Combining Children

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I have five children. I cannot imagine doing five Sonlight programs at the same time. I know there are families out there that manage . . . but that would be too much for me.

So if you have more than one child, how do you manage your school days?

There are, I’m sure, as many answers to this as there are families, but here are my best recommendations, based on my own experience and what I’ve received from others.

1. Defining "Combining"

Some Sonlighters choose to combine more than one child into the same program.

And you might think this is bizarre. After all, most students in America are in a single grade, and you can observe the progress when a student moves up a grade, such as from First to Second.

So how could you possibly combine students into the same Sonlight program? How could this possibly work?

The easiest way I know to explain is to break subjects down into table subjects™ and couch subjects™. These categories might be a little blurry (just where do Science experiments fall?!), but overall, you can picture which subjects you do at the table and which you do on the couch.

You only combine children in the couch subjects.

So when you read the History books and the beautiful stories in Read-Alouds, you can do that with a range of ages.

These books are satisfying even for children a few years apart in age. To use an extreme example, Go, Dog. Go! from P3/4 still thrills me every time ("It's a dog party! A big dog party!") . . . and I am not the target audience.

But I don't have to use such an extreme example. If you've ever had your 8-year-old come over to hear you read a picture book to a younger sibling, you've seen this at play. (And if your children are still too young . . . this will probably happen to you. I still have my 12-year-old hover nearby when I'm reading a particular favorite to his 2-year-old brother.)

The Sonlight History and Read-Alouds are not restricted to a single age. And though the readings do get longer as the children get older, they are satisfying to a range of ages.

Similarly with Science, especially in elementary school. The elementary Science programs are quite interchangeable. (If you're finding it challenging to get to Science, you might even consider doing just one program for all your elementary students. Really.)

And the table subjects? Math, Reading, Writing? Handwriting and spelling?

Each child gets age-appropriate materials to work through, progressing at their own pace.

There is a limit to how well combining works, of course. Many families choose not to combine children more than about two years apart in age. That makes a lot of sense—there are developmental things going on that can make combining a challenge.

For my family, I actually went through H with all my boys combined (a six year spread of ages). In order to make this work, I read all the Readers aloud, and kept my older boys supplied with additional books to read instead of the Readers. None of my boys are particularly sensitive (so I wasn't worried about introducing WWII, say, to young ones; I doubt my youngest has much memory of the WWII books anyway).

That worked for our family. The older two boys now do their own work, and I have my third and fourth sons working together on the couch subjects, with the fifth waiting in the wings, listening as he chooses.

(Having admitted that I used only one Sonlight program, let me also say: I always also read more age-appropriate books to the younger boys, too.)

If you don't know exactly what will work, try something that seems to make sense. You know your family, and if you need to make a change a little later, you can.

And I don't think there's only one right answer, either. So whether you choose a separate program for each, or combine portions of children, or do one program for everyone . . . may you enjoy the good, and have wisdom to minimize the bad, and may you rejoice in the good gifts of God, especially those of family, of creativity, and of meaningful labor.

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Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

Sonlight Curriculum

P.S. It is a vulnerable thing, to talk about my own homeschooling journey. So I would be so grateful if you could take what I say with much grace for me, as a fellow homeschool mom who is doing the best I can.

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