As a homeschool parent, do you often find it easy to compare your homeschooled kids to others who aren’t?
You know the conversation, it goes something like this:
”Where do your children go to school? What about yours?”
It might be at your local park when you meet another mom or at gymnastics class. It never fails, though, once you and another mom begin chatting, there is the inevitable comparison of what the children are, or aren’t, learning. Though it’s fading, there’s still a stigma about homeschooled children and whether they are keeping up with their public school counterparts.
The thing is, they aren’t learning the same as their counterparts, and that’s OK. After spending so many years playing the comparison game, I realized that there are several reasons not to compare my homeschooled children to those who are traditionally schooled.
Your children aren’t “socialized.”
No really, they aren’t. Compared to traditionally schooled children, homeschooled children are socialized differently. Not only are they not given to peer pressure on a daily basis, they are also not in a classroom setting with age-segregation. I used to be concerned about my children and how well they would interact with their peers. Thanks to co-ops and other homeschool groups where families can meet with other families, your students have the opportunity to interact with a variety of ages and abilities.
Your children aren’t “accurately” tested.
When you study history with your child or teach them all about the Great Wall of China, you expect them to grasp the information. If you follow a curriculum to the letter, but a test shows your child failed, you wonder why they aren’t grasping the information. Then you panic and seek ways to help them understand. You go back over the information and possibly present it in a different way, and then you may stress out even more.
Ultimately, you want more than an A; that is, a simple grade level. You want total comprehension. You don’t test them, fail them, and move on. Some children don’t learn well by using traditional textbooks. Because you’re able to customize their curriculum, allow them to learn through the method that best suits their learning style. Maybe your child doesn’t write eloquent essays, but they can narrate or do a demonstration to show their new knowledge.
Your children don’t have the same opportunities.
When children are in the traditional school setting they have study hall, band class, and field trips. Your children instead have libraries, private music lessons, home cooked meals and field trips to grandma’s or dad’s business. They might also have the one on one attention of someone in their chosen field of study mentoring them, simply because they have more flexibility in their schedules. So while they may not have access to a university-level lab, they may have different opportunities through apprenticeships. Some local groups also provide opportunities for extra-curricular activities, too.
Your children learn at a different pace.
Sometimes that pace is slower, sometimes it’s at warp speed. When you compare to traditionally schooled students who must wait for the entire class to catch up or move forward, you realize that your child will likely learn different topics at a different pace. Homeschoolers are able to cruise through or even skip material that is below their personal comprehension level. Or perhaps your child is a struggling learner? He or she might need more time and without fear of ridicule, your child can spend 2 school years on multiplication instead of just one. As a mom of special needs children, this is important to me.
Your child isn’t as vulnerable.
When children are in the open realm of traditional school, they are vulnerable. They encounter more bullies, negative peer pressure, and clique-like behavior. Due to their lack of feeling vulnerable, your homeschooled child may become a strong-willed, independent thinker. I’ve especially found this to be true with son on the autism spectrum. It took years of tweaking curriculum to find what would work best for him, and now he’s excelling.
Next time you wonder if you’re somehow failing your kids or that you’re not equipped to homeschool your children, remember that there are an infinite number of reasons not to compare your homeschooler to their traditionally school counterparts. It really wouldn’t be a fair comparison, though, because as you see, it isn’t an equal playing field.
There are opportunities and benefits to homeschooling–they may be different compared to what you’re used to seeing, and your child may not follow the same scope and sequence–but stay focused on providing them as custom of an education as possible, and be the mom that your children need.
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