May 5, 2012

QUESTION: What If My Child Is "Behind?"

Image in the public domain

I know this is the question many homeschool moms dread-- especially brand-new homeschooling moms who are not quite sure that the entire "experiment" is going to work out.

What Does "Behind" Mean to You?

First of all, I think that every homeschooler should define what "behind" means to them. The public school system has an ever-changing list of skills children should be proficient in at certain ages. In most cases, these are arbitrarily chosen depending on where you live. There is a movement in the United States to have a checklist across the board on a federal level that would be the same in every state and community, but I think that would be foolish. The more local the education, the better.

But I digress...

Allowing for Individuality

One of the beauties of homeschooling is the opportunity we give our children to learn and grow at their own pace.

For example, I have several children who have been late readers. (8 years old+) Interestingly enough, my later readers are often my best, most voracious readers as they grow older. What would have happened if I have pushed, forced, and cajoled my late readers into doing something they were not ready to do? I shudder to think about the hate of reading I could have instilled in them!

I also have early readers. But unlike the public school system, I do not try and get my children to all meet the same standards at the same time. That would be defeating one of my biggest reasons for homeschooling!

If children from the same parents, raised in the same home environment, can learn so differently, what kind of damage is being done in school rooms everywhere? Just something to think about.

Finding Peace

Those of us who were taught in the Public School systems were trained very well to compare ourselves to others. This was never spoken, it naturally and simply arises from the system itself. If we didn't match up with our peers, or with our teachers' expectations, we felt "wrong."

This is not an easy habit to overcome, especially if the pressure to conform now comes from our neighbors, in-laws, or even our husbands. We have all been well-schooled by society to learn things at a certain time and in a certain way.

If we want to have peace with where our children are academically, we need the help of our Heavenly Father. If we will but ask, He will send us the Holy Ghost to prompt us and comfort us in our homeschooling efforts. I have experienced this beautiful partnership in my own home-- in fact, I don't know how any homeschooling family could keep going without it! The Lord truly strengthens and qualifies those He calls to homeschool, and He will not leave us alone and comfortless. But we must trust in His plan and in His timing. If we can do those two things, we will find peace.

Abandoning "The Jones"

As with anything in life, if comparing ourselves-- and our children-- with others is our primary concern when it comes to our children's educations, our lives are out of balance.

Just as we should not seek to be like everyone else in areas of money, fashion, personality, home decor and more, so we should not hold ourselves and our children to other people's expectations. We will make ourselves crazed with worry and despair if we even try to do so! (Ask me how I know this to be true...)

Our precious children each received a personal mission and plan to fulfill before they came to earth. As parents, it is our job to help them fulfill that plan in the way that is best for them. How "The Jones" feel our kids should be doing academically should NEVER fit into the equation.

The Lord will help each one of us in our efforts-- even if our present efforts consist of learning patience when it comes to our children's academic advancement. If we will expend our energy in finding peace rather than in accepting social pressure, we will be blessed.

And so will our children.

Rachel is the happy mother of eleven children between the ages of 18 and almost two years old. She is expecting baby #12 in October 2012. Now in her thirteenth year of homeschooling, she continues to be an enthusiastic advocate for Thomas Jefferson Education principles and has spoken at several homeschool and TJEd conferences. She enjoys Shakespeare, designing and sewing Renaissance costumes, and both singing and reading with her family. She blogs at Thoughts From The Hearth and at Old Fashioned Motherhood .

11 comments - Add a comment below -:

Kristi said...

Thanks for a great post; I completely agree with you! In fact, I blogged about the topic of comparison recently, too:

Jennifer said...

Wonderful article! It's easy to fall into that trap. Thanks for the continuing inspiration! :)

Anonymous said...

Great article! I truly believe this is true! My husband is a public school teacher, so he has a little of the "grade level expectations" mindset. I feel blessed that he lets me homeschool the way I do. :)

Lisa said...

Great post! We use Waldorf methods in our homeschool, and academics of any sort are not even introduced until about age 6.5 or 7. We are pretty new to homeschooling and my current almost 6-year-old is my first child to begin her education in this way, and yes, it has been scary to choose a path that will put her in a position of being so different academically, "behind" by the world's standards, at least in the early early years. Even though I know it's the right path, it takes a lot of courage to choose to be different and a lot of faith to not worry about it.

Janae' said...

Thank you so much for this article! I just started homeschooling my son last month and really needed this tonight!

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what I needed to hear today, a true answer to prayer. Thank you so much!

Mama Rachel said...

Thanks for your kind comments! Want to hear more about this-- especially when it comes to MATH??? Check out this video:

Best wishes,

Amy said...

Thank you so much for this post. It has gone hand in hand with my scripture reading and thoughts lately. My oldest (14) and youngest (2) have taught themselves to read before they were 2. My middle is adopted and her b-dad had profound dyslexia and ADHD (she inherited this along with a rare condition (congenital adrenal hyperplasia) that causes language-based learning difficulties. So, she is TRULY behind. Yet her IQ shows her to be almost at the genius level (which means nothing to a 7 yo who can't read).

The spirit basically shouted into my heart in the first couple weeks of 1st grade that she was not to go back to school (this was after fighting all year the previous year for an IEP and finally getting what we wanted on the last day of kindergarten). I had never considered homeschooling, yet there were were. I am so grateful for a wise Father in Heaven.

I recently heard a podcast and read Jonathan Mooney's books (Learning Outside the Lines and The Short Bus) - he has spent his whole life trying to fit in and be normal. That breaks my heart. When there is a two year gap between developmental levels in elementary school it is almost insane the way it is set up. My son was at the top so I never questioned it until we started homeschooling.

Finally - I attended a workshop on writing in Williamsburg by Susan Wise Bauer. At the time home school had become miserable because of the reading. She said to completely take it off the table for 3 months and then reintroduce it or I was going to have a child who hated reading (kind of what you wrote about). Now that my girl is almost 8 and it has been almost 3 months, SHE is showing the interest in reading which actually is perfect timing because we are starting the Fast ForWord program with her neurodevelopmental dr.

Thank you again for this post today.

Elisha Jones said...

This was the purpose of my fast this weekend. I am so weak when it comes to comparing myself and my family with others...and I happen to be a "Jones", ha! ha! ha! I so needed to read this. I need to print it off and look at it often. Thank you so much!

Happy Kid City said...

Wonderfully written. A lot of food for thought here.

The Mairy said...

Thank you for this post. I think this also applies with babies and milestones and percentiles. It is so easy to get caught up and it really is a great reminder of who is in charge when you see each child develop differently and that each one deserves special consideration. Thank you!