Some days I get discouraged and fear that I'm failing my children by teaching them at home.
- I see the gaps in their learning.
- I fear they are behind or may fall behind.
- I wonder if we do too little bookwork and too much playing.
It's on those days that I have daydreams of chasing the yellow bus and begging the driver to take my children, too. Let the experts in the public school take this burden from me. Surely they are more equipped than I am to educate my kids.
And then I come to my senses by reminding myself of these truths.
1. The Reading Bar is Very Low in Our Country
Half of all Americans can't read above a fifth grade level. I got this statistic from my nursing textbook. It explained why medical pamphlets should have lower vocabulary to reach the most people even when writing with a higher reading level would provide better information.
If I can get my children to fifth grade reading level by the time they graduate high school, they'll be doing better than half the country. Of course, I want my child to do even better than that, but the point is that the bar is very low in our country. I am not failing my children.
2. Math is Really Not That Difficult
Math can seem overwhelming. It's one of the 3Rs that you don't want to skip even for a single day. Surely it's worth getting antsy and insecure over, right?
No. It's not as scary as you think. To get your kids set for pre-algebra, they need to master this short list of topics:
3. Grade Levels are Arbitrary
No one in college cares whether your child at age seven was reading at a Kindergarten level, first grade level, or a tenth grade level. Really. No one.
All that matters is how well they can read (or do whatever subject) in college. Honestly.
When you stop to think about it, what is the difference between eleventh grade reading level and twelfth grade? Is there a difference at all? What's the difference between seventh grade grammar and eighth grade grammar? These levels are all arbitrary. And any actual deficits can easily be overcome when the need arises, when children are developmentally ready, or when teens are motivated to do so.
As an example, consider this situation: Malnourished children in Africa are given no education until they start school around 10 years old. They immigrate to the US at around 12-16 and then proceed to get college degrees that would make most of us exhausted. If children aren't reading by age 10, it's not over.
In any given second grade classroom, there is a broad mix of reading proficiency:
- a few children who can read everything in sight
- a few who can read at a second grade level pretty well most of the time
- a bunch who struggle through second grade reading
- a few who are still struggling at kindergarten level
So, if your second grader is reading at a first or third grade level, they’d be perfectly fine in a second grade classroom. There would be no reason to move them to first or third grade.
4. Homeschool Parents Tend to Take Grades Personally
Homeschoolers beat themselves up a lot. If your child were in public school and brought home a report card with a B math, you would be perfectly happy. But as homeschoolers, when they get three questions wrong on their math test, you think you're falling them.
Really, a B means a student can answer two out of every ten problems incorrectly. On a 30-problem page, they can get 6 wrong and still get a B. Twelve wrong is still passing. And half the time, the grade on that page wouldn't have been counted anyway.
F is usually below 60%, not counting bonus points and extra credit. And not every assignment is graded. Honestly, what you consider failing as a homeschool parent, schools usually consider passing.
5. A Literature Based Curriculum Lays a Broad Base of Knowledge
Sonlight sets children up for success, even if you use don’t use it exactly as written. The books will teach your children to think about life and evaluate opposing viewpoints. The characters in the books become their friends who bring the world alive for them and make remembering history easy. Can’t remember Napoleon was like? Read Betsy and the Emperor, and you’ll never forget. Read Red Sails to Capri, and learn about overcoming superstition and the beautiful island of Capri.
Learning by doing is the best way to learn. But, because we can’t do everything and go everywhere with our children, reading about fictional friends doing these things is almost as good.
6. Plenty of Kids are Behind
Children don't need to be homeschooled to be behind. The whole premise of No Child Left Behind was too many children were being left behind. Note, the program is generally considered a failure—hence the Common Core debacle. The bottom line is that our schools are full of children who are behind. I am not failing my children because I homeschool. The schools are already failing plenty of children.
7. Play is Better than Schoolwork
Children this age actually learn better through play than seatwork. If they want to spend most of their day playing, give them educational toys and have at it. You’ll be doing them (and yourself) a favor.
8. A Diploma May Not Mean a Lot
Public school is good and useful at times, but it really does a poor job with the very best of students and the worst of students.
My brother failed at school, and graduated high school (yes, diploma and all) reading and doing math at no higher than a second-grade level. (Yes, they will graduate you even then.)
He went on to college and got a degree in pipe welding because he knew his trade and could pass exams based on skill. He never purchased a single textbook or passed a single written test. Yes, he has a degree in pipe welding from college. He still can't read above a second grade level, and thanks to practical use, his math skills are about at a third grade level now.
My brother who can't read has won awards for his welding skill. If he had been homeschooled where special considerations for his dyslexia and ADHD were allowed, he could have gone much higher. But, in second grade, he labeled himself stupid and has essentially never tried since.
Public school standards are far lower than you think they are. You are not failing your children by homeschooling.
9. Love of Learning is Key
The biggest goal you can have for your children is to teach them to love to learn. If they know how to learn and loving doing so, then they can do anything, go anywhere, and be anyone. If they are super bright and hate learning, well, good luck.
I was that child who barely paid attention in high school, made good enough grades to pass, aced my ACTs and then decided that was enough. No more school. Ever. A few years later, I took one college course and was hooked. I feel in love with learning and went so much further. That passion for learning is what I want for my children. And it's precisely what I can offer them through homeschooling.