A 2012 study shows that homeschoolers were [at least] twice as likely to report being behind grade level than non-homeschoolers. Statistically, then, as homeschoolers, we're two to three times more likely to be behind than our publicly educated peers.
Bear with me a moment because even with these numbers mocking us, I firmly believe you made a good choice to homeschool. Here are five reasons it is okay for homeschoolers to be behind in school.
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1. Schools are strange about grade level.
As Sir Ken Robinson points out, we group children by year of manufacture, which is a poor way of doing so. And I'm not really sure how we can claim that so many kids are "on level" when a local school here can fail to teach 84% of 10th graders math. I wouldn't be surprised at all if homeschooled kids had a more robust standard of what it means to be "on level." But even if that isn't the case...
2. Some homeschoolers start because the other systems failed them.
I doubt it's 14% of homeschoolers, but could it be 7%? If so, homeschoolers are right on target and only appear worse off because homeschooling is the only option left. I know some families homeschool because of special needs; of course, I also know homeschoolers who have special needs children in school for the support they receive, so this could be a wash. I don't know, and it doesn't sound like we have enough information to make any kind of statements. So what else is there?
3. Being on grade isn't our focus.
We both know that homeschoolers have strange priorities. One of the differences is that we are a little more comfortable with letting kids learn at their own pace. This is especially true in the younger years. I was way behind in reading for years. Homeschooling let me grow at my own pace. And today, part of how I earn my living is by writing. So being behind just isn't a disastrous thing for us. We don't get government funding based on how well we can shoehorn kids into batches. We focus on the student.
4. Final outcome is what matters, not the moment of observation.
So what if I was behind a few grades in reading? By letting me slip behind, my parents let me excel. And today, after doing just fine transitioning to public school from homeschooling, the fact that I was not on grade level in reading at one point doesn't matter. But there's one more point I'd like to drive home...
5. Your student is more important than the system.
As homeschoolers, you and I get that. We're homeschooling for our kids. And the study in question demonstrates that religious and structured homeschoolers do great. Sure, we may not always be on level—we may be well ahead for all the data show—but, in the end, we have had great opportunities to be equipped to do whatever God has called us to do. And we have developed a lifelong love of learning while homeschooling with a curriculum we love.
So, sure, we homeschoolers may, statistically, be more likely to be behind than their peers. That's fine. There are more important things for us than that.
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