Managing Multiple Main Lessons
It takes organization, dedication and some flexibility to homeschool multiple children. The simple fact is that you are not going to be able to follow each syllabus thoroughly with each child. As a parent of five children who were all homeschooled, I can personally vouch for that! It is possible, however, to develop a good flow of main lesson presentations for your children, including creating a main lesson that can be taught to multiple age groups. Although you may feel as if you are making compromises in the teaching of a particular main lesson, the learning environment in larger families is also a rich and rewarding one. Each family will learn to develop their unique strengths and approaches to managing multiple main lessons.
I did mention above that it does takes organization, dedication, and flexibility to do multiple main lessons. Here are a few tips to organization that are simple but effective:
1. In the spring of the preceding year, take an initial look at the main lessons you will be doing for the coming academic year. I generally wrote them all down first in the suggested order from the Christopherus syllabus with the number of weeks. Next, take a side by side look ( or a worksheet if you have more than three children in academics!) at the main lessons and see how they fit together. My recommendation is that general main lesson themes should be done at the same time for everyone- for example, all the children are working on math main lessons at the same time. It keeps everyone focused on the same topic and breathing rhythm, and I found that older children can sometimes help the younger ones in a main lesson or enjoy a review of the topic. This means, of course, that you will have to be flexible and do some tweaking of the schedules as laid out in the syllabi.
2. Next, look at all your seasonal festivals, family vacations and birthdays. Work to schedule appropriate main lessons around these commitments. If you are traveling on a vacation, it is an excellent opportunity for children to journal, and learn some geography and culture in an enjoyable and relaxed way. Also consider field trips that you know you will want to do to enhance a particular main lesson. For example, if you want to visit a cave for 6th grade Geology, then it needs to be done in warmer weather.
3. Make sure that your main lessons breathe- topics like history are more expansive and math is more focused. Try to keep your lessons rhythmic and balanced for the whole family.
4. Recognize that some main lessons will simply have to be combined, shortened or done in a different way in order to have a harmonious school year. Look at those lessons that could be taught to multiple age groups, or taught in a different or perhaps shorter format. These lessons will take the most time for you to work out . It will be important to develop your plans for these over the summer preceding the beginning of your fall start of homeschooling so you feel prepared to deal with these combined main lessons. I will give you an outline below of a possible combination main lesson for teaching a weather main lesson.
5. Make sure that you have all your supplies, materials, books, etc. well before the start of your academic year. Children (especially as they get older), need to see that you are organized enough to present your main lesson smoothly and can get your hands on your materials when you need them.
6. If you have toddlers and more than one child in academic work, the situation can get challenging Those were the toughest years for me- I had a Kindy child, an almost three year old, twins in 6th grade and my oldest just starting high school work. Being well organized was essential ! Also, consider getting some extra help with your youngest children. I had a mother’s helper come in to play with the girls when I had to do harder academic work with the boys. I also had one son help babysit while I worked with another. There will be creative solutions to any of these challenges, but you need to think about them in advance.
Some main lessons do lend themselves to teaching at various age levels. Science and Geography lessons can be good ones for combining lessons. Third grade is the main lesson focus here, but a weather unit is often taught in middle school years as well. Below is a suggested outline for a Waldorf Inspired Multi Age Weather unit for 3rd, 6th and 8th grade. I did a similar combined main lesson with my own third and sixth grade girls. We did weather observations daily and recorded them, but we did main lesson weeks seasonally. This outline presents a weather main lesson in a week long seasonal format throughout the academic year.
Waldorf Inspired Multi Age Weather Unit—3rd, 6th and 8th grade
RESOURCES: Christopherus 3rd, grade syllabus; Weather Wisdom by Albert Lee ( for weather lore); Evening Gray and Morning Red by Barbara Wolf (reading book for third grade); Exploring the Sky by Day ( and Night) by Terrence Dickson ( for moon phases and information for older students); Tales of the Shimmering Sky by Susan Milord ( stories and weather activities for 3rd and 6th grader; The Kids’ Book of Weather Forecasting by Mark Breen and Kathleen Friestad (3rd grade activities); The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments , a Franklin Institute Science Museum book,(for 6th and 8th graders); Discover! WEATHER (grades 4-6), a Milliken booklet (MP3411); The Weather Book by Eric Sloan ( for 8th grade, especially for warm and cold fronts and anatomy of air); Introduction to Weather and Climate Change, an Usborne book for 8th grader, especially for fronts and storms. The 8th grader generally can focus in more depth on issues of climate, climate change and biomes.
CORE CONCEPTS: The children will each have two main lesson type books. The first book is a journal or log where daily data is recorded and then summarized and tabulated each month (and season). In the log, each month had a one page self created calendar in the journal with symbols drawn for sun, rain, clouds ; the Beaufort Scale reading for the day (BS 2 for example), the wind direction, rain gauge (or snow) reading, temperature and eventually barometric pressure and wind chill. There were brief written entries on specific days of their main lesson weather week as well. At the bottom on the calendar, the monthly information was summarized (total rain, high and low temps etc.). We had a early evening ritual of “reading” the cloud and sky patterns to try and predict the next day’s weather. Older children can do averages as well as seasonal graphs showing various indices. The second book is more like a traditional MLB. The idea here is to take different themes that were explored each weather week. There is a fall, winter and spring weather week.
MAIN LESSON OUTLINE:
FALL UNIT: (mid to late fall) ( two weeks)
First week: SET UP WEATHER STATION AND BEGIN OBSERVATIONS (we actually did this late summer in August)
All children help create the rain gauge, outdoor thermometer, snow stick and create the poster size Beaufort scale for reference. Older two can create the barometer as well and help make a wind vane showing wind direction if you don’t have one.
Second week: MAIN LESSON BOOK THEME
We created a main lesson book on what we studied. With my 3rd and 6th grader, I covered Cycle of Seasons, Air Pressure and Wind, Cloud patterns, and lots of weather lore. I made sure the third grader understood the 4 cardinal directions, reinforced by creating our wind vane. My third grader’s first book section was called CLOUDS and in it she had a seasonal painting, drawings of basic cloud types, and some weather lore. She also did a simple drawing of a land and a sea breeze with an explanation. Her second section was SEASONS where she wrote a bit about the changing seasons, the equinox and the solstice. The final section was called AIR PRESSURE/WIND where she drew the barometer they made and simply described air pressure and wrote a paragraphs on wind.
The older children can do detailed diagrams of the earth moving around the sun with its tilt at various seasons. They could do an experiment plus drawing explaining the Coriolis effect. There are fun experiments for air pressure that everyone can enjoy, including balloon demonstrations and the ever popular upside down glass of water covered by an index card. The 8th grader can do a drawing of some of the earth’s major wind belts and more detailed explanations of the meteorology behind cloud combinations at the high, middle and low ranges. 8th grader could also look at the historical development of the barometer and maybe Goethe’s ideas about barometric pressure as a foundation for understanding weather. Another suggestion is to look at cooling and warming trends in the earth’s atmosphere that leads to phenomena like fronts and thermals. Another suggestion would be to look at how weather and air pollution affect future weather patterns. The KIDS book had a chart on page 46 that showed how to combine wind direction with barometer readings to help predict weather. They can also study wind chill and use a wind chill chart combined with the Beaufort scale estimation of wind speed to record the wind chill factor on colder days.
We presented our weather information to dad at the end of each Main Lesson unit. We also had fun quizzing dad on weather lore sayings. He really couldn’t figure out “If ice in November will bear a duck, nothing comes after but sleet and muck”!
SECOND WEATHER WEEK: WINTER (February)
In the Christopherus syllabus, clouds are done in the winter unit. I chose to do it in fall since there are more cloud formations to observe and I wanted clouds to be part of their daily log. Also, the wind unit could be done during this winter unit since there is lots of windy weather. I did the phases of the moon in the winter unit but it could be done earlier as well.
In this unit we focused on detailed observation of moon phases and general information on the moon, stories about the moon (from TALES), and weather lore (reliable and not so reliable) about the moon and sun. Then we looked at snow.(and a bit on hail) For example, you could discuss the Inuits and the techniques of building snow houses and then go out and try your hand at building the igloo. Really observe the varieties of snow in your weather observations. The basic snowflake shapes can be studied and everyone can observe them through the magnifying glass and then draw some. You can do the snow to rain experiment. Older children can graph winter data.
This is also a good time to do several Nature Moods paintings from Painting with Children by Brunhild Muller (Waldorf). You can also do color blending exercises (primary, secondary and then tertiary colors) from Painting in Waldorf Education by Dick Bruin and Attie Lichthard (see third and sixth grade sections and also exercise 7a). We ended up with painting the full moon after observation efforts at nights. Also, children can commit some weather verses to heart and recite to parent and record some weather verses in main lesson book.
Older children can do vocabulary definitions and spelling quiz on basic weather and meteorology terms. They can do a careful write up of additional experiments.. They could also look more carefully at explanations of winter storm weather and conditions that cause a blizzard. The 8th grade could do a short paper on the El Nino/La Nina effects. This could also be a time for the 8th grader to explore global warming of polar regions and do biome work. This is a good time to graph winter data showing rain/snow records, and high and low temps, including wind chill.
THIRD WEATHER WEEK: SPRING (April)
For our spring unit we focused on animal signs, signs of life, sky colors and wild weather.
The week can begin by looking at animal signs that indicate an approaching storm. We looked at animal behavior and weather sayings that indicate how animals anticipate at storm. We looked at wild and domestic animals, frogs, birds and insects.
Next we studied sky colors and rainbows and how they foretell the weather. Older children can explain this with a drawing and short essay ( show a person with sun at her back, rainbow in front of person and rain behind) Each child takes daily observations and write down the colors of sunrises and sunsets for the week and uses them to predict daily weather. In our family we were about 60% correct. Older child can show % of correct guesses.
Then we looked at fronts. This is mostly the work of the two older children. Older children can draw illustrations of a cold front, warm front and a stationary front. Next they can all look at how to understand the symbols on a weather map.
Finally we looked at storms and specifically thunderstorms. The youngest could create a ”storm is building” mobile showing first a white cloud filing with water vapor. The second cloud is darker gray showing the cooling water vapor turning to liquid water or rain. The third cloud is very gray and shows some yellow lightning. The last cloud could be a black cumulonimbus cloud with the words crash on the cloud in silver glitter to show the thunder! The sixth/eighth grader and grader could explain the process of how thunderstorms develop in a picture and an essay. The younger child can create a lightning safety poster with some safety rules.
More poetry or a good weather song can be presented to dad as part of the finale to this unit. I remember my youngest recited Rainbow by Walter de La Mare and the 6th grader recited Narcissus.
Enjoy this unit. It was one of my favorites and I still find myself gazing at cloud patterns to predict the weather!