My 3rd and 4th graders are almost the same level, should I put them in the same grade?

Pictured are brothers Judah and Cohen, having a blast demoing Mashoonga Cadet.

Since my children are about the same in their level of learning, being 3rd and 4th graders, not great in math, on the same level with history, and science, but different in reading…would it be wiser to buy a larger modified curriculum instead of 2 separate?  Such as the same math (maybe even both math books so that we can move ahead smoothly when ready), history, and science books along with typing, get the extras like thinking putty and a couple of books that I will read aloud and just change the price on the extras?

Honestly, I have mixed feelings on combining two children of different ages into the same grade across the board.

On the positive side:
• Some subjects (science, history) are better done together, everyone will learn more and have more fun!
• Your job of teaching will be easier, since you’ll only be managing one set of books.
• Your initial costs may be less, since you’ll only be buying one core at a time rather than 2. (Long term you won’t save much though, since you’ll need 2 sets of workbooks each year anyway, and can reuse the rest of the material for the younger student if you decided to keep them separate.)

On the negative side
• Some older siblings will be stressed out by this, depending on their temperament and that of their younger sibling. We’ve known kids who feel delayed because their little sibling is at the same level they are, and it seems they just give up on school.
• State requirements vary, but usually it works in your best interest to have a child covering the age-appropriate material when possible so that she does well on state mandated testing.

Below are my thoughts on each subject – but you know your children best, so ignore as needed. 

Separately. Either use two programs, have your oldest move through more rapidly or put them into separate levels. Have you had them do the placement tests for Teaching Textbooks yet? I think they would be valuable.

Thinking Skills
These are consumable workbooks, so either way they will have their own book. I would be inclined to do them separately with your oldest in Building Thinking Skills 2 and your youngest in Building Thinking Skills 1, but if Building Thinking Skills 2 is too hard, then both could do Building Thinking Skills 1.

Combine. Apologia is great for grades 1-6, so will be easily combined.

Combine. The Mystery of History will be ideal for this!

Both. The puzzle could be the same for both, just let me know what would be best. The Daily Geography books would be almost as easy to have each at their grade level, so I’d suggest that.

Combine. As you know, we prefer to do spelling as a family anyway!

Language Arts
Separately, but this is where it is a little bit tricky. Language Lessons is designed for an age range, since it is consumable anyway, I would suggest looking at the samples and picking the best for each, but not the same one. Daily Trait Writing is not going to be hard to have each child at his/her grade. Typically handwriting is included only in 3rd grade. Would you like a 4th grade book too? Does your 4th grader know cursive yet? How about Word Roots? If she’s not done that yet, you may want to start both with Beginning Word Roots.

Graphic Novels
It just depends on how many you want. There is nothing grade specific here, though we did try to keep in mind each grade’s subjects when choosing titles.

Separately. You’ll probably want a Thinking Putty and Smencil for each, along with their appropriate test prep book. The Typing Instructor could be used by both.

Other thoughts
The reality is that we all learn at different paces and your oldest needs to expect that the youngest will pass her up in some areas. However, it is a natural desire for the oldest to stay ahead, and sometimes it is best not to set a child up to work against that.

Another option would be to start both students at the same place, but explain to your oldest that in some subjects (math, thinking skills, language arts) you will be expecting her to move through faster than her brother, perhaps an extra page a day or twice as many pages as he does or… Ideally there would be some reward for doing this, such as the art kit she’s long wanted or a special trip for the whole family. (Not as a bribe, but as motivation – like getting a paycheck.)

As far as putting cores together goes, it isn’t a big difference here if technically it is one core for two students or two cores, you’ll get the same price breaks either way.

I actually think other families would be interested in this as well, would it be OK with you if I quote you on our blog so that I can post the answer as well? With your permission I’d love to do that, using your first name only of course, but there is no pressure if you are not comfortable with that!


…Anything that is said, asked, answered in our conversations may be used as you see fit.  We all have to stick together in training our children up the way they should go!  If I hadn’t asked the question, someone may have thought it anyway.
My children are definitely on different levels with many subjects and will be separated accordingly, such as reading, writing, spelling.  I’ve always done their science and history together, because it’s all for an age range anyway.  For Math, I just think that they are more on the same level than different, but as I look at the teaching textbooks more closely, they seem fine to keep on the grade level because there seems to be plenty of review so they will be stepping back a bit to catch up and I love that they can get on the computer and be taught step by step for each problem and even do the problems online which is better for them…the seem to be “allergic” to workbooks!!!  The graphic novels I plan on getting according to their interests, Shakespear’s Romeo and Juliet for my daughter (she loves that story), and discovering the T-Rex for my son that loves dinosaurs!  Along with other titles!
I love the idea of thinking putty and smencils (the will each have their own)
I have spent everyday of this week on your site combing through everything, I enjoy everything so far.  I can’t wait to get the catalogue and make my order…

Joy D.

Joy D.

The oldest of the "Timberdoodle children" I now work full time for the company, filling such roles as marketing manager, curriculum adviser, video producer, etc. I'm a new foster mom with my sisters and in my spare time I enjoy reading and volunteering in the church and as an EMT with the fire department.

1 comment

  1. My 5 and 7 year old work together a lot. The 7 yo reads a bit more deliberately, the 5 yo is faster with sight words, but not as good at sounding out. They both have different strengths in math. Personally, I tell them that she is in a “higher” grade than he is, but they do much of the same work. I expect different things from both of them, depending on their strengths. That is working for us. We avoid having to have completely different programs for the two of them that way, yet she doesn’t feel like she is behind and he doesn’t feel pushed.

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