This is not your average pro-homeschool post. I do believe in tests once in a while. I do believe in textbooks, if only for foundations, for about 50% of the subjects. I believe in balance.
When homeschooling, the question of “Am I doing enough?” always seems to plague our minds. Trust me, it plagues us on a daily basis!
I was in public school for four years. During that time, I just remember basic review. We were still spelling “a” and “I” in third grade. The class goes as fast as the slowest student. I know this isn’t the case in every classroom or school, but this was my experience.
On a teacher’s board on Pinterest, I saw an advertisement for a free printable. It said “Common Core states by third grade students should know the three branches of government.”
I don’t remember learning anything outside of our state, let alone the government. If I had never gone to public school, I would have become paranoid about not knowing the three branches of government in third grade.
According to this article, third graders should know state locations and capitals. The only reason I knew all of my states and capitals was because another student and I taught ourselves from a dictionary (it had a map in the back) and a large blank map of the US at recess.
At the same time, I read another story of a homeschooler who was 16…and still hadn’t started high school yet (for no reason other than the mom didn’t want him to graduate at 18.). Yikes.
Firstly, YOU know your child best. You know what his strengths and weaknesses are. YOU know what he loves and what he doesn’t.
Sometimes, we homeschoolers, (me included) tend to lose touch with reality. Like, we feel we have to do three maths a day to catch up with those kids in public school. We feel we have to cram vocabulary words and fractions down our kids’ throats and read endless works of classic literature. We feel we have to do school 7 days a week to match the high-homeschooler statistics. And, if our child can’t read the whole Narnia series by age ten, we’re complete failures compared to those public school kids.
This just isn’t true. In public school third grade, the average child’s reading level is a Cam Jansen or Magic Tree House book. If your third grader can read a Cam Jansen book, then you’re OK. Many classes at our local high school lets students retake tests for better grades. Don’t sweat it if you’re struggling with pre-calc or fractions.
Unfortunately, because of government regulations, schools teach to a test. Even if the material is covered, students often just memorize the material for a test and then forget it.
Am I doing too much?
On average, an 8th grade homeschooler is 4 years ahead of her peers. And, out of the 8 hours spent in public school, less than 2 are spent actually in engaged learning. (SOURCE: hsclassroom.net)
If you’re stressed trying to double up or be a year advanced, then yes, you are doing too much. If your child is a grade ahead and you’re still pushing, you’re doing too much. If you’ve worked more than an hour on decimals and fractions with your fifth grader, it’s too much.
Also, note from my public school elementary experience, we only finished about 75% of the textbook. If it’s June and you’ve only finished 80% of the textbook, you’re OK. Remember, many homeschool textbooks are advanced (A Beka, Saxon) anyway. Remember, you don’t need to do all those crafts and supplements you see your home schooled neighbor do.
What can you do about it? Just relax. Have a movie-pajama day, go to the park and just play, bake some chocolate chip cookies, do what the kids want to do, just have fun for a while! There is nothing wrong with taking a break – a few days or a week – in your homeschool.
Here is a basic run-down of the notable things your child needs to know. Check your state requirements for a more in-depth look. Our state (Indiana) has very relaxed standards, and they only require 180 days, which is a very flexible and lenient term.
I would recommend a math curriculum for all ages, except maybe kindergarten.
Kindergarten: Typically, you learn counting, numbers, and colors in kindergarten. Easy?
First grade: Addition, tally marks
Second grade: Subtraction, basic fractions
Third grade: Multiplication and decimals
Fourth grade: Division
If your second grader can’t divide, don’t worry. If your fifth grader can’t really divide that well, you are not behind. It is not a big deal. Many public school children cannot divide in seventh grade – which becomes an obvious problem when they start algebra.
The best tip I can give you for K-6 grade, is just read. Read and write every day. The more you read, the better your writing will be. Grammar and spelling will just become natural. Read whatever interests the child. For read alouds, I would recommend fast-paced and fun novels about something they’re interested in. My younger sisters like read-alouds that have movies to go with them. (Veggietales, Charlotte’s Web, Because of Winn Dixie,
etc.) Here’s 100 Historical Books
if you’re looking for inspiration for quality literature.
By third grade, students are introduced to nouns, verbs, and adjectives. By at least sixth grade, they should be aware of the rest of the parts of speech (adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction). More advanced learners can learn indirect objects, direct objects, object of prepositions, noun of direct adjectives, and others.
(Note: Many public-schooled seventh graders don’t know the parts of speech beyond nouns, verbs, and adjectives.)
As for actual reading level, I can’t really tell you, because I never did any grade-level reading. (In public school, another student and I were about 5 years ahead in reading comprehension…) I was pretty fortunate to have a 3rd grade teacher who allowed me to push myself.
Social studies (history, science)
I never did history or science (OK, one science project and a little animal-research) until my homeschool years (4th grade), but, as a history nerd, I think history is very important for all ages! Here’s 30+ ways to teach history without a textbook. Here’s also 30+ ways to teach science without a textbook.
Geography – Note, I know some high schoolers who can’t name three countries in Asia. What in sweet heaven’s name have they been doing in history and geography? Point is, if you’re trying to memorize a world map to no avail, save your sanity.
Catch up Days / 4 Days a Week Homeschool
I personally don’t enjoy the year-round 4-days-a-week homeschooling “textbook-free” is the brightest idea, especially for college-bound students. Who wants to do school year-round? Being the way I am, I enjoy a little bit of structure and organization and I do not want to do any schoolwork other than reading history over the summer. But, if this works for you, go for it!
One option is to set 4 days a week aside for your core subjects, and then using Friday (or a bi-weekly Friday) as a test/review/learn-what-your-child-wants-to-learn day. Not only is this reviewing what needs to be reviewed, but kids can work on what they want to learn. If your child likes trains, then check out a bunch of books from the library and research trains for the day!
Agree? Disagree? Have anything to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts!