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Top Ten Tips for Teaching Multiple Guides

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Top 10 Tips for Teaching Multiple Guides

Often times homeschool moms believe they will not be able to homeschool if they cannot combine all or most of their children. Combining does work well in some instances – that is true! But, it does not work well in some cases either. My 3 children, for example, are each 3-4 years apart in age, spanning now from ages 11 to 18. They do not place neatly together in one guide. If I tried to force this fit, I would always be overly challenging someone and under challenging someone else. I’m not alone in teaching my homeschool children with multiple guides!

Carrie, the author of Heart of Dakota and my lovely sister, has a similar situation with her 4 sons, which now span from ages 12-22. This has been a blessing, because she wrote the guides while homeschooling her multiple children, from PreK to 12th. What a constant reminder of how important it was to design the plans so, if need be, multiple guides could be used at once! So the first (unlisted) tip for teaching multiple guides is simply just to use Heart of Dakota. Carrie designed the plans to help you do this already! But, moving on, what are the top 10 tried and true tips for teaching multiple guides?

#1: Be sure you use proper placement in choosing the guides.

This cannot be overstated! Heart of Dakota guides incrementally teach students to be independent. This is in keeping with Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on the matter, but it is also an obvious skill needed as students mature. If kiddos can’t do the work that is meant to be done independently, the parent ends up having longer teaching time that is not intended. So, check out the placement chart, the HOD message board, the HOD catalog, or give HOD a call! But, somehow, be sure you get placement right!

#2: Have a routine order to the day, and let everyone know about it!

Write out a schedule, but stick to the routine. In other words, you can plan the best schedule possible, but if something goes awry (and it often does), stick to the routine, and you’ll be fine! Each child can have a copy of the schedule. Olders can read a typed schedule, and youngers can have pictures to follow. Either way, being on the same ‘page’ helps!

#3: Use blocks of time for teaching, so you know when you are working with each child, and so they know it too.

Teaching blocks of time ensure we meet with every child. They keep our teaching time balanced. Likewise, they minimize interruptions. If kiddos know they are meeting with you for a teacher block in 30 minutes, they can wait to ask you their question, knowing it’s their turn in half an hour.

#4: Include time to check work in your overall schedule.

I check work during my teaching blocks and save only a few things to be corrected at the end of the day. But, no matter how you do it, put time to check work (this includes listening to oral narrations, editing written narrations, etc.) in your schedule, or it may not happen.

#5: Have all older children each take turns playing with the younger children.

We have done this from the very beginning, and our sons are each other’s best friends because of it! Planning time for olders to play with youngers gives you time to work with others independently. Somewhere between 30-45 minutes works at our house!

#6: Plan what the littles are going to do and stick to that routine until they know it like clockwork!

The littles are often the ones we forget about when making our schedule/routine. But, they are often the ones throwing it off! Planning what they will do with their day really helps keep them happily occupied and gives you needed time to teach!

#7: Train older students to use the HOD guide as a student planner.

It is difficult for students to be successful with independent work if they are waiting for the parent to read the directions. Giving the guide to the student and teaching him/her to read and follow directions keeps them moving forward without you. Students can initial the top corner of each box upon completion, which also helps you know what has been completed when you meet with them.

#8: Have a set time to start the school day.

This helps everyone know when to begin and ensures that you are on track with your routine. Be realistic! If you’re not a morning person, then don’t plan a super early start time. Likewise, if one of your older children IS a morning person, let him/her start school earlier! Either way, one set start time for the family or individual set start times for different people gets everyone going on the plan!

#9: Plan just to teach during your teaching blocks.

This is a tough one to stick to, but it is so important! Avoid checking emails, answering phone calls, doing long household chores, etc., during your teaching blocks. You will be thankful when your teaching day has gone well, and you have finished on time!

#10: Keep balance in your day and in your teaching time by avoiding bunny trails.

Heart of Dakota’s plans are inspiring! You may be tempted to just run with a theme, discussing it endlessly or looking up more and more information. This is great! It’s just not great for the other children waiting for you to teach them. Or, it’s not great when it’s time for you to make supper, and you didn’t get to teach multiple subjects. Jot the bunny trails down, and enjoy going down them later in the afternoon, at night, on the weekends, or on your free 5th day if you’re in upper HOD guides!

I hope these top 10 tips for happily and successfully homeschooling multiple children in different guides can help! We’ve stuck to them these past 15 years homeschooling, and they’ve made the journey a joy!

In Christ,


P.S.  For hundreds of posts of schedules/routines from homeschool families using Heart of Dakota that have had nearly 120,000 views, click here!

P.S.S. For a great discussion on our message board for ideas to keep toddlers engaged, click here!

P.S.S.S. For a better understanding of parent and student roles as kiddos mature in Heart of Dakota, click here!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Suanna Sears

    Thank you for these tips. This coming year I will have 6 children in school ranging from kindergarten to high-school and will be using 3 guides as our cores. I also have two preschoolers. I’m still trying to juggle the schedule and figure out how it will best fit our family. I know the first week is crucial to finding our routine and then making it stick for the following weeks.

  2. Julie Grosz

    You are welcome, Suanna! I hope some of these tips help! We have many large families happily using HOD, and quite a few have shared their schedules on the “Let’s Share Our Schedules” post I shared the link for on our HOD Message Board. You are right that having a plan for the first day and implementing the routine the following weeks is such a help to the overall success of the year! One thing I’ve done is set out a piece of paper the first week. If I planned too much or too little time for something, I jot it down and adjust as necessary. This usually works out any kinks in the plan. You will do just fine! Best of wishes for a wonderful homeschool year with HOD with your family!!! In Christ, Julie

  3. Julie

    This post is so helpful. I’m homeschooling my 2 younger kids (7 and 9; 2nd and 4th grades) and i have been gifted the Beyond Little Hearts guide (which looks to be a perfect fit for my 7 year old). After doing the guide placement, it looks like the Preparing Hearts guide will be a good fit for my 9 year old.

    Problem: I’m having anxiety and am delaying in ordering everything needed for both guides because I’m overwhelmed with the thought and uncertainty of how my day will look. This is our first year homeschooling, and so far I am having success combining “secondary” subjects, such as history, science, and art. Also we do bible and story read-alouds together as well. Math and language arts are separate. I enjoy lesrning things together (science, history) and having unity in that. However, looking ahead to the more advanced guides, I can see how having my 9 year old in Preparing can get her ready to be more independent. I’m very torn in that I can’t seem to have the best of both worlds (but I could be wrong; as I am new to all this).

    I’ve looked at the message board discussing schedule ideas, but I need something a little more spelled out for me. Question: what exactly (I use that word loosly!) would my day look like to teach out of Bigger and Preparing? Do I follow the squares in the order they are in the guide? What would a day look like for us? What have you done with your kids? I’m hoping to get help with visualizing how a specific schedule might look for teaching my kids. I’m just having a hard time thinking of how to teach my kids separately in everything, and being able to get done before dinner! A specific flow using both these guides would help me (and my debilitating anxiety) immensely. Thanks so much!

  4. Hi Julie! I’m so glad you took encouragement from my post. I’d be happy to help answer your questions! First, if you love combining and it is a priority, then you could continue with Beyond for both children this year. Then, the following year you could do Bigger Hearts with both of your children, beefing it up for your 4th grader by adding the extensions and doing higher level language arts and math.

    However, if your first priority is making sure each of your children is accurately placed individually, and your 4th grader places well in Preparing Hearts right now, you might want to just make the switch now. Beyond Little Hearts and Preparing Hearts are quite easy to teach at the same time – easier than teaching Bigger Hearts and Preparing Hearts at the same time. I have taught Beyond and Preparing at the same time. I could often get my Beyond teaching done during the Independent/Semi-Independent work my older student was doing in Preparing.

    I have always taught 3 guides and loved that each son was the ‘star’ of his own guide. There were no unhealthy comparisons, and everyone was well-placed and thriving. I didn’t have to tweak anything. I also loved how the Bible topics and devotions were private and just right with their timing. Each son shared so much more privately with me than he would have if he’d been with the rest of the boys. Finally, I especially loved each son being well-prepared for high school and college. It has been such an incredible blessing to do the 4 high school guides as they are written!

    In this blog post, I shared a simple schedule for teaching Little Hands to Heaven, Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory, and Creation to Christ:

    You could easily use the Beyond parts and substitute Preparing Hearts in for the Creation to Christ and Little Hands to Heaven teaching parts. So, a sample schedule would look like this:

    Start time 8:30 AM
    8:30 to 9:30 AM: Teaching time with 9 yo; Playtime for 7 yo
    9:30 to 10 AM: Breakfast and Chores
    10 -11 AM: Teaching time with 7 yo. Independent work time for 9 yo
    10 to 10:30 AM: Teaching time with 9 yo with snack; 7 yo Beyond student snack and playtime.
    10:30 to 11:15 AM: Teaching time with 7 yo; Independent work time for 9 yo
    11:15 to 11:45 AM: Teaching time 9 yo; Independent work time for 7 yo student (playtime if independent work is done before time is up).
    11:45 – 12:15 PM: Teaching time with 7 yo; Break/independent playtime for 9 yo
    12:15 – 1 PM: Teaching time and final correcting time with 9 yo. Exercise video, playtime, or learning stations for 7 yo (as 7 yo is done with school).
    DONE! 1 PM Lunch and then Free Time! A recipe for success!

    Hope this helps as you ponder what you’d most like to do!

    In Christ,

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