Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homeschooling Expectations

Recently a visitor to my home asked about how Beezy was doing with her reading. Beezy will just be 8 at the end of this month, and she is progressing well, fluently reading Dick and Jane books, as well as using Beatrix Potter's charming tales for focusing on sight reading. We still practice sounding out words, but she does not enjoy that task, and progress had been slow with it. I took Charlotte Mason's advice and incorporated sight reading, and the repetition used in the Dick and Jane readers reinforces retention. So I am happy with my child's progress.

What concerns me is that my visitor said that since Beezy is homeschooled, she should be a couple of grade levels ahead in reading. Where do such expectations come from? It is true that some homeschooled children are ahead of public school children. It is also true that it isn't unusual for some to begin to read as late as age 10, particularly if the method used is unschooling and the parents wait to teach reading until the child is interested. Typically these children will pick up reading skills quickly and ultimately equal or surpass their peers.

The important thing is for everyone to understand what his or her state requires. In Ohio after the first grade, an evaluation by a certified teacher or standardized testing must be done before the next school year begins. Our superintendent requires a letter of intent, proof of high school graduation or GED, and a brief outline of the curriculum used. Certain subjects must be covered. The child only needs to progress according to his or her abilities. As long as you are meeting your state's specifications, no one should be questioning whether you are doing a satisfactory job at teaching your child, nor should they be concerned regarding the particular level your child is at in any given subject. Even in the public schools, there are typically three levels of reading or English for each grade. All children are not expected to be at the exact same level of proficiency.

My visitor was not critical or disrespectful in any way, and he validated the ability of my husband and I to do the job. I wish he had not brought up the subject right in front of Beezy, though, because I don't ever want her to feel compared to other children. Perhaps a good response in such cases would be to politely tell people that you do not discuss your homeschooling in your child's presence, so perhaps another time would be better.

We homeschooling parents can get concerned ourselves sometimes, but it is not good for our anxiety to be felt by our children, or for them to feel pressured to learn at a different rate than they are learning. When I feel this kind of pressure, it is typically as a result of the expectations of others. Allowing someone else to shake your confidence or instill doubt in homeschooling and transferring those negative feelings to one's children is obviously not healthy for anyone, so take care not to let it happen to you. I think it is appropriate to let the dissenters know that their negative attitudes will ultimately harm your children, so if they care for the welfare of your kids, they will be as supportive of you as possible.

Taking the joy out of learning and taking the wind out of our children's sails, who we want to feel confident and proud of their accomplishments, is not our goal. Learning should be challenging, yes, but it should also be interesting and fun, filling the child with wonder and encouraging an active imagination. We are preparing our children for life, nurturing not only their minds, but their bodies and spirits. If you believe as I do that the home (and the community as you choose it) is the best place for your children's education, then carry on with your worthy and holy mission. Pray for the strength and resources you need, and don't hesitate to seek the support of others in your homeschooling community. It is a courageous and beautiful thing that we do!

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