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Teaching Reading and Spelling to Multiple Kids

Two boys playing a reading game together

“I have three kids in three different levels. Will your program work for me?”

It’s a question that our customer service reps have heard many times before. Because All About Reading and All About Spelling are programs that require active instruction, some parents assume that if they have more than one child, these programs won’t work for them.

Here are some of the concerns raised by parents:

  • Will it take too long to teach all my children?
  • How will I keep my other kids busy?
  • How will I keep everything organized?

Of course, we could answer all these questions ourselves, but sometimes parents would rather hear answers from “the trenches,” from real moms who use AAR and AAS in their own homes. We get that.

So here are some answers from a few moms who shared their thoughts about teaching reading and spelling to multiple children.

How Do You Handle Daily Lessons?

When it comes to juggling the programs with her children, Kristen says…

I hear from folks who think it would be too hard to juggle these programs for multiple children in their home, and I want to show you that not only is it possible, it’s extremely rewarding.

Both All About Reading and All About Spelling are scripted curricula, which means they are parent-intensive. It’s not the sort of curricula where you just throw a workbook at your kid and hope it sticks. This requires active parent participation. But just because these resources are parent-intensive doesn’t mean they take tons of time to plan or prepare. In fact, I personally take little to no time to prepare. Yes, you heard me correctly.

Most days I just take a minute or two to preview the lesson prior to starting and to make sure I have any coordinated activity pages or new letter tiles if needed. But really, the resources are written so you can just pop it open and go.

Reading and spelling books for multiple kids on a book shelf

Kristen also shared her thoughts about using an older sibling as a teacher’s helper.

I’m always amazed at how happily my girls volunteer to help me teach their siblings. They enjoy assuming the role of teacher’s helper, at the same time reinforcing their own learning. For example, Mira really struggled with rhyming. When Stella had her first rhyming lesson, I realized I could ask big sister for her help in directing the lesson while surreptitiously giving her the opportunity to review a challenging skillthe old “two birds, one stone” approach.

Stella recently started the All About Reading program, and yesterday Mira and Stella ran up to me after lunch and asked if they could pull out Ziggy (our friendly zebra puppet) to do a lesson. I told them I would love to but I didn’t have time to teach just then.

Mira responded, “Oh don’t worry. I can teach.”

Older child teaching younger with Ziggy the zebra puppet.

Robin (one of our awesome customer service reps) lets her older kids help teach the younger ones, too!

If you have older children who work well with your younger children, you can enlist their help. This can be helpful if you have an older student who needs to review rules. Generally, when we teach something, we learn it more thoroughly. So with this scenario, both children benefit!

Elaine from Humble Dwelling teaches five kids! Here are her thoughts.

How do I teach five kids all these lessons without getting overwhelmed? First, we do spelling only on Fridays. Each lesson takes about 20 minutes max. I do verbally quiz them through the week, sometimes even at the dinner table, to see what rules they can remember or how to spell a particular word. Also, to save me some time, Liam and Jack do spelling lessons together.

Reading is done twice a week. Again, these lessons are only about 20 minutes, including the fun activities that go with each one.

So, between spelling and reading for five children, I spend about two and a half hours per week teaching. While that may seem like a short time for teaching reading and spelling, this program is really effective. All my children are strong readers and spellers, and I owe it to All About Learning Press!

2 children playing a reading game together.

Here’s what Lisa from The Happy Homeschool Mom had to say about combining children in one level.

All About Reading is based on ability rather than grade level, so if you have children that are very close in ability you can combine them. You can find placement tests here.

My eight-year-old and ten-year-old are very close in reading ability, so we have always done reading and spelling together. Doing their reading lessons together has not only made things easier on me, but it encourages them as well and they enjoy doing the activities together. (Learn more about combining children in one level of All About Reading or All About Spelling in this post.)

If we have word cards to review, the boys take turns reading the cards. Each boy reads five cards. Then I build words on our small board and they take turns reading the words that I build. Then the next day they switch and read the others. They do the same with the fluency practice. The first day they each read half of the sentences and the next day they switch and read the other words and sentences.

And they play the games together. It’s their favorite part!

Robin has a great idea about time management.

Be sure to keep transition times between kids down to a minimum. I stack everyone’s spelling and reading materials on our school table and have each child come to me when it’s their turn. I let my kids know that I won’t wait for them to finish what they are doing when it is their turn for reading or spelling. I usually try to give each child a five-minute warning to help ensure that they’ll be ready.

You’ll want to spend about 15 minutes per day on your reading and spelling lessons. If you can’t finish a whole “lesson” in 15 minutes, that’s fine! Just pick up where you left off the next day.

How Do You Keep the Other Kids Busy?

Ticia from Adventures in Mommydom has a couple of wonderful ideas for keeping the other kids occupied.

In my house, reading is a 1:1 class ratio. Yes, I’m teaching reading to multiple kids, but I’m doing it one child at a time. We have a set rotation and different kids go first each day.

Some of my favorite techniques for keeping the other kids occupied:

Buddy reading with a sibling

  • provides extra reading practice
  • helps the weaker reader because the stronger reader will correct and help them
  • helps the stronger reader by allowing them to be the teacher

Independent reading

  • encourages enjoyment of reading
  • provides practice in reading silently (which my kids are still working on)
  • increases concentration skills while others are making noise (not that this is a problem in my house)
Boy in a chair reading independently.

Robin has some ideas on occupying other siblings, too.

Older children who can work independently can be doing “school things” like handwriting and math while Mom is teaching another child. You may need to get a bit creative with your younger children. Some ideas include “projects” like cutting up magazines, assigning an older child to help them with a subject or read to them, assigned chores, independent reading, or quiet playtime.

And Kristen shared a great idea about avoiding interruptions.

In order to avoid constant interruptions during big sister’s lesson, I place my younger children on their laptops where they play educational games that supplement their own reading lessons.

How Do You Organize AAR and AAS?

Ticia has a simple but effective way of keeping track of where her kids are in their lessons.

Despite the fact that my boys are twins, my kids are at three different levels in reading. One son is almost done with All About Reading Level 2, while his brother and sister are at different spots in that same one.

The first step is to have your reading program organized. First, I’ve got super official bookmarks in the place of each child’s lesson. They may look like scraps of paper to the casual observer, but these are my official “where you’re at” papers. To help me gauge their mastery of the lesson, I move the bookmark to their current place in the lesson to give me an idea of how many more days I think they might need to practice.

Elaine has a few organization tips as well.

All About Reading comes with phonogram cards and word cards. Using the cards that come with both AAR and AAS is a big help with having those sounds stick in the kids’ brains! I store all of our flashcards in the super sturdy little boxes that come with the interactive kits. Liam’s is still kicking after five years!

All About Reading and All About Spelling review boxes for several children

I keep all the teacher’s manuals, student workbooks, and readers in one spot for easy access. Some days I prepare ahead, but honestly most days I don’t have time to do so. The teacher’s manuals are scripted and very easy to follow, so not much extra preparation is needed. That is a HUGE help for me!

And finally, sticker charts! These charts help me remember what lesson each of my children are on every day. So simple, yet so effective!

Progress charts showing progress for multiple students.

What about organizing all those letter tiles? Lisa has a good system.

I have two different boards we use for All About Reading. We have a big board that hangs on the wall and holds all the letter tiles. We also have a small one that sits on the table we use for our lessons. Both boards have the alphabet on them, and I pull extra tiles off the big board to use on the small board during lessons.

Speaking of letter tiles, Kristen weighed in on this question, too.

The use of magnetic letter tiles is a staple of the All About Reading and All About Spelling lessons. I keep all our tiles on one large board. My younger children focus on just the vowel and consonant tiles while my oldest uses the complete set in her lessons. So far, this hasn’t overwhelmed my younger kids and it saves me time by not forcing me to remove and replace different sets of tiles for each child.

Image of child spelling a word with letter tiles.

The Bottom Line for Teaching AAR and AAS to Multiple Kids

  • All About Reading and All About Spelling are scripted programs that require very little daily prep for the teacher.
  • Children of similar abilities can easily be combined and taught together.
  • A well-organized area for teaching reading and spelling will help your homeschool days run more efficiently.
  • Teaching multiple children will not look the same for every family. It’s important that you create a system that works for your family!

Are you teaching reading and spelling to multiple children? Do you have any ideas to share? Please let us know in the comments below!

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Christine Coleman

says:

So many helpful tips- thank you! I love AAS!

Melissa

says:

All about reading has helped my boys grasp how to read. One is dyslexic and this is the only program that has worked for him. :)

Wendy

says:

Sounds like a great system, I can’t wait to give it a try with my four kids ages 5-11!

Kayla

says:

Wonderful post! I hope to teach my 2 children reading and spelling at a somewhat even pace and am always looking for pointers on how to succeed.

Stephanie Cardoza

says:

Great ideas!

Lacey

says:

Thanks for this helpful article! I’ve loved my experience with AAR and AAS, but always love to hear from others to see how they make it work for them!

kylah

says:

Thanks so much for the tips! I’m sure my eldest will love being the teacher’s helper :)

Grace

says:

I’m saving this for later when my youngest is a little older and I will have two at a time. I LOVE the idea of having the older help teach the younger, because I know my older would LOVE that!

Dana

says:

I’m getting ready to add my younger son to our school full time. Love these tips! I plan to have my oldest read some of his lessons to his brother.

Erica

says:

I love All About Spelling!

Kenzie

says:

Oh, I love the idea of having an older child help teach younger siblings. It would take a load off mom’s shoulders, but also reinforce those basics for the older kid.

Holly

says:

Wow! Great article!

Tabetha n Thomas

says:

Thank you for the chance to win.

Amber

says:

Great insight. We have 5 kids and teaching differnt levels is a question I had too.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amber,
I have 5 children as well. Because of their ages, I have never had more than 3 of them working in All About Spelling and All About Reading at any one time, but I still had times of having to work with the other 2 one-on-one with something each day (I remember long sessions involving geometry proofs, for example). It isn’t easy to juggle 5 unique learners, but it is possible and very rewarding!

Machell Duke

says:

I love the idea of the older children helping the younger.

Kala

says:

This was helpful! Thank you!

Jennifer Robbins

says:

This looks amazing!

Jennifer Robbins

says:

This looks amazing! Can’t wait to try it!

Catherine

says:

Great article! This information is very helpful to me.

kara

says:

LOVE AAS!!!

Katie

says:

Great info!

Amy

says:

Wonderful info!

Chassidy

says:

Great information! Thank you!

Nicole

says:

As both a teacher and now a homeschooling mom I’m always looking for exciting ways to teach reading and spelling. This is great advice and with 4 kids all at different levels I appreciate the insight.

Cyndi

says:

There are some great ideas in this post.

Christina

says:

This is an extremely helpful article. I want to try this now:) thank you!

Lara

says:

Very helpful! Thank you!

Belen

says:

This article was helful for me to see that the spelling program is easy to use for busy parents and adaptable to a variety of learning styles and abilities.

Michelle

says:

Love all about reading and spelling!

Karen

says:

Seems like a wonderful system. Lots of great tips on this post.

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