th-grader? And the 4-year-old ate a great breakfast, your hair is combed (you're ahead of me here already), the 10th-grader is staring (looking!) at you properly again (the heart talk worked), and guess what? The eighth-grader can do her math tomorrow. If she was in public school, she may not have done math today anyway because of the required Gay Parade in the auditorium or Tolerance Day at the park across the street where you get to meet and greet that month's mentors(?) or the Let's Visit Our Friends the Trees symposium or whatever other social event it was that stamped out the 3 R's-see? Math didn't happen there either. (Seriously, in public school as a 10th-grader, our class went outside and-I kid you not-we hugged a tree. I felt like an idiot but pretended it was cool.) 


Don't get frazzled (don't follow my example!). Instead, get them all in a circle, start the day with prayer so they can get their eyes and "stare" on the Lord for a while first-with you. Then get started (your hair looks fine . . . well, it doesn't, but will it matter four years from now when you're at your oldest son's wedding looking like a glowing beauty?)


Now, the normal disclaimers, lest I get letters from folks exclaiming over the benefits of tree-hugging (both to me and the tree). Let's see. Disclaimer No. 1: I like trees and I love fruit and shade and stuff. Disclaimer No. 2: I'm a fan of tolerance. I tolerate my kids when they're driving me nuts. I (try to) let love cover a multitude of sins. When I ask Paul to bring me an extra hot mocha with whip and he flat-out forgets, I don't tolerate that too much. Need to practice 1 Peter 4:8 (because we all know that mocha-forgetting is totally a sin). But really, like if my child wakes up in a sour mood not really able to pull himself out of it at the snap of a finger, I can choose to cover that (or tolerate it) because of my love for him/her. Hopefully they're learning to cover mine, too, in the spirit of 1 Peter 4:8. Relationships help with that. 


Enjoy a tree today (God made it!), but hug your child (and stare at him/her with joy and love in your eyes). Keep walking, my friend; you are in His hand. God's not down on you about the missed math assignment today, by the way, so don't you be, either. May your hearts "stare" at one another today. May they rise up and call you blessed. 







Keep your baby/toddler happy in a comfortable baby carrier while you focus on homeschooling. Frogmama specializes in helping you find the perfect carrier - with a large selection of wraps, ringslings, meitais and frontpack/backpacks. Great for newborns through 3 years. Mention TOS at checkout for a free gift.   


Todd Wilson The Familyman
Todd Wilson, Familyman Ministries

Homeschool truth No. 2: We believe that life is the best curriculum and home is the greatest classroom.

That means that teaching and learning in multiple grade levels is the best way to learn. Oh, it's not easy (you already knew that), but there is something wonderful about learning WITH brothers and sisters.


Now, as is my usual way to get out of addressing the actual topic at hand, I don't have any helpful techniques for teaching a second- and fifth-grader while a toddler is making messes and a newborn is screaming his lungs out. My wife would probably have some ideas.


All I can do is remind you of the incredible lessons all your children are learning. It's not just about math and reading, but about FAMILY and how to fit in.

That's an incredible lesson considering they're going to spend most of their future life as a family. They'll need to know how to work, rest, and play with others. They'll need to know how to wait until it's their turn (or even go without a turn), how to share their time, attention, and resources, and a whole bunch of other stuff.


In fact, I wonder if WE have so much trouble in OUR homeschool because WE were NOT homeschooled. In a school setting, there is no one you have to wait on. Anyone who is slow is moved down or out. It's all about the ME. Family is all about the THEM or US.


With that said, enjoy the chaos, the interruptions, and the seeming lack of progress. They're learning . . . and so are you.


Be Real,



P.S. Next Tuesday I'm speaking in Chardon, Ohio and on Thursday I'll be in Bingham, New York. If you're in the area, stop in and be encouraged. In fact, first one to come up to me with a sightseeing tip for your area gets a free audio CD.


P.P.S. Homeschool co-op leaders: I had a fall speaking engagement fall through in and around the Montgomery, Alabama, area. It was scheduled for Monday, October 17. If you know of a homeschool group in that area or along I-65 South that would like to schedule a night of fun and encouragement, contact me to discuss a few details.  




Creation Revolution

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens was rocked by a 5.1 magnitude earthquake which caused the bulge on the north facing slope to begin to slip. Right as the bulge began to collapse; the volcano exploded and blew out the entire north face of the mountain.


Continue reading . . .  

Mount St. Helens - A Vision of the Past.     



The planners for 2011-12 are here! 

Schoolhouse Planners  Order yours today!




Help your left-handed child learn to cut, write, measure, and keep a notebook with's left-handed school supplies. Hundreds of struggling lefty kids have gained confidence with special left-handed tools--scissors, pens, spiral notebooks, pencils with grips, pencil sharpeners--while their learning skills improved dramatically.    

It's Just Common Sense

Ruth Beechick, Curriculum Specialist 


Debbie Strayer, Homeschool Consultant 


The read-aloud was riveting. The papier-mache fish were in process. The trip to the beach was awesome. The old black-and-white version of Captains Courageous was outstanding. Looking at the oceans on a map was engrossing. While we did all the activities together, the children absorbed what they could on their own level. Their questions reflected their level of understanding and often went in completely different directions. This was multilevel learning at its best.


Learning about topics together gives your children unique chances to investigate and process information on their own level yet benefit from the observations and understanding of others. Ruth often says that through discussion, we model higher-level thinking for our children, raising their own level of thinking through that natural process. The content or topic doesn't matter. What matters is that children are experiencing a personal connection to the learning through their own observations, then expanding it through the observations of others. You can use this technique with any topic and any study.


How does this work out practically? During our homeschooling life, I taught our children separately only when they were learning how to read and for math. The rest of the time, we learned together. My son, who was older, learned things to a greater depth than my daughter did, but she never failed to amaze me by the things she would understand and remember that were above her grade level. Their skill level in communication might limit them, but the ability to think and understand is unlimited. What a difference from the traditional grade-specific approach to teaching, which can actually slow a child's learning down.


What do we remember from that study we did on the oceans? Each child will tell you something different, as would I, but we all took greater understanding away from learning together. Enjoy the freedom you have. Teach your children together as often as possible and enjoy the results. You may find that your children learn more than what you have planned!


~ Debbie




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Contest Central  

For the month of September, 2011   



Signs & Seasons: Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy




Our family receives more materials for review than we sometimes know what to do with. Oftentimes, we'll just skim the pages to get a general idea of the curriculum's general usability and quality. If it makes the basic grade, it's good to go. If it's superior, sometimes we'll even adopt it into our own homeschooling program. We found something superior. It's a beautiful book on astronomy from a totally Christian perspective, called Signs & Seasons: Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy, by Jay Ryan, and our family is so impressed with it. Why? Because we're learning! And we're on the edge of our chair doing so.


The author quotes ancient sources throughout the entire manuscript, tying in centuries of knowledge and understanding. For most people today, the sky has lost its appeal. It's gone flat. Our culture has no time, no desire to study astronomy the way scholars have throughout the ages. What happened? Where have the deep thinkers gone? Astronomy is fascinating; it opens up new worlds--literally! It explains time and dates, light, seasons, and dimension. One important aspect of this book is that it puts to rest the various "pagan influences" in astronomy. It incorporates biblical explanations and sends old superstitions packing. (Read the rest of the review here.)


Win this book for your family!



Email Deb with your name, mailing address, and phone number for contact purposes, with the subject line "Signs and Seasons" for a chance to win* this book!



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