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.
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?