How do you know if your kids are working at grade level?
All through my homeschooling years I’ve heard homeschooling parents constantly worry about whether or not their kids ‘measure up’, are performing ‘at grade level’, and ‘aren’t behind’.
Which begs the question, "Behind what?"
These questions make us realize the depth of our conditioning to believe that public schools are the academic paradigm. Public education has been the norm for the last century, and few of us have experienced anything different, so it’s not surprising that we trust in what we know, and what seems to have worked for us and millions of others.
When we are talking about our precious children and the responsibility of guiding them to their futures, it's no wonder we feel intimidated, and search for a way to guarantee our child's success.
This often translates to the homeschooler comparing themselves to the methods and achievements they perceive in public schools.
Let’s cut to the two underlying assumptions here:
- For each age group there is a definitive academic standard, a specific set of skills, and a precise amount of knowledge each child must acquire by a certain date
- The public school system and traditional classroom have mastered the methods necessary for children to be able to measure up to these educational objectives and perform at established grade levels.
Do either of these statements ring true?
I finally worked through these questions myself, and now I'm trying to figure out how to convince homeschooling parents that they should not be comparing
- their children to other children
- their homeschool to a public school classroom
- their child’s progress to a set of national standards dreamed up by some desk jockeys in a conference room.
Let’s get back to those assumptions and dig deeper. Underneath those assumptions are some ingrained ideas about education and how children learn:
- children are not unique individuals, especially those in the same age group
- children should not be allowed or encouraged to progress at their own pace, but must keep pace with everyone else in their age group according to specific standards
- learning is dependent on the actions of the teacher
- learning is the memorization of facts and ability to reproduce information on a test or in a report
- multiple choice tests are the best way to measure a student’s skills and understanding
- learning only happens during certain hours of the day, preferably while sitting at a desk
- learning must be guided by state mandated curriculum and conform to national standards
If you believe in these ideas, then you will probably continue to worry about your child’s performance and how they compare to their age-mates.
But if you believe your child is a singular individual with their own abilities and interests, strengths and weaknesses, and that there is no way for a set of national standards to define what an education means to each child, then you need to STOP worrying about grade levels, annual testing, and comparing your child to other children.
Maybe you do believe your child should be allowed to grow into their own skin naturally, but you don’t know how to change the way you think about education so you can homeschool your child more effectively.
Try these deprogramming techniques:
- Focus on what makes your child unique.
- Ask them about what interests them, and what they wish they knew how to do.
- Give them the resources they need to pursue their interests and build the skills that encourage and inspire them to do more.
- Let them make some choices about what they study and how they study it.
- Do more listening than talking, and ask questions instead of giving lectures.
- The more time you spend together just hanging out - in the kitchen, doing chores, shopping, watching television, going for a walk - the more opportunities you have to connect and understand your children. The more you understand them, the more you will be able to identify and address their needs.
- Never measure or compare your child to someone else, even a sibling. They are not on this earth to fulfill someone else’s potential, or to achieve what you could not.
- Get rid of the trappings of ‘school’ - school desks, chalkboards, bulletin boards and charts. Opt for a home library, comfy chairs, and wall art that reflects your child’s interests and hobbies.
Never again should any homeschooling parent ask “What if they get behind?” There is nothing in front of your child but their future. Just help them get there.