Drawbacks to Homeschooling Two Kids Using the Same Level



By Melissa Batai


In the homeschool community, you may often hear others advise to teach two kids close in age using the same level to save time. This is especially pertinent advice if you have a big family and several kids to homeschool. After all, there are only so many hours to homeschool, and you can’t get all of the homeschooling done that you need to if you are teaching every single child using different curriculum. While this advice is well-meaning, there are drawbacks to using this approach.


Drawbacks to Teaching Two Kids Using the Same Level

My youngest two are just 17 months apart, so teaching them together seemed like the perfect thing to do. However, I only had to do this for a year before I realized this way of teaching would not work for my family. We struggled with several different issues when we tried this approach.


Competition

Two kids who are close in age are naturally competitors. When you have them use the same curriculum at the same level, the rivalry can outweigh the learning, at least it did for my kids.


Honestly, my two get along so well, I didn’t even realize they were competitive until I started teaching them at the same level. Almost every day, one of them would end up in tears when she didn’t understand a concept as fast as the other one. This was extremely frustrating to both of my children and to me as a parent and a teacher.


Different Interests

All of us have different interests when it comes to education. When you homeschool, you can tailor your curriculum to help match your child’s interest. However, doing so can be challenging when you’re teaching them using the same curriculum.


For instance, my older child loves science, especially experiments. She’d be happy if there was an experiment to do every.single.day. My youngest doesn’t much care for science. I still teach science, of course, but I don’t do as many experiments with her as I do with the older of the two. With my youngest, we focus heavily on read alouds, especially for history, because that is what she loves.


By separating your children and finding their different interests, you can make homeschooling more satisfying for each child.


Different Learning Styles

Do you know your learning style ? Most of us know whether we’re auditory, visual, kinesthetic or reading/writing learners. If information is given to us in our preferred learning style, we excel. If it’s not, we may struggle. When you teach two children using the same curriculum, you often rob one or both of them of their natural way to learn.


Over the years, I’ve discovered the biggest reason I can’t teach my youngest two together is because they have vastly different learning styles. My older of the two is NOT an auditory learner. She is a visual and kinesthetic learner and needs to read and do things herself to learn. My younger of the two is one of the strongest auditory learners I’ve met. She can (and does) work on something else while I read aloud, and she catches every detail.


If I have them doing something together that requires auditory learning, my youngest will shine, and my oldest will feel bad. If I have them do something kinesthetic, my older one will carefully take her time and do a stellar job. My younger one will race through the project and become frustrated and give up at one point, most likely. Now that I no longer have them learning together, I try to choose curriculum that caters to their strengths.


Different Levels

Even if your children are close in age, they’re at different maturity levels. When you try to keep them together for all subjects, you’re often limiting one and stretching the other. For instance, there’s a family in our homeschool group that has two children 18 months apart. The mom always kept them together, and she taught at the older one’s learning level. This left the younger one trying to conquer challenging material that wasn’t age appropriate. Ultimately, the mom, who had been trying to get her younger child to graduate a year early, had to reverse course and let the younger one complete age appropriate course work. He graduated at 18 instead of 17, and was much happier when he got to quit doing work that was more challenging than he could handle at his level.


If You Still Want to Combine Subjects

If you still want to combine subjects, choose the subjects that are easier to combine. For instance, in our home, the girls are now doing the same geography program. This program takes about 15 minutes a week, so there’s actually very little time to get competitive. Likewise, they’re both currently using Saxon math, but they’re on different levels.


Final Thoughts

Yes, teaching your children different curriculum at their own level, even when they’re very close in age, can feel unnecessary. However, doing so can allow each child to shine in the subjects she most enjoys in the way she most likes to learn. I’ve found teaching this way is worth the extra time I must put in as a home educator.


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