I teach a 3 and 5 year old at home (ok, sometimes it 's more like attempting to do activities with my 5 year old while the 3 year old is either jumping off me or the walls - take your pick). What I've discovered works well for this varied age group, and makes it fun for me too: unit studies. We even did some of this with my 9 & 6 year old nieces this summer and the same "study" worked for all ages.
I'm not a creative person by nature. More like a copy-cat-gone-crazy, i.e., I come across an idea that's a starting point, then I can "go crazy" with ideas. One of my "copy-cat" resources is Five in a Row. Also, along the same copy-cat lines, this wonderful home schooling mom, Deliese, was doing FIAR as well and began with Night of the Moon Jellies. Therefore I decided, "what the heck?", I'll start there too.
So this is how our unit study looked. It took about 3 weeks to get through this since we only spend about 3-4 days a week sitting down and only 30 minutes to an hour with actual structured school time each of these days.
We read Night of the Moonjellies.
We talked about everything in this book from the setting (New England), to the structuring of a restaurant, to ocean things. Of course my little guys were most fascinated with the ocean part, so this was our area of focus.
We got several books at the library about jellyfish, looked at the pictures and talked about them. We made paper plate and crepe paper jellyfish. As they were cutting and gluing the tentacles we counted them and engaged in different addition and subtraction-type games with tentacles. We wrote the letter "J". We talked about what other types of words start with "J". We talked about how many syllables were in the word jellyfish and how many other words had three syllables as well. We talked about other words that rhymed with "fish".
We made paper sack and crepe paper octopus' another day and did many of the same math and word games as above.
For a science experiment we made a bowl of saltwater and tested different objects to see whether they would float or not. They loved this one - anything involving water and young boys is a hit!
Other activities included painting sharks and whales, tracing fish and making "scales" with the end of a pencil eraser and an ink pad, drawing what they thought the beach looked like from the book, and a discussion of the book's setting in New England and the fact that this is where the pilgrims came from in leading up to things we will be doing for Thanksgiving.
If you are looking for some ideas and struggling with teaching several levels at once, unit studies are definitely worth a try. Any subject could turn into a unit study. Just think of a subject that interests your children, think of what goals you have for their learning, and "go crazy" with ideas all focused around this subject. And don't be afraid to copy-cat. There are tons of resources for people like me :-) that just don't want to have to come up with everything from scratch.
Have you ever tried unit studies?
Are you a naturally creative person, or a "borrower" like me?