Managing Multiple Grades in Your Homeschool Curriculum

Two children playing outside with text overlaid: "Managing Multiple Grades in your homeschool curriculum"

When homeschoolers talk about managing multiple grades in their homeschooling curriculum, one topic comes up again and again: Time. There’s never enough of it in the homeschool setting. Three kids. Four dogs. A household. Church. Neighbors. Friends. Spouse. Chores. Three sets of curriculum! How can I possibly fit in three sets of curriculum!? Here are some principles to remember:

1.    You are the teacher, not the curriculum.

If you’re going to balance managing multiple grades, give yourself permission to deviate from the curriculum now and then. The learning objectives are the most important, not how you get there. For example, let’s say the language curriculum requires your child to write a friendly letter to a fictional character, but you know your child wants to write Grandma and Grandpa. Have your child write Grandma and Grandpa. The same objective of how to write a friendly letter with date, greeting, body and closing, will be met.

2.    Curriculum Link: Managing Multiple Grades at Once

Look for commonalities across the grade level materials that you teach. If you have a 4th, 5th, and 6th grader – all of them will have friendly letters in their language arts curriculum. Just teach it at the same time. Diverting to a slightly different order from the curriculum will not affect your children’s learning. Save time by linking lessons across grade levels.

3.    Choose a Subject to Teach to Multiple Grades

For example, if you have 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at home, you have three years of distinctive curriculum. However, in some subjects, such as Science, PE, Art History, Foreign Language, Bible, Music, or Drama, the order may not matter. Obviously, when you get to advanced concepts in grades 7-12, combining curriculum will not work for many subjects. However, in the early grades, it works wonderfully. For example, teach the same science units to all the kids at the same time, rotating through the grades 4-6 curriculum.

4.   Periodically, Skip a Concept.

Remember, curriculum scope and sequence is spiral and repetitive…if you miss a concept, it will almost always come up again. Part of managing multiple grades’ curriculum is to recognize when and what to prioritize. The few subjects where linearity and mastery is a must as you move through the curriculum includes: math, grammar, foreign language.

Prayerful Reflection:

Take 10-15 minutes to pray through the following:

  1.     Lord, do I give myself permission to make adjustments to the curriculum or am I a slave to the curriculum?
  2.     God, do I take time to preview my curriculum ahead so I can see how to link lessons across grade levels?
  3.     Lord, am I listening to you for creative insights to combine content across grade levels?
  4.     Father, can you give me the internal freedom to skip a concept, and periodically add a concept, so that I might feel less burdened by the curriculum and more attentive to your leading in the context of my children’s learning needs?

Spirit of God, I invite you into my daily homeschooling, and I ask for your wisdom as I plan my curriculum. You tell me to “make the most of my days” (Ephesians 5:16) and to raise my children “in loving admonition” (Ephesians 6:4). Help me to manage my curriculum in such a way that your precepts take precedence over the tyranny of the urgent.

Lord Jesus, help me remember that I am the teacher, not the curriculum. I am the decision maker, not the curriculum. My students’ learning needs are the most important driver to daily homeschooling decisions, not the curriculum.

But, ultimately, Lord, I humbly recognize that You are the daily Teacher. Your Spirit guides and leads me. Show me the truth, Lord, about my children’s learning needs. Help me to be prayerful as I plan our homeschooling days, and to be totally dependent upon your Spirit for wisdom and insight as I navigate a complex landscape of learning needs. Amen.

June Hetzel, Ph.D., Dean of Education, Biola University