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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Help! My Kid’s Not on Grade Level!

Help, My Kid's Not on Grade Level!  Homeschooling Hearts & Minds http://homeschoolheartandmind.blogspot.comIt seems like every time I turn around I hear another homeschooler asking,  “Are my kids on grade level?”  After all, we parents want what’s best for our kids…how can we measure how they are doing if we don’t use some sort of standard?

Taking full responsibility for your kids’ education is scary.  What if I goof up?  What if I leave out something important and they go through life in ignorance of Shakespeare or unable to get a job because they can’t spell or figure out percentages?

We all want our kids to grow up to be successful, fulfilled adults, right?

So, when your 2nd grader is still counting on his fingers or your 3rd grader is spelling because “becus,” you might begin to feel a bit anxious.  What if they never get it?  What if there is something really wrong here?  What if I’m a bad teacher?  What if…?  You fill in the blank.

I won’t lie to you.  Sometimes there really is a problem when a child seems to be underperforming in particular areas (and I have talked about learning challenges in the past). 

But more often our children are just being the unique individuals that they are.  And sometimes that means you have a “2nd grader” who reads at a 5th grade level, spells at a 3rd grade level, and does arithmetic at a 1st grade level.  Oh, and he still writes all in caps. 

Ack!  Well, he is a young 2nd grader…if he were in public school, he’d actually be in 1st grade…should we hold him back?

Should we hold him back?

This is what was going through my mind the other day.  Maybe we pushed Peter too early.  Maybe we should hold him back. 

Hold him back?

Think about what that means a minute. 

I couldn’t hold my child back.  Even if I wanted to.

Part of the reason I educate my children myself is because I know that it’s impossible to fit them into those neat little boxes.  “2nd grade” is a label that goes onto a form to the state.  It’s something the bank teller understands when we make small talk.  It’s an easy comparison for the grandparents. 

But my son isn’t really a “2nd grader.”  He’s an individual who works at his own level in each area and improves his already existing skills.  It is helpful for me to know that arithmetic is a challenging area for him.  Yes. 

But if he’s having difficulty in one area or another, the answer is not to hold him back.  It’s to find out what he needs to move forward.

Sometimes that means reviewing some concepts or exploring them in a different way because something foundational is missing.  Yes.  But as homeschoolers, I can do that without “repeating 2nd grade.”

Don’t be disheartened if your child is not on “grade level” in one area or another.  Comparisons can be helpful, yes!  They can show us where more work needs to be done, but when we use them as a yard stick to beat ourselves with when our children don’t seem to make the grade, that’s not helpful. 

Your child’s education is constantly developing with him as an individual.  In some areas, he will improve as he matures.  A concept that seemed impossible for him to understand a year ago might be child’s play to him now.

In other areas, he’ll need more support.  If he seems a little behind in some way, this is a gift to you to help you see where you can help him, not a reason to give up

Learning is a life-long journey, something that I’m still doing and I’m sure you are, too.

Did you ever worry because one of your children wasn’t on grade level? 

The Homeschool Village

22 comments:

  1. Wow, that sounds EXACTLY like my "second grader." And those are some of the exact thoughts I was thinking today. Thanks for the encouragement, I'm glad I stumbled onto this post on pinterest.

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  2. I'm so glad I took the time to share my thoughts---thank you for letting me know this was helpful to you, Stephanie!

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  3. Great words of wisdom, Susan!!! I do use those grade level labels, but like you said, it's mostly for convenience. :)

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  4. Nice post and encouraging words. When we first started homeschooling 12 years ago, it was partly because I saw my young daughter was in two different grade levels for math and language arts. I saw a future of her either being held back or endlessly struggling with math. Now in college, math is still a challenge for her, but she has been able to reconcile herself with this fact in her own time and on her own terms. :)

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  5. Yes, Valerie! When we started 6 years ago, my oldest son had a big difference between his verbal abilities and his math abilities. Part of the reason we pulled him from school was because he wasn't being challenged at all in language arts and was hating school because of it. I see the ability to meet our kids where they are at as one of the biggest blessings of home education...but I've been surprised by the number of homeschoolers in my area who choose an "all-in-one" grade package to get the "bases covered." That approach doesn't work for any of my kids.

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  6. Wonderful piece Susan, I really enjoy your writing. I had the same belief when I homeschooled my son. I always expected "A" work from him before I felt he was at grade level. Perhaps if public school kids were given a "grade level" instead of a "C-" they would notice the same trend.

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  7. Yes! My husband and I were talking the other day about how much the public school "framework" influences how we and society in general see kids and their learning. It makes no sense to pass a kid with a "C" and expect them to move onto the next level---that's like saying that only 70 percent of the material was necessary when in subjects like math, 100% of the material in the early grades should be foundational.

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  8. Thank you for this post. This past year we moved our 3 boys from b&m school to a virtual charter public school. I have been really wrestling with what to do next year. I've really felt called to a traditional homeschool but am scared to make the jump. I do believe God has been working on my heart and easing my fears. This blog post was one of those ways. All of my boys are on target or ahead in one subject, but lag behind in others. 2 are second graders and one is in first. All of them are ready for 3rd grade math, but two still need to be in first grade reading. I want to foster a love of learning in them and know that if I keep pushing them into higher grades levels before they are ready this won't happen. Thank you for reassuring me that I realy do know what I am doing.

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  9. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I have been wrestling with this issue with two of my children and wondering what to do ( or if I should continue to homeschool). Your post was encouraging.

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  10. Thank you! I needed to hear this! Our oldest son struggled with reading until he was 8, but now he can read anything he wants. Now, as a 12 year old, his struggle is math. I have hope that he will be able to grasp fractions with a little more time and practice. He is an amazing guitarist and has started performing. He writes and illustrates his own comic strips and books. I know he is quite capable of learning. It just gets frustrating sometimes. My husband is very encouraging and tells me that its nothing I'm doing wrong

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  11. Deedra,
    Yes, it's scary. As parents, we want to see our kids succeed. Sometimes that does mean taking a few steps backward to give them a strong foundation---so much of the 3 Rs in later grades depends upon that foundation. Good luck with your homeschooling journey. :)

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  12. Lori,
    It's hard to find a balance sometimes---am I doing what's right for my kids, do they need to be in school? These are questions our family asks every year, but we try very hard to discern what is really needed without fear.

    The end of the "school year" is often a time of discouragement. One of the things I'm thankful for is the portfolios we put together for the state---I can see clearly there the strides that have been made since the beginning of the year. I can still see the struggles as well, but I think sometimes when we just rely on our memory, we tend to remember the struggles and forget about the triumphs.

    Enjoy your kids and I hope that you can see clearly what your next step is.

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  13. Jennifer,
    My oldest (age 13) struggles in math, too. ;)

    It's very hard to see our kids struggle. We want so much for them to succeed and hey, wouldn't it be nice if everything came easy to them?

    A friend of mine pointed out to me a while back that the challenges our kids face help to build their characters---when they overcome, they grow and they even grow in the struggle! The perseverance they develop will serve them well as adults.

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  14. Thank you! This is just what I need to show my husband. We've only been HSing 2 yrs, and he just can't get away from the public school mindset. My son went to public through fourth, and my oldest is still in public. He wants no part of HSing. I wish we had started from the beginning with both of them.

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  15. I know all too well that public schools can put labels on children. I withdrew 2 kids that are special needs for many reasons including putting them into age appropriate grades, not due to their abilities oh no, not the way things work in the real world. My middle child 15y/o has high functioning autism, smart as a whip in many areas, however due to having cerebral palsy his thoughts are slow to materialize on paper. When there is that delay getting thoughts down it causes frustration, so the school's idea was to put him in a class for behaviors that teaches only basic lower level academic skills. My 15y/o used to read at a 12th grade level , math at college level, all when he was tested at 7y/o, those skills were not embraced in the schools, because of his age and frustration levels. With all of the struggles with the schools treating him intellectually as though he was 7y/o he gave up on his abilities to only dwell on his disabilities. My youngest 12y/o has multiple medical impairments, uncontrolled epilepsy, chromosomal abnormality, severe autism, and has a feeding tube. The schools wanted to hurry the youngest into middle school to only teach activities of daily living (ADL) because she was beyond the scope of learning. HUH!!! I took the kids out of public school and have worked with them at home since 2011. My son has built up much needed confidence in himself and has made huge leaps in his academic skills after so many gaps. Now my 15y/o is doing Honor level classes through the virtual school program one and half grades above public school kids of same age. How Amazing for a child that has had their will to be the best possible in life broken by the public school. Now my 12y/o that was not meant to have any future according to the schools is using the iPad to spell simple 3-4 letter words, do memory matching, knows differences in groups of pictures, and the list of her accomplishments go on more than was given credit for doing in life. I believe that all children are as unique as finger prints, no two are alike. We as home educators need to embrace our children for who they are and their abilities not their inabilities.

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  16. s-
    It's hard to get away from that mindset, because it has overtaken how society in general sees our children and their education. It's also hard to leave the school environment and to educate your kids on your own when your spouse isn't totally on board---I'll pray for you and your family.

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  17. specialmamabugschool-
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. You've illustrated an important point---the government and society at large don't have a real stake in seeing our kids reach their full potential. Kids with special needs get managed, rather than lifted up. We as parents want them to be all they can be. We are invested them in a way that administrators, and even teachers, can't be. I know there are lots of caring teachers out there who really love the kids they teach and want to see them become all they can be, but, realistically, there is only so much they can give when they have a classroom full of students. And a new classroom full every year.

    And yes, building our kids up, treasuring who they are and what they can do---I think there is not enough of this. It actually inspired me to do a whole series last month called Release the Butterflies: http://homeschoolheartandmind.blogspot.com/2013/05/release-butterflies-this-may.html

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  18. LOVE this....exactly the argument I was having with a "public school" teacher. My child is at different levels with every subject. And I don't care! :) That's WHY I homeschool.

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  19. This truly has encouraged me. Thank you so much for posting this!! God bless you and your homeschooling journey!

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  20. Thank you for commenting, Andrea. I'm glad you found some encouragement. :)

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