Based on his age, your child would be in 4th grade at the local school. At home, however, using just 4th grade materials wouldn’t be the right fit.
You have seen him reading WAY above 4th grade level. And though you never had him tested, you suspect he could easily read and understand the poetry, novels and plays usually assigned in high school.
On the other hand, based on the placement tests he has taken, your son’s math skills put him around 3rd grade. Sometimes even a little lower, depending on his mood, the curriculum tried, and other factors you still haven’t figured out yet.
Your son’s spelling and vocabulary fall right in line with his reading level — higher than most his age. But give this child a pencil, and he can hardly draw a straight line. And his handwriting is hardly legible to anyone but you.
Sound familiar? Do you have a child with an interest or aptitude in one area who is “behind” in another?
Perhaps you have wondered if it is alright for one student to use materials for several different grades? You may worry about the risks of allowing children to progress at different rates in different subjects.
Let’s begin with some analogies. Remember the time you bought a new video recorder and tried to use it? Remember when you first started a blog? Or learned to program the recorder on your satellite television?
How about the first time you made lasagna? Fixed a leaky faucet? Changed the oil in your car?
Do you even recall how long it took to sew a ruffled skirt? Figured out the new diet or exercise routine? Learned to crochet? Studied the Periodic Table?
How long did it take for YOU to learn something new? Minutes? Days or weeks? Even longer? If you’re handy and you like that sort of thing, you learned it quickly, right? But some things took quite a bit longer — correct?
Now, imagine somebody told you that you’d need to learn each of those separate skills, each with different tools and different ideas, each in exact same amount of time. No way, right? Ah ha! You get it.
This is what traditional education does to our children. Without thinking, we parents are often guilty of it, too.
Homeschooling is the solution to requiring students to learn different things in the exact same time frame. Looking at learning in this way, one can easily see that children will learn some things more quickly than others. It’s normal. Through homeschooling, students may move “ahead” when they are ready. Nobody else can decide how long it takes. Only them. Or YOU by watching them.
Like programming the TV recorder, learning may come easy. Or it may never really take hold. Like baking lasagna, it may come out perfectly the first time, or may take many tries before getting it right. And crochet? Well, this may never be a skill you can master — ever. Or maybe you can – but never perfectly. Perhaps you’ll decide crochet just isn’t “your thing” and knowing how to do it doesn’t matter much anyway. Or crochet might become something you dabble with the rest of your life just for fun, but never anything worth spending too much time on.
Getting back to schooling, it is important to understand that grade-level learning materials are labeled this way to help those who must classify large numbers of students into groups. Classrooms full of same-age students must be held to the same standards, lest some could be short-changed by not receiving the same instruction, and left behind the rest of the pack.
Homeschoolers are not required to learn with the same-age pack. Homeschooled students may learn what their same-age peers are learning, or spend time on what their peers did last year, or skip ahead to what their peers might be learning several years from now. Learning has no limits, and may happen whenever the learner is interested and ready.
No parent would ever criticize a child for reading a book at bedtime. Why, then, would a parent limit a child from reading any book he chooses during the school day?
The are no risks — only benefits – to allowing students this freedom to learn. When compared to other children the same age, obviously children taught this way may appear “ahead” in some areas and “behind” in others. But when viewed as a natural, desirable thing, this isn’t really a problem, now is it?
Perhaps the only difficulty in allowing children to progress at their own pace is when anticipating the end results. Naturally, parents of homeschoolers may worry if their children have learned “enough” or have the skills and grades to enter college or a career. But so long as the cumulative experience adds up in 12+ years, which skill was acquired during which grade does not matter. Gathering up all of the learning at the end is what parents must focus on by the end — not which subject was taught each and every year.
You are invited to COMMENT with your thoughts on learning this way. SHARE your fears or concerns about not sticking to grade-level materials during homeschool, on using a variety of grade-level materials with the same child, and about changing materials when children are ready to move on.
Readers love to hear what you have to say!