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Multi-level Teaching and Unit Studies

by Beverley Paine, Mar 2015

If you have more than one child in your family you're probably wondering how you can manage to teach each child, catering to their different developmental and educational needs given that they are different ages. Schools fix this problem by lumping the same age children in the one class and all the children more or less progress through the same material at the same pace. This, however, doesn't take into account different learning needs or styles and it doesn't guarantee that all children are learning equally or comprehensively the concepts and skills required.

We can (and some do) purchase different grade (year) level materials for and set lessons for each child every day but there is an easy way to organise and manage our home educating environment!

By focusing on topics we create or assign learning activities that will motivate and engage our variously aged and abled learners, taking into account any idiosyncratic learning preferences, styles or needs. A topic can be drawn from any subject or area in life. It's a strategy classroom teachers often use and it's called planning a unit study.

You can select a topic that will appeal to all or most of your children. I tend to select ones from science or social studies (history, geography) as I find it very easy to incorporate reading, writing, mathematical thinking and working, art and craft and technology into the unit study. Health is another subject that works well too.

In many ways this style of teaching is similar to an old fashioned one room school house where out of necessity the local children were taught by one teacher.

You can pick a topic of high interest: for example if a new house is being built in your street you can build a unit study around that. Your preschooler might build houses from recycled junk and tape, or use DUPLO or wooden blocks, paint pictures of houses and build cubbies under the kitchen table. Your seven year old might have a go at designing a house using a computer program, research different house styles in different countries or during different periods in history and then build models. Your teen might try her hand at developing drafting skills, and come up with different designs to meet different client briefs, eg passive solar, open plan, entertainment, retirement. A unit on building houses can go in many directions and can be revisited many times throughout childhood - each visit revealing new insights and depths of understanding, new knowledge and skills.

Multi-level teaching incorporates peer-tutoring and mentoring: the children help each other. Older children help younger children learn practical skills either directly or by modelling. Young children offer the opportunity for older children to practice and perhaps even explore and take to new levels skills they've covered previously. Cooperative and collaborative behaviours develop naturally given adequate supervision and attention is provided by the parent.

Some parents use prepared lesson plans which can be purchased or downloaded from the internet or found in books. On your next visit to the library or bookshop find some books on topics which you know will interest your child. Some may even include suggested activities you can do with your children. I've found plenty like this at museum bookshops.

Other parents like to create their unit studies from scratch. My inexpensive book Write Your Own Unit Study walks you through this process and is available from Always Learning Books.

Some unit study programs popular with home educators include:


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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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Welcome to the World of Home Education and
Learning without School!

We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

The information on this website is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal or professional advice. This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.

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