I haven’t lost my ability to THINK like a traditional schooler. I spent a lot of years going to public school and then more years thinking my kids would do the same, so I know exactly the things I would have thought were weird about homeschooling.
And this is one of them.
You mean your kid doesn’t even know what grade they’re in?
Umm… no. I mean, I have 4 kids and so one or two of them might have some idea, but not all of them will. In fact, a stranger asked my child “the question” just the other day and my daughter turned to me with this blank expression and waited for ME to answer.
Because it’s complicated. And so I gave this long, probably not-at-all clear answer to a woman who was looking at me like I’d lost my ever-lovin’ mind.
But please understand that we know it seems a little weird to people. We even laugh about it ourselves, and memes like this one…
…circulate all the homeschooling Facebook groups and we laugh and joke and share. Because we know you think it’s weird. In fact, a lot of US would once have thought it was weird, too!
But maybe sometimes we could do a better job of explaining things, not because we feel a need to validate ourselves somehow, but just to help you understand our educational choice better.
So why are my kids often clueless about what grade they’re in? Let me try to explain this.
First of all, you need to know that age-segregated education is an invention of the public school system. And a lot of us think it was a BAD invention.
Kids have not always and forever been divided up by age to receive their education. Believe it or not, age-segregation didn’t even begin in this country until the mid-1800s, and even then it took a long time for it to become the norm.
Before state-sponsored schools were common, children learned at home under either the direction of their parents or a hired tutor and they learned their material at their own pace. The early one-room schoolhouses essentially followed the same model with kids of all ages in one classroom together. While it sounds insanely complicated, it really wasn’t.
For one thing, most kids were going to school for maybe 4 to 8 years, not 13 like most kids today, so you didn’t have 13 grades in one classroom. But whether a child started at 5 years old, (which was really, REALLY rare in those days,) or at age 12, they started at the same place with the basics and moved forward at their own pace through more and more difficult material, so that it wasn’t unusual for kids several years apart in age to be working through the same books at the same time. And kids, no matter what their age, could move ahead as quickly as their ability would allow! No one was limited in any way simply because of their age.
A lot of homeschoolers use a similar approach. We tend to look at the whole age-segregation thing as a really bad idea and so we don’t put a lot of emphasis on grade-based guidelines.
Granted, that immediately puts some people in a panic because they assume homeschoolers will then be content with their 10 year old doing 2nd grade level work. But not so! Generally speaking, the exact opposite is true — Homeschoolers are not content with a bright 10 year old doing 5th grade work if they know he is capable of doing 6th! Of course, at the same time, a homeschooled child who is doing poorly in their work is not likely to be moved ahead until they have properly grasped the material, even if that means they are behind other kids their age.
Which actually makes sense, right? But I’ll touch on that again in a minute.
The desire to tailor education to the child then makes determining grade-level much more complex.
Look at it this way, because this sort of scenario is common in many homeschools, including my own: What if a child struggles in one subject, but excels in another? In most traditional schools, at least in the earlier grades, a child can’t remain in the 4th grade in one subject while advancing to the 6th grade in another. Grades are averaged out across the board and a child is moved forward or held back based on their overall grade point average, not necessarily on the assurance that the student has grasped all the material in every subject. Not only that, but I know in my own state of Kentucky, public schools will only hold students back two grades. After that they are advanced, even if they are not passing.
In homeschooling, that doesn’t usually happen. But that means a child can technically be in 4th grade in one subject and in 6th grade in another, which is the better approach to education, if you really think about it. A child doesn’t move forward until they have mastered the material. Meanwhile if they’re mastering material quickly, they keep moving on, no matter what everybody else their age is doing!
That makes sense, doesn’t it? But surely you can see how it complicates the whole question of, “What grade are you in?” It’s not always so easy as a quick one grade-level answer.
A lot of homeschooling curricula publishers hold to the same idea that age, (and therefore grade level,) isn’t all that important, and so many of them don’t include grade levels on their materials.
I went to public school and I remember my books. Everything had a grade level on it. Everything. Fourth grade social studies. Second grade spelling. Sixth grade science. Things were generally different in high school, but for the younger grades, everything was categorized for one grade or another.
It’s just not that way with a lot of homeschooling materials. Publishers know that homeschooling moms and dads are taking their books and adjusting them to work with their individual children, so putting a grade level on them is not always practical!
So you have to understand my kids aren’t looking at a big stamp that says “4th GRADE” every time they pull out their math book. It just isn’t there. Because it doesn’t need to be.
My kids don’t typically see their grade level anywhere else either.
Maybe it wasn’t the case at your public school, but in mine there were little signs by the classroom doors with maybe a lady bug or a kite on them that said, “Mrs. Preston’s 3rd grade class”. Often grade levels were posted inside the classroom as well, and it wasn’t unusual for them to be stamped on progress reports and report cards and even on some of the daily schoolwork.
In a traditional school, kids tend to see what grade they’re in often, but it just doesn’t happen at home.
Honestly, if I plastered my kids’ grade levels all over my house, it would just be confusing. And pretty pointless.
You also have to understand that my kids aren’t hearing what grade they’re in all the time.
If you don’t think that makes a difference, then you aren’t remembering traditional public school very well. What grade you were in was constantly being reinforced, like when your teacher hollered out, “Second graders, line up over here!” Or, “All the 5th grade classes are going on a field trip this Friday.”
Teachers were also very often classified as teaching one grade or another as well, and often that continued even up into high school. It was known that Miss So-and-so was a 7th grade science teacher or that Mr. Hullabaloo taught freshman English. You were often reminded what grade you were in just based on what teacher you had.
Listen, that just doesn’t happen at home! In the home setting, I have no reason to talk about what grade anybody is in, even if there was an easy answer!
No, this doesn’t apply to every homeschooled kid. There are different parental approaches and different curricula, so some homeschooled kids will no doubt be able to give you the proper answer right off!
But if they don’t… maybe this can help clear things up a little. It’s not because they aren’t being educated or because they live in an alternate universe or because their mothers are hippies.
It’s just that, to a lot of homeschoolers, grade level is of less importance than the mastery of material. Plus grade level just isn’t emphasized the way it is in a traditional school, which naturally makes it more forgettable.
Besides, who wants to be defined by a number? Who wants to be chained within the confines of an ideology forced upon us by an oppressive establishment bent on suppressing free thought?
Wow. That DOES make me sound like a hippy, now doesn’t it? 😉
But, then again, it’s kind of true.
You’ll find this post linked up with some of these great blogs:
Making Your Home Sing Monday, The Modest Mom Link Up, Inspiration Monday, The Art of Homemaking, Monday Musings, Inspire Me Monday, Living Proverbs 31, Titus 2 Tuesday, Hip Homeschool Hop, Tutorial Tuesday, Inspire Me Tuesday, Homemaking Linkup, Wise Woman Linkup, The Mommy Club, Wholehearted Wednesday, A Little R & R, The Homemaking Party, Thursday Favorite Things, Think Tank Thursday, Create-It Thursday, From House to Home, Growing in Grace Thursday, Faith-Filled Friday, Family Fun Friday, Friendship Friday, Inspiration Spotlight, Pretty Pintastic, Grace and Truth Link Up, Family Friendship and Faith Friday