Multi-level Homeschooling Struggles

Multilevel Homeschooling Struggles

Dear Wendy and Shirley

We are enjoying the Footprints on our Land programme. I have also ordered the lap books on CD.

I am struggling a bit to make the change over to the new curriculum and our programme in our house with my children’s different ages and where they are at. Let me explain…

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My children’s ages again:

  • 11 years – turning 12 years Dec;
  • 9 years – turning 10 years Nov;
  • 6 years – turning 7 years Oct;
  • 4 years – turning 5 years Jul.

My questions / struggles:

1. My older two still need me sometimes with Maths and Afrikaans – it makes it very difficult to spend quality time with the 6 year old who is busy learning to read and write. How do I cope with the different age groups in terms of Afrikaans and Maths?

2. My youngest – son – only wants to build and design and make things lately – basically loving “hands-on” stuff all the time – but he can’t cope on his own – he needs me to help him… Very difficult for me then to keep him busy because he wants to play with his 6 year old sister when he has to keep himself busy. They love playing together! How can I keep all not just busy, but loving to learn at the same time?

3. Then concerning Footprints on our Land. It is more for the older two – the English is too difficult for the younger two. BUT I cannot do the younger Footprints with the younger two, just do not have the time. How can I make them part of what I am doing with the older two? What do you suggest?

4. Will the lapbooks make things easier? How can I implement the lapbooks that it becomes a blessing to all?

5. English for all: You have a programme how you do the language thing as a part of “Footprints”. Is it enough just to work through the programme or must I do the various days the different sections as you suggests? i.e. Creative writing, grammer, spelling etc.?

I will really appreciate your input on the above. You have been walking the road much longer… I was very “secure” and all worked out with the {previous} programme but we did not enjoy it because of obvious reasons that you will understand. I prefer the Charlotte Mason way of learning and the principles explained in your book Wendy… so, what are the things I can do to make it work out for all the different ages?

Blessings and thank you for your precious time!

Answer to Multi-level Homeschooling Struggles

Shirley’s reply:

With multi-level homeschooling it is a bit of a juggle and you just have to hover over your children during school time and help them one by one as they need you. If someone has to wait, or finish up later because you couldn’t help them immediately, thats just how it has to be. As they get older, they seem to manage more and more on their own, so it won’t always be so challenging.

1. Your youngest son needs to find other things that he CAN do by himself…while the 6 year old is busy doing school work. I would do a bit of hands on stuff with him say one day, but then just tell him that you can’t always be busy with him..and he must do something easier.

2. Don’t make the younger two part of what you are doing with Footprints On Our Land with the older two. If they love to play together, let this be the time that they just play. I think it is unrealistic to expect such a wide age range to be doing all the same thing at the same time, in terms of a school programme like Footprints. Be flexible.

3. The history lapbooks are aimed at the same age group as the Footprints programme, so they will only benefit the older two. Don’t expect the younger ones to do them. Again, let them play. Don’t try to structure their day to the same degree as the older two.

5. You need to experiment a bit and find what works for you. We suggest doing Dictation on one day, then the rest of the worksheet on another day. I would do the creative writing assignments in the programme whenever they pop up. I am not a very structured type though, I tend to just go with flow. I find that in homeschooling structure is good as a guide but if it is causing me to stress out then we need more flexibility.

Lately, I plan for about 5 weeks and then leave one week as a light week or a catch up week or even a no school week if I need to do other things in the home.

All I can say, is that I sympathise and I don’t really have a quick-fix solution for you. With 6 kids I am constantly flitting from one child to the other and I often wonder if everyone is getting enough of my time, attention and affection. We moms of many are just more stretched than moms of one or two, but our kids have the benefit of so many more relationships with each other.

I can just encourage you to do the best you can and don’t try to have a ‘perfect’ homeschool schedule or a ‘perfect’ homeschool day. There will always be challenges and its working through them along with our children that grows all of our characters. Perhaps just hearing that what you are experiencing is not unique to your family will comfort you!

Whenever I feel like the wheels are coming off, I think back to a quote:
“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” ~ William Butler Yeats

When I check if I am accomplishing that firelighting I feel comforted, even if I have not filled the bucket as full as I would have liked!


Just a suggestion with the more intense subjects like Math and Afrikaans with children of several levels: I was also struggling with this at the beginning of this year now that my youngest started Afrikaans and now I have three children doing Afrikaans. There were too many questions and the kids just couldn’t progress.

I now work with only one child at a time with Afrikaans while the others work on something that requires less supervision like copywork or science. Then I have more time to focus on the one child’s Afrikaans questions.

As far as using Footprints with many levels, you can adjust it to suit the different levels. I’m sure most of the ages would enjoy listening to the stories and doing or even watching most of the hands-on activities.

The more difficult activities could be left to the older ones. And while they do them, you could get some easy readers from the library for the younger ones to read or listen to you read. Or they could play an internet educational game or make a puzzle.

I believe that the curriculum is there to help you and provide ideas, not make you its slave.

I hope that helps and I admire you for your perseverence and hard work. ~ Anonymous