As homeschoolers, we are most often so worried whether our children are where they should by comparing them to their public school peers. Are we teaching them what the other kids are learning. Do homeschooled kids actually need to keep up with their public school peers? I think it's a gray area with a little yes and a little no. Here is some food for thought.
Homeschooling is really an Individualized Education Plan
When you choose to homeschooling, you get to make choices in curriculum and methods that work best for your individual child. You can also choose the education that is best for them. You individualize your child's lesson plans so they can learn using methods that work with their individual learning style. The public school model is always a one-size-fits-all education. It often leave kids behind especially those with learning disabilities, it also often does not challenge those that are academically advanced. Your child may be far ahead of his peers in math, but a little behind in language arts skills. In public school they would be held back in one subject and pushed to fast in another causing gaps which will haunt them their entire school career. By staying at home you tailor your child"s lessons so that they can soar where they excel and you can slow it down where they may need extra help so they don't stumble and become discouraged. By moving at your child's pace you are creating a person who will love learning because their needs are being met where they are not where some random person decided they should be.
Public School Kids Are Being Taught How to Pass A Test
It is no secret today's public schools are giant testing facilities. Testing decides funding so really what else do you expect them to do. In our public school system, teachers have to teach kids to the test while other subjects and activities suffer. They regularly give standardized tests and measure their students' accomplishments by their grades on these assessments. Then they are constantly compared to their peers in the school, state and country. Talk about heaping pressure on a kid.
As homeschoolers, we have the ability to measure progress in many different ways. We don't always have to test our kids. Because our kids are learning differently, their benchmarks look different as well and what they retain or forget will vary greatly. I get to see progress and determine measurement when I watch my child be able to carry on conversations with adults on varying subjects. When my child politely corrects someone on a science or history fact we've studied. When I see my kids calculate the change from a purchase faster than the cashier who is using a cash register.
Progress is What Counts
When it comes to giving your child the best education possible and measuring their progress, measure them against themselves and not anyone else is the best policy. You want your child to make steady progress and to be learning and mastering the skills they need to succeed.
Often, when kids are in a classroom, the teacher moves on before everyone gets it. It's a sink or swim environment and there because of state standards and the teacher to student ratio there isn't a way to wait for everyone to get the concept. Even though for the most part all the kids should be on the same level, that is not always the case. When you choose to homeschool, your child doesn't have to keep up with other kids in a classroom. They can go at their pace, they can move as fast or as slow as they need, they can truly enjoy their educational experience.
Don't Let Differences Become A Problem
While homeschooled kids don't need to keep pace with their peers completely, you should take note of certain benchmarks in their development and abilities. Don't let the comfort of homeschooling let you miss a critical developmental disability.
If you notice that your child is well behind or struggling with a concept that other kids their age seem to have mastered much easier, you may need to look into it. Sometimes it's hard to tell if they are just developing and learning differently, or if there is cause for concern. It is a good idea to know where their public school peers are, it helps you recognize if your child needs help or special attention in any area.
So does your homeschooled child really need to keep up with their public school peers? Yes, in that they need to develop at a steady rate and make progress with their education and skills. They don't however have to be learning at exactly the pace as their peers or learning the same thing at the same time. Homeschooling is an individual education plan, specific to your child, and you can measure them against their own progress and not anyone else's.
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