Lora Lynn’s Biggest Homeschooling Mistake: 2-for-1 Homeschooling

Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae

My two eldest sons are pretty close in age. And by “close” I mean sixty seconds apart. Since I was pregnant with them, I’ve heard “Two for the price of one!” And later I heard, “Homeschooling must be easy for you. You can teach the twins together!”

First of all, I do have other children to teach. My twins were quickly followed by four (soon to be five) siblings. And I think we all know that homeschooling even one child isn’t really “easy.” But second, and perhaps more importantly, having twins or siblings close in age does not exempt me from teaching them as individuals.

I knew before we ever started school that my twins were different people. One son learned visually; the other was auditory. (And their third brother is kinesthetic, so right away I had to purchase curriculum that would work for all three styles.) They had different passions, different ways of relating to me, and different ways of expressing themselves.

I bought a phonics curriculum that seemed to cater to all three styles of learning and we dove in. But subconsciously, I was operating under the assumption that they would move through it together. Sure, we might have some competition issues, some cases where they felt compared to the other, but we’d go at the same pace.

It took me only a few weeks of lessons to discover that it was going to be tough to keep my twins moving through the book at the same pace. One had no trouble picking up the chants and phonics sounds, the other struggled more and quickly fell behind his brother.

So I told myself that just for reading, we’d split up and I’d let them take things at their own speed. I did this reluctantly, but I quickly discovered how good it was for me to get that one on one time with my kids. That was, after all, part of why we chose to homeschool. But I had been blinded by the “convenience” of two-for-one.

It took another year before I went so far as to give up on the phonics program that worked so well for one twin and bought an entirely different program for his brother. It was hard for me to admit that just because it worked for the brother who did reading at 9:30 in the morning didn’t mean it would work for the brother that did reading at 9:45.

This has proven true time and time again. Our children continue to move to the beat of their own drummer. Homeschooling encourages that. They have different skills, different things that motivate them.

Even if you don’t have twins, rest assured that what worked for one child will not always work for another. Do not see that as a failure on your part. God has given each of your children unique gifts and ways of learning. We must not expect them to respond exactly the same to our methods.

If you will be schooling more than one child:

Choose your curriculum carefully.

Identify the different styles of learning in your family and look for programs that appeal to them.

My first phonics program was designed to suit all three styles of learner but it still didn’t seem to suit two of my boys. I realized that I wasn’t USING it well in a way that would help my visual and kinesthetic learners. We switched to a program that forced me to include the visual and kinesthetic portions of learning and that made all the difference.

Sometimes the program doesn’t fail you. You simply fail the program. And that’s okay. The program is there for YOU. If you don’t use it or like using it, then it doesn’t work for you.

Stay flexible.

My painfully-crafted lesson plans fall to pieces when one child isn’t grasping a concept as quickly as I planned for. We school year round so that I have the flexibility to wait for somebody to catch up and we aren’t in an urgent rush to finish our books.

But you don’t have to school year round to give your kids flexibility to learn at their pace. Just hold your lesson plans lightly and remember that in the end, they WILL learn it.

Revel in their differences.

While it would certainly be easier for me to teach phonics to each child exactly the same way, I’ve discovered it’s a lot more interesting when I teach to their learning styles. They are less frustrated and I’m not as bored. I’m doing something different for ME, too. And if they ask why we do things differently than with a sibling, I get a chance to point out how unique and special God made them.

In a large family like mine, we don’t often get to celebrate our children as unique individuals. I stumbled my way into it, but I’m so glad that schooling has given me the opportunity to revel with them in the one-of-a-kind God stamp they’ve each been given.

What is the array of learning styles in your home? How do you celebrate your children as individual learners?

About Lora

Lora Lynn earned her stripes becoming mom to seven kids in seven years. She’s lived to tell about it and shares her mothering know-how with comedy, common sense, and a whole lot of chocolate at Vitafamiliae. Through infertility, high-risk pregnancies, adoption, and life as a homeschooling, twin-raising, stay-at-home mom, Lora Lynn writes with humor and honesty on what’s most important in all the crazy – a life defined by family.

Comments

  1. se7en says:

    This is so true!!! Folks always say: homeschool? You teach them all together then? Yes, we teach them all together. We use the same curriculum for all our kids – the same books, pretty much the same everything… But they all do it so differently!!! I guess our curriculum is a tool and each child uses it differently. Some have beautiful notebooks, with copious artwork, some have three pages of “notes” after an entire year!!! Some take all day and love it others take twenty minutes because they have other more important things to do!!! Some absorb the facts instantly and some have never “heard” the facts… That’s the amazing thing about homeschooling… it takes a little longer but you really can appreciate all their differences.
    se7en’s latest post: Se7en Vintage Picture Books We Are Loving Right Now…

  2. Kim says:

    I have twin girls, age 10, and a son, age 11, that I homeschool. You are so right – it didn’t take long to realize how very different they were. Now I purposely have them using different books so they can’t compare themselves to each other. Plus the oldest is way ahead on some subjects, but behind “grade level” on others. Most of our problems have come from lack of one-on-one time with me and their acting out.

  3. My two oldest are the only ones “in school” right now but they learn VERY differently. Seeing as this is our first year of homeschool, I’m taking a very unstructured approach so I can get the best picture possible of their needs. Academically they’re already more advanced than their grade level expectations, so I’m happy to have the opportunity to not push the schooling part of it too hard while we find out what works best for all of us.
    Dwija {House Unseen}’s latest post: 7 Quick Takes Friday: A video! And a dude with a machete!

  4. Paige says:

    Wow..learning styles. My oldest learns best hands-on, is mostly accurate with her facts, but slow in execution, and gets distracted very easily. “Fun” is what keeps her going. Being homeschooled and participating in a Montessori environment part time are perfect for her. Her (nearly) 1 yr of public school was a mess.
    Daughter #2 can learn anything, anywhere, any environment, as long as she is allowed to go at her own pace. However, she shrinks mightily in any kind of competitive situation. She loves our “Montessori days”.
    Daughter #3 is quite competitive, and has an incredible ability to learn things quickly. She is hyper aware of “fairness”. She likes workbooks. I have to learn to really let her “go with it” if she takes a particular liking to something, she will take off like a rocket with it. Right now, it’s science, so that is all she wants to do at Montessori (fine with me). If she were in public school I’m afraid she would be put in a “special” class, because I think her personality and the way she learns might be labeled as defiant. She would never excel and her spirit would be crushed if she had to be in that kind of environment.
    I’ve yet to see what my 4 yr old son’s learning style and quirks will be. For now, he loves Montessori, and fits in like a pea in a pod.
    Throughout the years I’ve learned that I really need to just go with it, and continuously make personal changes in order to give my kids the best education I can. I find it has been an education of self, quite humbling at times. I’ve become a better mom, teacher, AND student by homeschooling. My faults tend to shine when I am not being sensitive to the particular needs of my children. Now there’s an eye opener! :-D

  5. I don’t have twins, but had 3 different homeschool kids with 3 different learning styles. I had to learn that the hard way! My 2 girls were very kinesthetic learners, whereas my son wanted his stack of textbooks to work through at his pace.
    Bernice
    Successful Woman’s Resource Center’s latest post: How to get more done in a day

  6. Diana says:

    Good thing to keep in mind! Thanks!
    Diana’s latest post: Why I Will Never ‘Get’ the Football Craze

  7. Elle says:

    HI! I’ve got one of each with a couple seeming to have a unique combo of styles based on which subject they are working in. Or what moon phase it is. Or maybe it’s how I’ve styled my hair that morning. Point being if not for the flexibility of tailoring homeschool studies to that child’s individuality, I’d be in your closet sucking my thumb. Hoorah for the studies we can do together, but hooray for those that require us to come outside of our own boxes.
    Elle’s latest post: Five things I have said….

  8. Chris Shaw says:

    All three of my children learned in different ways and it was a joy finding what worked best for each one! I find it interesting that different subjects will cause you to re-identify how they learn. Math may be totally hands on, while reading is quiet and easy. Science could be totally auditory. Then people wonder why students have a hard time in public school. Good job!
    Chris Shaw’s latest post: How Much Time does it Take to Home School or Send Them to Public School?

  9. Suanna says:

    Thanks for the insight. Next year I plan to have 3 in school. The curriculum I use is designed to be able to let 2 levels work together in some subjects, so I am planning on doing that next year with my 2nd and 3rd graders to be. This means that my current 2nd grader will be repeating some of the same lessons he’s learning this year, but will have some extra work to do to add to his learning. We already do somethings together, but in the basic “3 R’s” they will get to move at their own pace and learn on their own level.
    Suanna’s latest post: Clark, the Ranger fan

  10. This is so true and I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to realize it. I have 4 children (3 school aged and a toddler) and they are all so different in how they learn, I find myself struggling to find the time to work with each one individually. We do many things together as a group, but in math, reading and spelling they each need individual attention. Any tips on how to prevent the rest of the house from being reduced to chaos while working one on one with one of the children?
    Carmen @ Natural and Nourished Family’s latest post: From One Thing Comes Another

    • Lora says:

      Carmen – Sometimes I assign one of the older kids not working with me to play with the younger siblings. It helps if I give them specific parameters: either WHAT to play with (puzzles, dollhouse, etc.) or WHERE to play. If the older child knows it’s their job and responsibility, they tend to respond better (at least for a few minutes). It’s also important with my gang to respect their time and attention span. I work in tiny chunks. Ten minutes of individual time here, ten minutes later on… rather than sitting down for a solid half hour with each child. I’m not saying individual time doesn’t take that long to rotate through everyone, but if I’m rotating every ten minutes, the excitement of the switch (and putting a new child in charge of the toddler) keeps them from getting bored, restless, and CHAOTIC! Hope this helps!

  11. Snow Joy says:

    I have three girls, all 20 months apart. The eldest two are 5 minutes apart, and their younger sister came to join us soon after. The twins just turned 4 so we’re not really doing very formal lessons yet, but I have just recently embraced the fact that I dont have one ‘unit’ of children, I have three separate children! Thanks for this article, it’s not often I get to hear of others in the same boat as us…very encouraging!!!

  12. Mackenzie says:

    I do not homeschool yet but plan to do so once my twins reach that age. I found it extremely interesting that in a few shorts weeks you discovered that your two children needed to be taught individually when the public school system thinks you can shove 20 kids in one room and teach them all at the same pace, using the same teaching method, and at the same given time each day. This just confirms my desire to homeschool.
    Mackenzie’s latest post: First Year Developmental Assessment

  13. Heather says:

    I so appreciate this! I have 2 boys, 22 mos apart and only 1 grade apart (1st and 2nd). It is often so much easier to lump them together but as they get older it just isn’t working that way and I’ve had to reevaluate. At first I admit I was annoyed that I had to teach something twice but it goes so much smoother and my boys are happier, more at peace and proud of themselves when I do that and in the end I feel less stressed and more at peace. I feel as though I’ve accomplished something rather than feeling like a failure. As the saying goes – you can’t push a square peg in a round hole!

  14. Julie B. says:

    Thanks for the article. Good things to consider. I’m homeschooling one this year and still figuring out his style – though so far it seems to be different than I’m most inclined to teach…so probably different than I learn.
    So, did you get to title your post?

  15. Lindsey says:

    Wow Lora Lynn, this was amazingly powerful for me. Thank you for sharing your story. I don’t have two as close together as you, though I get asked all.the.time if they’re twins. My daughter is 6 and my oldest son is 5, separated by about a year. My son is incredibly quick and can totally do the work his older sister does so I put them together. But it’s been really difficult! Now I see why :) I need to do a much more thorough examination of their learning styles and be okay with teaching the same lesson two or three different ways :) You were inspirational ma’am, thank you very much!
    Lindsey’s latest post: Food Allergy Tips and Tricks for Halloween

  16. Cathy says:

    Hi Lora,
    I have 2 boys of my own and my husband and I decided that homeschooling would be best for our family. My oldest is 2 and 1/2 and the other 10 months. I have begun preparing for preschool which will begin January 2013. I have really benefited from your site and this article. I am rather excited and anxious at the same time when I think about the enormous responsibility of homeschooling but with the help of sites like yours I have begun to feel less (well slightly…) overwhelmed. I feel somewhat comforted in the knowledge that there is an amazing homeschooling community on the internet willing to share and help others. Thank you and keep up the great work.
    Cathy, the Newbie Homeschooler

  17. Samantha says:

    My twins are now 16. I have been homeschooling them scine kidergarden and it took me a while to relize they dont learn the same even through they are identical. Now juniors in high school my one daughter Rebecca takes most of her classes online and has an internship at a medical billing office that works with insurance comanies.(sounds boring to me but she loves it) My other daughter is using Notgrass for English, Bible and History, Apoligia with friends for science and Math-u-see for math.

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