I think one of the challenges of homeschooling is the pressure to compare your kids with those in public or private schools in their age range or even other homeschool kids their age. I think this is common of parenting in general, but I think the reason it’s so prevalent when you’re homeschooling is because you feel like others are comparing your children to others. They might be. They might not be. The truth is, IT DOESN’T MATTER. When I’m talking about comparing, I’m not referring to things like placement tests that gauge where your child is academically in specific subjects. Placement tests help you to make sure you are teaching your children at the correct level. The joy of homeschooling is you can tailor their education to their needs. Some children struggle with certain subjects and may academically be at a different level than in other subjects. For example, a child may be at a 1st grade level for math but a 2nd grade level for other subjects. Does that mean the child should be in 1st grade? Well, with homeschooling you can actually teach them at the needed level for EACH subject, which means you’re not pushing them too hard in in certain areas but not holding them back in others!
So if I’m not talking about academics in regards to grade/learning placement – what do I mean by comparing? Well even 2 children who are learning at appropriate grade levels in all subjects can still be completely different when it comes to learning styles. One child may find reading really easy and read a simple sentence smoothly after just learning the words. Another child may learn the same words and read the same sentence, but they read it a little more slowly and may have to sound out each word. Each child completed the task of reading the sentence, but they did so in different ways. Neither way is right or wrong – it is just unique to their learning style.
I think this holds especially true for homeschooling special needs children. I will never forget my initial fear of homeschooling our oldest. I remember telling everybody I always wanted to homeschool but knowing he was on the Autism spectrum I knew “I couldn’t do it.” At least not with him. I still planned on homeschooling our other children (little did I know they would have special needs, too!) I also will never forget my friends who went out of their way to talk to me and encourage me because they felt called to reach out to me. I remember telling them that I understand people homeschool their special needs children, but I just can’t. Of course, now I look back and laugh remembering how God woke me up. It wasn’t one of those slow nudges into it to show me it was His Will, it was a straight forward PUSH. Something had to make me SO uncomfortable I couldn’t imagine NOT homeschooling my children, and that is exactly what He did! I do still feel pressure, though. I feel like people are always “watching.” What is important for me to remember, though, is He is watching, and when I’m following His calling He won’t let me down!
It doesn’t mean I don’t have those moments, though! I’m definitely human! Recently, a well-meaning loved one expressed concern that our 5 and 6 year old aren’t reading yet. By reading I mean picking up a simple book and just reading it – no stumbling over words, no sounding words out, etc. Part of me found humor in it because well, Aurora JUST turned 5, and yes, she’s in 1st grade, but she’s 5! What about Brayden, though? He’s 6 1/2 – SHOULD he be reading? The question nagged me again when I signed up for our local homeschooling Co-Op, and there was one class I wanted him to take, but I had to opt out because he was required to be able to read and write fully on his own. Of course, I didn’t think twice about the fact that the age group is 6-8 year olds, which means there is a big learning curve in regards to reading and writing within those years! So then I turned to comparing him to myself. Wasn’t I reading at his age? I thought about it long enough to realize I WASN’T. In fact, I vaguely remember struggling A LOT with reading when I was in the 1st Grade, and I was 7 when I was in the 1st Grade. Now, comparing your children to where your learning level was might not be completely unrealistic because they are, after all, YOUR children. Perhaps they do have a similar learning style to you. You could be setting yourself up for more worry in the future, though, because although I struggled with reading in the 1st grade, by the time I was in the 3rd grade I wrote long stories! Our kids may not do that, and that’s OK!
What ultimately matters is – are they progressing? If not, perhaps we do need to turn to our Student Education Plan (this is the special needs homeschooling plan I mentioned in my SchoolhouseTeachers.com review) and re-evaluate. By turning to our SEP we’re not comparing them to OTHERS – only to themselves and their progress. You can apply this to any child even if they don’t have special needs or an SEP. I think this is the key. It’s a lot like the growth charts. Our kids are all on the low end of their growth charts, and sometimes doctors got on our cases about our kids being small. Once they looked at the chart, though, one thing was certain – there was an upward curve. There is nothing wrong with their growth, and they’re growing – they’re just a different size than a lot of kids their age. Learning is a lot like that. They may be at a different place than others their age, but they’re progressing steadily. THAT is what we need to focus on – the progression. Comparing will only cause you to worry about unnecessary things! So, dare to NOT compare!
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