The kids I homeschool are 11 and 9, plus I have a 2 year old who is “unofficially” homeschooled.
How do I handle teaching different ages and keep a toddler occupied? Glad you asked!
Step into my living room…. I am blessed with 2 very different children. This works out great for homeschooling. My 11 year old is my oldest son. He is up at the crack of dawn most days. He is up and eating breakfast when I stagger out of bed and get my coffee started. I grunt something civil in answer to his cheery, “Hi, Mom!” (Is this kid really mine?? He is SUCH a morning person!) After I get some coffee into me, I resemble a human being and then get down to teaching.
A while later, my daughter (age 9) staggers into the kitchen and grunts something civil in answer to our cheerful, “Hi, Cam!” Once she has had some breakfast and resembles a human being, I start teaching her. (This one I KNOW is mine. LOL :-) )
It works out well. I can teach one-on-one most of the time, and each child can function when he/she works better.
The toddler? He is like I am - sleeps in and takes some time to wake up. When he does wake up, he is (usually) content to snuggle in my lap while I work with whichever child I am helping. Or he will color next to the big kids while they work.
So the answer to the question is simple - let the kids work when they do the best work!
Now, I know what some of you might be thinking: “You can’t just let the kids sleep until they wake up naturally! They need to learn to get up when they are supposed to get up!”
I have 2 words for an answer: College students.
When I was in college, I never scheduled a class before noon unless I absolutely had to. Why? As I said before, I am NOT a morning person. So why not schedule classes for when I do my best work?
Same thing with my business. I do most of my work late at night - when I work best!
The result? I have kiddos that are well-rested and work well! It works great for us!
Another thing is curriculum: Unit Studies. Unit Studies are great for multiple ages - you cover the same topic for all kids and the older kids get more info than the younger ones do. Most unit studies come with instructions for multiple ages. (Math is the one thing where I teach completely different lessons.)
Take, for example, our latest unit study - Japan. One of the topics is volcanoes of Japan. For the younger child, we study the location and frequency of the volcanoes, plus a brief explanation of why they occur so often there.
For the older child, we did the same, but also included a detailed study of plate tectonics and compared that to the Growing/Expanding Earth Theory and how the two theories differed. Then we debated each of the theories (each of us took a turn on either side of the debate) and discussed if the theory is plausible.