“Can I teach this subject in a group learning setting to students of different grade levels?” This is a common question from homeschooling parents who are struggling with the time requirements of teaching multiple children of different ages. Specifically, parents want to know if they can do group learning with their textbooks. But often, questions like this just don’t have a simple answer. One family might be able to make it work, while another might not. Alternatively, it could work in your family with one subject, but not another. Before you give group learning a try, here are a few tips that might help you on your journey.
Choose your subjects for group learning carefully.
Most parents who do group learning in their homeschool choose to do it with heritage studies, science, and electives. These subjects often work best because they are easily adjustable. You can adjust the depth of the topics you introduce according to the age of your students. Reading courses are much harder to adjust. The selections in a basal reader have been carefully chosen to match a specific age and grade level. An older student may find readers meant for a younger age boring.
On the other hand, younger students may not be capable of fully comprehending texts from a reader for older students. Math and English are also more difficult in group learning because they rely so heavily on scaffolding and repetition. Heritage studies, science, and Bible generally cover complicated topics that you can simplify for your younger students, while offering a greater depth of study through assignments for your older students.
Choose your grade level carefully.
Using textbooks that match the ability level of your youngest child may ensure that you have a successful group learning experience. If you start with material already tailored for your youngest student, you can be confident that all students in the group are capable of learning the material. It’s one thing to make a simple presentation of a concept more advanced for an older student. It’s another to simplify an advanced curriculum for a younger student. You can’t always anticipate what a younger student will be able to understand. Additionally, your students may not be confident enough to admit when they don’t understand a concept.
Choose when to stop group learning.
Group learning works best in elementary and middle school grades. Many states have specific credit requirements for high school graduation. Because of these requirements, it’s best if your high school students aren’t limited by the abilities of their younger siblings when choosing which high school science and heritage studies courses they complete. Using group learning for elective courses may still be doable, but it can be difficult to create projects and assignments that will challenge a high school student.
Choose different assignments for older children.
If you’re using materials that match the ability level of your younger children, you’ll need to adjust the assignments and expectations so your older children are still challenged. This is perhaps the most complicated part of group learning. If you’re a strong planner and you have a good understanding of your older children’s abilities, you’ll likely be able to start strong. For example, if you’re using material intended for Grade 3 for children in Grades 3, 5, and 6, your older students will breeze through the assignments. You need to either modify the assignments so they’re more difficult or create assignments that better reflect your older students’ abilities. These assignment modifications may include further research on the topic, completing a brief project, or answering some critical thinking questions you’ve developed.
In order to be successful at group learning, you need to know your children’s strengths and weaknesses well. Learn how to learn your children by reading “Learn Your Child So Your Child Learns Best.”