The redwood trees of the northern and north central California coast are the tallest trees on earth. These skyscrapers may reach over 350 feet in height, a scale that is difficult to comprehend until it is seen first hand.The root system of the redwood tree is surprisingly shallow, especially given the great height the mature tree attains. There is no tap root and the other roots may reach no deeper than 6-12 feet. The major roots are about 1 inch in diameter. and they typically spread 50 to 80 feet. One way in which the trees are able to remain upright for millennia is by growing close together with other redwood trees, intermingling root systems.
When I heard about these trees, I was struct by the connection to our learning community...or what it should be.
One question that I hear over and over, when conducting seminars or simply talking to homeschoolers, is "How do I teach all my kids of different ages?!" That is one of the biggest challenges of homeschooling. Here is my answer to that question.
Some subjects or topics, like History and Science and sometimes Literature can be taught to multiple ages simultaneously. I simply teach to the oldest and allow the younger kids to "tag along". My youngers know that they aren't expected to do everything the olders do, which goes back to the learning environment I have created. The younger kids look to the older kids for help, and simply watch them work out more complex ideas. They don't absorb everything, but that's ok. They will have a chance to hear it again, and this exposure will serve as a foundation, so they can make even deeper connections the next time. The older kids are not held back by the younger kids. In fact, they have a chance to teach the younger kids and explain concepts in simpler terms, which really cements ideas in their own minds.
Now, for the subjects that cannot be taught to multiple ages...Math comes to mind, and Science once my older kids are old enough for high school level science lab classes, and some deeper studies of history, maybe art. It all depends on your child and that child's learning goals. But when I encounter this challenge, I do not try to make time to teach math at 3 different levels. One approach that has worked for my family is to have an older child take responsibility for teaching a younger child in a specific subject or topic. I wouldn't force this-only use this if both kids are excited at the prospect. What I do more often is use my homeschooling friends!
I trade off with other moms a lot! I will teach Literature classes for older kids, and a friend will take my younger kids to do science and art. Some moms love the littlest kids, and so they will take all the little kids to play with for just a couple of hours once a week, giving other moms time to work one-on-one with an older child. One mom will host an art class in her home (so she doesn't have to actually teach art) while other moms teach scholar projects to older kids. I have done this with just one other mom, and I have done this with several moms (and dads). You don't need a big group to do this. Start out with just one other homeschooling friend if necessary. It is actually better to work with a small group of moms who are all on the same page with you as far as your approach to education, rather than have a large group in which some parents are offering groups that don't align with your own educational goals for your children.
Even when we are helping in different locations, in different homes, working with different age groups, we are all part of one community. The mom playing with the 3 and 4 year olds is contributing just as much as the mom teaching a Scholar Project. We can't each have deep roots in every subject or with every age group, but we are strong because our roots are intertwined. We hold each other up!