There is no such thing as your child being behind, especially in homeschool.
We homeschool differently here at The Waldock Way. We are led by my daughter’s interests and we hardly ever complete a curriculum cover to cover in the way it’s intended. Therefore, it’s no surprise that I’m often asked “Aren’t you worried about gaps?”
The short answer is no. In this post, I’ll tell you why I’m not worried about gaps and why I think keeping up is a waste of your time.
Can Kids Get Behind in Homeschool?
I’m truly not worried about my child being “behind.” Our goal has always been that our child loves to learn. There is absolutely no way you can teach your child everything they need to learn by the time they turn 18. They will all miss out on something, so you have to decide what it is that is important to you to teach. In fact, I don’t feel like any child is behind. In society, as adults, we have many different levels of learning and education. We aren’t all on the same level. Every child is exactly where he or she needs to be in their own individual learning journey.
When it comes to children with special needs and/or learning disabilities, I won’t try to suggest there aren’t different struggles or important aspects of their education that need to be addressed. However, I still firmly believe they also are right where they need to be and they aren’t “behind” their peers. In fact, one day they will find their niche and they will thrive whether they were kept on grade level or not.
In the book, Homeschooling Gifted Kids, author Cindy West puts it best when she writes this analogy about “keeping up:”
So many parents ask me this question. My first question in return is: who are you worried bout keeping up with? Are you hoping to keep up with the kids in fourth grade at your local school? If so, there are 24 kids in the class and they are all working at 24 different levels. Would you like to attain the fourth grade standards of a public school? Almost every school in every district in every state has a different standard. Would you like to know that your child can do the work in a grade-level textbook? Choose a stack of textbooks and they will each expect a different skill level. Do you want to keep up with all the kids the same age at your homeschool co-op? Each one of those children has a different learning style, different gifts, and different challenges. My point is that there is no standard which your child must meet. He or she should be steadily progressing in all subjects whether he or she is working three grade levels ahead of his age or one grade level behind. If you observe growth, don’t worry about keeping up with anyone else
Remember, there is no one who will be more invested in your child’s education than you. That being said, gaps in education are inevitable! Even as adults we have gaps in our education. There’s no way we can teach our kids everything there is to know before they turn 18. There is just too much information and knowledge in the world for you to succeed in teaching them everything.
What About Gaps in Education?
The good news is that as a homeschool parent, you get to decide what the gaps will be. You can decide what you’re okay with leaving out or saving for later. For me, diagramming sentences is not something I feel is important. I’m okay with leaving that out of our homeschool journey. We have decided skills like diagramming sentences and certain algebra problems are things we are okay with spending less time on or leaving out altogether.
However, we aren’t okay with gaps in our own relationship with our daughter. Our priority is always our relationship. That’s why we do interest-led unit studies. We have decided it’s the best way to protect our relationship with each other. Our homeschool lessons and vision statement reflect this priority. That doesn’t mean there won’t be lessons or subjects where we both feel frustrated or less interested, however, if it’s ruining our relationship we will step back and change it.
We know from personal experience that using an interest-led unit study curriculum protects our child’s love of learning and helps us meet our goals in educating our child while keeping our relationship intact.
I would encourage you to create your own vision statement for homeschooling. Think carefully about what you want to prioritize and what is important to you. Then, focus on the things that will help you to achieve those goals rather than working to “keep up” with an arbitrary level of education.
What’s Really Important?
As moms, worrying about our children is an instinct we use to keep them safe in tons of different scenarios. That’s what makes you a good parent, so it’s totally normal to worry about your child’s education. However, worrying doesn’t mean you should change what you’re doing. It’s normal to freak out about this and worry. It’s a sign that you’re succeeding as a parent/educator. Remember, no one will care more about your child’s education than you.
Don’t let your fears cause you to change course from a learning path that is working well for your child and your family. It’s really important for you to abandon thoughts about keeping up and teach to your child’s level. It’s overrated! There is no such thing as falling behind. Your child is right where he needs to be. Just help him or her progress and make sure they love to learn. That’s what’s important. Homeschooling your children is not about avoiding gaps. Instead, it’s about bridging the gaps you’re not okay with and knowing what you are ok with letting go of along the way (like sentence diagrams). In the end, there truly is no such thing as being “behind” if you’re homeschooling.