It’s funny how adults always ask children the same type of questions. You know, when the store clerk smiles and says, “Where do you go to school?” or when a neighbor’s asks, “What grade are you in?” These are simple questions that any child should be able to answer without putting much thought into it.
A few months ago our 1st grader was asked by a lady at church, “Where do you go to school?” He responded with a big grin, “I don’t go to school….” (Then he left a long pause, while I’m standing behind him with my mouth hanging open…) “I do my school work at home.” I was so thankful that he added that second part on, but it sure would have been nice if he had just answered from the beginning that he was homeschooled.
Now in his defense, he is only six years old. He took the question literally (as most children would). If she had asked “Where do you do your school work?” he would have answered at home, but since the whole world has been conditioned to ask “Where do you GO to school?”, it’s like everyone assumes you have to GO somewhere to be able to learn. We’ve discussed this type of situation several times since then and I have high hopes that if he were to be asked this same question tomorrow he would say, “Evergreen Christian Academy, I’m homeschooled” or some variation thereof.
An upcoming development in our homeschooling journey is the, “What grade are you in?” question. I know many homeschooled children who are at different grade levels in different subjects. For example a child who is advanced in reading and science may be taking 5th grade reading and 4th grade science, but they may be taking 3rd grade level other subjects. Would this child be “in” 3rd grade? We as a culture relate grade to age, so a 3rd grader would typically be 8 or 9 years old. As homeschooling parents should we place much value on what grade a child is in? Does it really matter what grade level a child is working at? I personally believe as long as they are learning to the best of their ability and being challenged then that is all that matters.
I wonder how many children out there are stuck doing the monotonous work at their grade level because parents and/or teachers feel it’s “too early” to move them on to the next level for a particular subject. This is something that is almost unheard of in public and private schools. Why hold your child back? Let them move forward at their own pace; whether it’s a slower pace or a faster pace it doesn’t matter. You can’t force them to learn, you can only guide them and present them with a million opportunities to experience fun while learning. Isn’t that what learning is supposed to be about anyway? Fun? I certainly believe so.
Our son is in a 1st grade class at church and gets a report card (that I fill out myself) which lists his grade level as 1st. However, how do you classify what grade a child is in? He is currently taking 1st grade English (grammar), 1st grade Social Studies, 2nd grade science, 2nd grade reading, and by the end of February will be starting 2nd grade math. His music, art, PE and Spanish lessons aren’t grade specific so those don’t really count. Technically our son is in the 1st grade (and I don’t plan on moving him up a grade at church or on paper). At this point when he’s asked the “What grade are you in?” question he automatically says first. Knowing him like I do though I’m sure that at some point in the future he will surprise someone by telling them he’s in 1st and 2nd grade or some similar confusing answer.
It’s our job as parents to prepare our children for these type of questions so they know how to give appropriate answers. Some people may disagree, but frankly a simple one sentence answer that is planned out in advance is MUCH easier than having to go into a long dialog about how your child is working at different grade levels in different subjects. Not all children of the same age fit into the same mold, and why should they? God made each child unique and special, so let’s help them out.