If you’re stuck at home with two kids from different year groups then you’re probably wondering how to home school two different year groups at the same time. It’s tricky!
You might have already found that teaching them separately works best for you, but often this isn’t the case. It might be that you simply don’t have time with work commitments, younger siblings or house work to get done. Or you might find that they’re less motivated when working alone.
Luckily, there a few simple things you can try that might well help when trying to home school two different year groups at the same time.
Pick A Shared Topic
Find a topic that will capture the interest of both children so that you can do a joint input, and then differentiate the task for each child depending on ability. For example, they might both be interested in nature, or dragons, or different countries. Whatever it is there will be ways you can adapt the topic to different age ranges and lessons to suit each child.
I’ll give an example. Both children are interested in animals, so you pick a rain forest theme, and ask them to use adjectives to describe a tiger. You might want to show a video of a tiger, or a power point with pictures, so they can visualise what the tiger looks like, and how it moves and sounds. You could share adjectives together and jot them down on a whiteboard. As you go, you could explore some simple and more complex phonics directed at each child.
The youngest might now draw or cut out a tiger and sound out simple words from a list you’ve given them, and copy or trace those words around the tiger image.
The older child might write 3 sentences to describe the way the tiger looks, moves and sounds. You might set the youngest child off on the task of drawing the tiger while you explain similes to the older child, and then ask them to complete the three sentences using similes.
They can then share their work and learn to praise and review and improve. You might ask the older child to introduce the younger to one new word that they could help them add to their picture. Or the younger child might pick their favourite sentence from their older sibling for them to work on improving.
This would work the other way around too, if your oldest is old enough to read. You can set them some independent work from a sheet or textbook while you teach the younger child and switch when appropriate.
Alternate Independent Work
If giving the same input is too tricky then there are some ways you can get around this. It will probably work out that there is something the younger child can be getting on with while you ‘teach’ the older child. Then, once the older child is settled into their independent work you can provide some teaching to the younger child.
Let’s take the same example as above. Find some images of a tiger and ask the younger child to draw one and colour it in. While they are busy doing this you can give your undivided attention to the older sibling. Teach them similes, or extend their descriptive vocabulary using a thesaurus and explain their task of writing the three sentences.
Once they have got under way on their task you can work with the younger child. You could think of some descriptive words together inspired by the drawing they have just done, and help them to write those words down.
While they are writing you can switch between supporting the two should they need help!
Try Out Some Peer Teaching
If you’re children from different year groups get on well then you might be able to try out some peer teaching. Be careful here, as this would be some siblings worst nightmare! You will need to know that they respond well to each other, and that the older child can communicate in a supportive way with their younger brother or sister!
If you’re happy, then you can plan a lesson for the younger child in which the older child can support them. Sometimes this is a brilliant way of learning for both parties. The younger child looks up to their older sibling, and will listen and do what they ask. The older child gets to reinforce something they have learnt several years ago by becoming the teacher, and also has the chance to take the lead, building confidence and self esteem as well as communication skills.
This is also a great chance to see whether the older child has a solid grip on an area of learning. If they can teach it confidently then you know they really understand it!
What If They’re Similar In Age?
If you have two children that are very similar in age, maybe one or two year groups apart, it might be tempting to just teach them the same thing. Especially as they might actually be quite similar in abilities at this stage. I would add a word of caution in doing this. For older children watching their younger siblings catch up to them in ability, it can be incredibly tough and ruin motivation and confidence. I speak from experience when I say having younger siblings that are brighter than you is not always easy!
You will need to manage this in a way that works for all of you, but if the younger sibling is dominant and enjoys vocalising that they can do the work of the older child then it may be best for everyone to give them some one on one teaching time.
If you have to teach them at the same time then try to avoid situations where the younger sibling might overtake the younger. For example, rather than asking them both to read out loud, get them to read a passage in their heads so they cannot compare. Give the child that’s struggling differentiated work that is slightly easier so they can finish at similar times, or give them completely different work so you can explain this as the reason if one takes longer than the other.
Be open and honest about differences in people, and let each individual child know their worth. Praise them for their individual merits and encourage them to praise and support each other too.
The key thing here is that both children are left feeling proud of what they’ve achieved. Children who can see they have made progression will want to learn more, and they need confidence to do this. As siblings will naturally compare themselves anyway, you will need to try and take a step back. No competitive games here please! There is nothing worse than your younger sibling shouting out the answers to questions that you simply can’t do – can you tell I’m speaking from experience!?
I understand your frustrations if you’re trying to juggle this. It certainly isn’t an easy thing to do, even for a trained teacher with years of experience. Hopefully this has shown that it is possible. If you’ve found any other useful techniques to overcome teaching different year groups at the same time then please do comment below! And if you’re searching for more ideas about what to teach your primary school aged children then I’ve been making some short ‘lessons’ for reception-key stage 1 ages.