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Me thinks my mind is a'changing!

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I was sitting at Lego robotics today, talking to another homeschooling mom. She was completely stressed out because her dd will start high school this fall, and my friend feels that she isn't "on grade level". I have been struggling with the whole grade level thing lately. We spent several years in the ps system, so we were used to the standardized curriculum, and the stress placed on the students to meet grade level expectations. The longer we hs, though, the more I find myself rebelling against anything that resembles the ps system. My dd (10th grade) asked me today if I could explain to her the differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church (we are Protestant, so she is interested in different branches of Christianity). My first thought was to tell her to put that question on hold until she finished the essay I had assigned earlier in the week. Then I realized how silly that would have been. We spent time researching her question, and then looked up a strange beetle we saw on our front porch. That led to her asking questions about Hannibal and his elephants (her mind goes a million miles an hour!), and then we had a discussion about the Mayan civilization. Today led me to make a decision about schooling from this point forward. I want to throw every dry, dull, boring textbook out the window,and teach my kids to follow their interests. I want to explore with them, allow them to provide suggestions on what they want to learn. I want my kids to enjoy math because they see it in the real world. I don't want to force algebra on them just because some bureaucrat in some distant office says they have to take it. I want them to see science, not read about it. I think it's official: I'm leaving the curriculum behind. It's getting in the way of our learning.

Mom of Laura-my 13 going on 30 angel, and 11 year old Nathan, the happiest kid in the world who happens to have Asperger's.

by on May. 16, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Replies (11-13):
by Platinum Member on May. 17, 2012 at 11:04 AM

It's so nice to see re-invigorated!

by on May. 17, 2012 at 5:51 PM
2 moms liked this

I totally understand that revelation.

I was a former teacher when I started homeschooling so you can imagine how I felt about curriculum, grade level, tests, planning lessons, etc... that first year I must have put my daughter through the wringer.

I realized homeschooling is a different model. I remember why I chose not to teach in public schools anymore-- I felt the system and methods were failing the kids. I taught at-risk 7th graders and I feel like the only times I was able to really make an impact, really make them learn or understand something were the times I strayed from the curriculum and test preparation and did something creative.

Since then, I've used textbooks as references for ideas or questions to explore. I've never given a test. I stopped worrying about grade level at all (and have found that kids can really vary within different subjects on that anyway) and just let them keep progressing at their own pace.

My daughter ended up unschooling; with my boys we're more eclectic and focus on unit studies. It's been a lot better once you get over that fear that they're not keeping in line with schooled kids-- when you realize you don't really have to or want to keep them in line. 

Peace, and all that jazz...


a Browncoat4eva 

...I'm a leaf on the wind. Watch me soar...

by on May. 17, 2012 at 6:36 PM
3 moms liked this

Ask a homeschooled kid the innocuous “What grade are you in?” and you’ll often get a furrowed brow and an answer with a question mark at the end.


This response can be alarming to grandparents, non-homeschooling friends, and the cashier at Walmart. Their raised eyebrows ask, “He doesn’t know what grade he’s in?”

Well, no. Not exactly. That hallmark of traditional schooling—the passing from grade to grade—isn’t of utmost importance in homeschooling. The age/grade correlation just isn’t necessarily present.

If your nine-year-old is reading at a post-college level, does that make him 23? Who decided, after all, that picture books are for preK-3rd grade, that pre-algebra is done in middle school, and that high school takes four years?

Who came up with all this stuff? I don’t know the answer to that.

What I do know is that homeschooling allows us to provide learning opportunities for our children at their own pace.

This might mean that:

  • your nine-year-old is reading at a 10th-grade level but has the fine motor skills of a kindergartener;
  • or your 13-year-old daughter writes astounding stories but still doesn’t know all her multiplication facts;
  • or your son finished high school at 16, but your daughter plans to take a leisurely five years and graduate at 19.

This can be tough for those of us who went through the traditional education system. By nature most homeschooling parents are outside-the-box thinkers, but we still tend to second-guess our choices every now and then, as if some public school administrator is peering over our shoulders and wagging his finger at us.

I balk when I hear parents ask “Where can I find out where my child should be for his grade level?”

The beauty of homeschooling is that it just doesn’t matter. Our kids don’t have to be boxed into a grade.

I remember a story my brother told me once about his daughter, then in first grade in public school. The teacher called him and his wife in for a conference. “I need you to stop teaching her things at home,” she said to them. “She is reading too far ahead and doing math that we don’t learn until the third grade.” My brother and his wife explained that they weren’t teaching her at home, but that they weren’t going to stop her from figuring things out on her own.
Shoe Tying

Last year I made the decision to skip over the next math textbook for my son. I compared the two consecutive years and realized that few new concepts were introduced in the 4th grade book. The question for this particular child became: Why spend an entire year doing the same old thing? We moved into and through the 5th grade book easily, and then I looked at the 6th grade book and saw a whole year of the same old thing, again. But skipping another book would mean going into pre-algebra.

Somehow I couldn’t wrap my brain around my 10-year-old doing pre-algebra already, especially since my 13-year-old just finished the curriculum. But, well, he can. “Move him up,” my husband said simply and sensibly.

My youngest guy likes math. He’s excited about it, figures it out quickly, and is thrilled to be moving on to pre-algebra. On the other hand, he still reverses the letters “b” and “d” every now and then, and he’s never written more than a paragraph on his own.

Is he in seventh grade or second grade?

Grade levels are necessary for the structure of traditional school, certainly, and they are generally necessary for things like clubs, sports, camps, and church activities. I think we should all teach our kids a basic grade-level answer (i.e., “I’m in fourth grade”), without feeling the need to explain to the general public that she’s doing 7th grade math, 5th grade science, and reading at a 9th grade level. But in our own homes, shedding our mental checklist of “what your child should know in each grade” can be liberating—and tremendously beneficial to our kids.

Homeschooling is all about finding the heartbeat of your family and following that pace—not your neighbor’s, not your best homeschooling buddy’s, and not the grade level expectations for your child’s age.

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