There is a fear that I think every homeschool parent faces—the fear of missing something, of forgetting to teach some vital element to our child’s education. And while standardized learning can sometimes help us set expectation and what could be covered, I think many times educational standards also play to our fears. We look at a list like Common Core or a book like What Your Kindergartener Ought to Know, and we panic. “My child doesn’t know this yet. I don’t think I even have that in my lesson plans this year. What else are we missing? I’m failing and ruining everything!”
I’m all for having smaller goals that help us attain the larger goal (i.e. graduation), but I think many times we lose the human element in our attempts to get everyone meeting those standards. We forget that no person has the same life trajectory as someone else. AND THAT’S OKAY!
For the first time, we are enrolled in a charter school alongside our homeschool, and there are a lot of assessments. Sometimes, the activities we are asked to complete cover things my kids don’t know yet, things I didn’t plan to cover until later in the year or a year from now or even two years from now. My kids aren’t worried about it. They play the assigned learning game, miss the questions, read the tutorial, answer the questions again, and move right along. And I don’t worry about it either. For one, I know that as classical homeschoolers, our trajectory already looks quite a bit different from everyone else’s. But I also know, we are making progress.
Think about when you go to the pediatrician and your doctor charts your child’s growth on the chart. Do you panic when your kids don’t register average for height or weight? My kids have always been on the small side. I remember one appointment a few months after Littlest was born. He was my largest baby in every measurement. But as the doctor tracked his growth trajectory, she laughed, “He was looking so good, and then it looks like genetic potential took over.” My husband and I are short, and it looks like our kids will be, too. No one has been worried about that trajectory as long as it progresses consistently.
We understand that there are variations in how kids grow physically. We know there will be growth spurts and plateaus. We know that while there are averages and an overall picture of health for each age, no kid grows the same. But I think we often lose that when we step into the realm of academics. We somehow think there should be this steady climb from kindergarten to graduation, hitting all the milestones at approximately the same time as every other child. But the reality is, some trajectories look more like an etch-a-sketch. There are dips and curves and 360s. There are growth spurts and plateaus in learning, too. If standardized learning helps you to chart where you need to go, fantastic! But don’t let standardized learning kill your joy for learning all together and paralyze you with fear that you may miss something,
So what if you didn’t cover the election process and the branches of government this year? There will be other elections while your child is still school-age. So what if you haven’t learned the parts of a cell yet? So what if your child can’t recite all the steps to the scientific method? Are these important? Yes! But I’m pretty sure you’ll get to them in the next 7-10 years or so. Keep the big picture in mind. You have twelve years to cover all of this. And at college, they won’t care if your kid practiced the states song each year or knew the animal classifications by the third grade. Yes, we need to cover these things, but not necessarily this year.
Relax, brew some coffee, and jot some ideas in your planner. And enjoy this roller coaster ride of learning. It’s going to take you all over the charts before you get off. And next year, fractions and borrowing and carrying will not be as hard.
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