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What Grade Are You In?

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.

Sensory Deprivation

Exploring sensory deprivation at Lynn Meadows Children's Museum

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.

Deer Track

Examining a deer track

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.

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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in My Thoughts on Homeschooling

 

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Substitute Teacher – Courtesy of Dr. Suess

SneetchToday’s school lessons were going pretty typical until we started our Social Studies lesson.  Now to give a bit of background, we do different subjects in different parts of the house.  This is #1 for comfort, #2 to break up the monotony and #3 to allow the children to wiggle a bit for some lessons (which they do very well).  Since Social Studies is mostly a reading and oral discussion subject we usually do this lesson in my bedroom.

My son and I were snuggled all cozily on the king-size bed getting ready to start when my recently turned 4yr old brought in several stuffed animals (several = 6+ when it comes to little girls and stuffed animals).  She asked me which one I wanted, so without hesitation I chose the Sneetch.

SIDE NOTE:  If you’ve never heard of a Sneetch then you are really missing out.  Get the book The Sneetches by Dr. Suess from the library next time you’re out and about (it’s in the children’s section… in case you didn’t know).

Children with the Sneetch

Now that I held the Sneetch in my hand we began the lesson.  My husband knows me well enough by now to know that I can’t hold a stuffed animal for long without giving it voice and letting it “talk” to the children.  I’m a child at heart… and in the head too at times it seems.  Anyway, so very soon the “Sneetch” was talking and teaching the children.  They would tell him their answers and sometimes they were wrong, but that’s okay, everyone was learning and the Sneetch was a very good teacher.  We all had such a fun time learning that I may have the Sneetch substitute teach for me one or two lessons each week.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in My Thoughts on Homeschooling

 

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Going With My Instincts

The post below was originally written back in July on my other blog, but I’ve re-posted it here because I feel it’s important.

I base much of my parenting on instinct and what just “feels right”. For me it really feels wrong to drop off one of my children with strangers. Yes, I know that everyone starts off being a stranger until you get to know them, but it’s not just the teacher that is a stranger. It’s the class full of children that are strangers as well. As a parent, why should I want my child to hang out with a group of children their same age for 7-8 hours a day, 180 days out of the year? Is it not better to allow shorter periods of socialization with a widely diverse group of people? I think so and research proves it is so.

The paragraphs below are from “Homeschooling Step-By-Step” by Lauramaery Gold & Joan M. Zielinski. In this part they are discussing the transitions involved when children start off in public school and then are home schooled.

“First, you and your children have become strangers while they were in public school. They were gone all day and were under the extended control of homework-assigning teachers all night. If your children were in school for a prolonged time, you may not even like one another all that much. Don’t worry. This will pass. As you and your children learn again what it means to be a family unit–a group of people who actually live and eat and play and work and learn together –you’ll soon find yourself enjoying their company, discovering their personalities, and learning to like them all over again.
Second, your children may not trust or like you. They’ve been ‘sent away’ to strangers where they were taught habits and beliefs and mannerisms that just don’t sit well with mom and dad. It takes time and trust for them to unlearn bad habits, to learn to interact with adults and to appreciate your commitment to teaching them. Give it a chance. Those strong ties that existed when they were young are still there, and they’ll spring back into place given sufficient love and nurturing.”

Reading these paragraphs really breaks my heart. I do not want my children to become “strangers”. I also cannot imagine missing out on so much, like watching their faces light up when they figure something out. As for homework, school teachers already have the children for 7 hours each day, why should they have to be burdened with even more school work at home? (I’ll answer my own question here.) Because the students CAN’T learn everything in school. There are too many distractions and interruptions, not to mention an often overwhelming feeling of boredom or failure.

We all know there are good teachers and not so good teachers, but the truly GREAT teachers have a way of taking a child’s least favorite subject and making it FUN! Yes, it is truly possible! I really wish more teachers would be enthusiastic about what they are teaching. Enthusiasm is catching and almost any subject can be turned into fun and interactive games with some effort. Re-arrange the desks into a circle or a few small squares. Instead of teaching AT children, ENGAGE them in the discussion and INVOLVE them in the educational process. Get out of the chairs and stand in small groups around the room to answer questions. The different ways to make a class more fun are boundless. It just takes enthusiasm and effort.

This pretty much sums up my thoughts on how the school system is not for us and why I’ve chosen the path I’m on. There is no way that a child can learn better in an environment surrounded by their peers than they can when surrounded in a loving, home environment. Numerous studies (do an online search to find them) have shown that home schooled children not only learn MORE, but they tend to have a love of learning that continues into adulthood. Plus it cannot be denied that the teacher- student ratio of 1:2 is better than any public school in the nation. 🙂

 
 

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