Project-Based Learning: Multiple Ages

Do you have more than one child?  Do you have gifted kids?  Do you have struggling learners?  Do you have active children?  Do your children prefer hands-on lessons?  Do your children love to get lost in a certain topic?  Do you want your children to take more ownership in their work?  Do you want your children to really “get” what they’re learning?  Do you want to teach all of your children the same topic at the same time, at least occasionally?

Project-Based Learning with Multi-Ages (Differentiation) @CindyWest (Our Journey Westward)

If you answered yes to any one of these questions, project-based learning is something you might want to consider! 

What is Project-Based Learning?

The {very} short definition:  A learning method where your children dive into a subject and complete a project (or projects) to show what they know.

The more thorough explanation of my view of project-based learning can be found on this postIf you’re unfamiliar with project-based learning, this is a very important read!

Practical PBL

Today begins a series of ten posts about how I integrate PBL (project-based learning) into our homeschool.  The posts will be very practical and offer oodles of ideas for you to use right away!

Differentiation (aka Teaching Multiple Ages)

I first heard the term differentiation in college.  Specifically, as I was learning how to integrate gifted and special needs children into a “regular” classroom.  Basically, differentiation means offering learning accommodations for the various needs in a classroom.  As I began homeschooling more than one child, I quickly realized that I differentiate every single day.

  • When I give my 7th grader a 6th grade grammar book and a 9th grade math book, I’m differentiating.
  • When I take an extra day or two to reteach a tough concept before moving to the next lesson, I’m differentiating.
  • When I teach all my children about the Civil War at the same time, but expect different levels of comprehension and work, I’m differentiating.

See what I mean?  Whether you have one or several children, you are meeting their specific needs daily.  Most of us don’t simply assign a straight boxed curriculum day in and day out without making at least some adjustments.  When we stray from “the plans” to make adjustments for our particular children, we are differentiating.

Differentiation and Project-Based Learning

PBL is a wonderful way to differentiate in almost any circumstance.

Here are some examples…

Teaching Multiple Ages

If I want the entire family to learn about pioneers, we might do the following together:

  • read historical fiction
  • watch a documentary
  • take a field trip
  • play a game
  • make a pioneer dinner
  • learn how to quilt

Individually, I would expect each child to complete various projects on their own – based on their abilities.

My high school daughter might be asked to:

  1. read a biography and complete narrative from the perspective of the person she studied.
  2. research the political details of land purchases and their fairness, then compose a speech.
  3. create a display board of maps and various details relating to the modes of travel, the well-traveled roads, traveling dangers, etc.

My middle school son might be asked to:

  1. read an info book about pioneers and create a display board containing at least eight different important aspects of pioneer life.
  2. write and illustrate a fictional story about your life as a pioneer.
  3. study the Gold Rush and make a map designating where around the world people came from to find gold.

My kindergarten son might be asked to:

  1. listen to mom read a pioneer picture book and narrate it.
  2. memorize  and recite a simple poem or song from pioneer days.
  3. draw a picture of a covered wagon and explain to dad some of the things the pioneers might have carried in the wagon.

Everyone in the family is learning about pioneers, but the expectations for each age/grade/ability level are vastly different. 

What if I want everyone doing the same project? I often assign the exact same project to my children, but expect very different results depending on their abilities.  As an example:  Everyone will create a display board containing at least eight different important aspects of pioneer life.

My daughter will choose harder informational books to research and her display board will be more thorough, explicit, colorful, and pleasing to the eye.  My middle son will choose an informational book that fits his needs and his display board will likely be a little less thorough, etc.  My little guy will sit with me as I read through a simple informational book and we will create a display board together.  His will likely have only pictures and single words or phrases on his board.

Differentiating the Textbook

Even if you don’t teach multiple children, what do you do when your child is bored, frustrated, or excelling above the textbook?  Differentiate!

Here are a few easy examples for adding PBL into the normal study of textbooks:

  • Instead of assigning the test at the end of the history chapter, allow your child to choose a project to show what they know instead.
  • Instead of the “boring” text in the chemistry book, allow him to check out a book from the library on each chapter’s topic then demonstrate through experimentation and a short paper that he “gets it.”
  • Instead of worksheet page after worksheet page, have him create his own worksheet page for YOU to complete based on the material learned.  If he’s able to create a worksheet and check your work for accuracy, he’s got the material.

So, today’s point?  Project-Based Learning is great for meeting the needs of our particular children (academic or learning styles.)  And, it’s a great method for teaching multiple ages similar things at the same time.

Project-Based Learning for Gifted Kids

Homeschooling Gifted Kids: A Practical Guide to Educate and Motivate Advanced Learners


If you have gifted children, project-based learning can be a perfect method of learning. One chapter of my book, Homeschooling Gifted Kids is all about project-based learning. There are nine other chapters that can help you with other considerations for gifted homeschooling, too. Check it out!

Be sure to come back tomorrow!  I’ll be sharing specific project ideas using poster board.  You never knew posters were so versatile!

Learn More About Project-Based Learning

I taught a Homeschool Masterclass all about project-based learning that you might like to watch to help you get an overall vision, see the possibilities through practical examples, and get lots of ideas!

Here are some more project-based learning ideas!




  1. I really enjoyed this post and am looking forward to the rest of the series.

  2. Oh hooray – I love all your meaty project based learning posts – it is right up our alley. Looking forward to this- thank you!

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