As we are settling into our school year , one question has been on my mind.
How should homeschoolers view grade levels in their homeschool?
I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the debate: arguments in favor of using grade levels and arguments against using grade levels in a homeschool. Both sides make valid points and I’ll list some here to hopefully help someone else think through the process.
REASONS TO USE GRADE LEVELS IN HOMESCHOOLING
1) Helps Keep You On Track
I often hear homeschoolers ask where they can find information on what their child needs to know in or by a certain grade. I can understand where this question comes from. As homeschoolers, we want to know that we are doing what we need to do to be sure our kids don’t fall behind. Although I don’t like the term “falling behind,” it can be beneficial to have a general outline of what seventh graders are doing. It may help to calm your fears of teaching too little or too much.
You may have a child that is in seventh grade, but working at a fifth grade math level. That is the beauty of homeschooling, you can tailor your curriculum to fit their needs. However, if your seventh grader is completely capable of working within their seventh grade math book, but you are teaching basic addition and subtraction to them, this is where having a general set of guidelines for their grade level may come in handy. It is a ridiculous example, but I used it to show an instance where grade levels may be appropriately used.
2) Relating To Other Kids
It can be helpful to have grade levels assigned to your student so that when they are in other social situations, they can relate. For example, the youth activities at our church are segmented according to grade levels. It is helpful for my kids to know what grade they would be in in a traditional setting so they know where they should be in the youth groups.
I’ve even known homeschool co-ops that classify classes based on grade level, so it can be handy to know.
And all of us have at one time or another had someone ask our child what grade they are in. When this happens to my children, they have an answer. There was a point in time where they didn’t know and would look to me for the answer. It’s not a huge deal, but can be helpful in those awkward “oh, you homeschool – let me drill your kids and see if they are really learning” situations.
REASONS NOT TO USE GRADE LEVELS IN HOMESCHOOLING
1) It Can Be Discouraging
I would guess that most students have at least one area where they are either advanced or “behind.” Children (just like adults) work at their own paces. There is no one right or wrong pace to learn at, and for that reason, it can be discouraging to some to feel like they are “behind.” If your learner is in fifth grade, but doing a third grade math curriculum, they could potentially feel bad and feel like they are not smart.
Likewise, if your fifth grader is doing a seventh grade math curriculum, your seventh grader who is working at grade level may feel bad that they can’t excel as fast as their younger sibling. They may feel resentful of the fact that they are doing the same work as someone in a younger grade.
Avoiding the labels of a grade level could help to make this a non-issue.
2) It Can Be FREEING
By freeing, I mean freeing to you, the teacher! Most homeschoolers grew up in a traditional school setting, and like myself, may have a hard time shedding the notion of grade levels. We think that a child must be able to be classified, and if they don’t fit neatly in an academic fourth grade box, we don’t know how to handle it.
To those parents, I would say don’t worry so much about making sure every subject you teach has the same number in front of it, but rather make sure the subjects you teach are what your children need.
Some students are natural readers, and it would be a disservice to them to hold them back from reading higher level material just for the sake of making sure they are on the right grade level. It would also be a disservice to them to try and push them before they are ready to advance to the next reading level when they need more time in the level they are in.
It’s freeing to know that you don’t have to be bound by a number and that you are free to let your children learn at their own paces.
One of my favorite things to say to many first time homeschoolers of young children is that your child is not going to be upset or have a hard time in life because they learned to read in third grade instead of kindergarten. It’s not a race and the goal is not to see who can finish fastest, but rather that everyone learns as much as they can during their journey (and have fun, too!).
I hope these reasons for and against grade levels in homeschool give you some food for thought.
Do you use grade levels in your homeschool? Why or why not?
This post contributed by Jennifer from Organized Home Organized School