How do you know they are: at the right level/know what children their age know/have learned the curriculum?
My answer is that we don’t and why would we need to? We don’t believe that meeting a standardised level is what is best for our children.
I understand that a lot of people find that worrying (I am given worried looks from other parents all the time) and we worried too initially. It can be really hard to let go of what others are doing — it took my husband and I a long time to allow our children to learn what and when THEY are ready. We had been taught that children had to be in levels and be graded so, even though we wanted something different, the engrained teachings held us back. We only relaxed after watching our children flourish the more we relaxed (yes we get the irony).
We started our homeschool life after our son completed a year in the mainstream system (he did PREP). We discovered that it held him back in some areas so that he was bored, and pushed too hard in other areas so that he hated learning and thought he was a failure… The day that my 5 year old said “Mum I think I am a failure” was simply heartbreaking and he never went back to “school” again. There were a number of factors in our decision but that moment was a real eye opener. Will is a bit of a perfectionist which might sound like a great motivator for learning but it can backfire on him too. If he can’t do something to the level he expects he can start to feel like a failure (in his words). He is not a strong reader yet – we are sure he will be one day, but it will take time. He is very science- and maths-oriented, he can figure out things that I am just dazzled by. Some of the things that he is interested in, he would not be learning until he was in high-school and some things that we work on are very basic and would be below what his grade level — many studies have shown that children who learn at their own pace catch up to children who are introduced at an earlier age with no difference in ability in time, so we are not worried about the things that take a little longer. We focus on what they show aptitude in.
People wonder about “gaps” in their knowledge and how will they learn things that they aren’t interested in although are still necessary.
As far as gaps in their knowledge, we are not concerned. Firstly because these gaps are from a curriculum that other people have decided is important and may never be important to our lives. How many times have you heard people say they have never used something they were taught at school? Would your life be any worse if you had not done it in the first place? What if all the time spent on a forgotten subject was instead spent on something you were interested in? Would your life be better? Maybe? Secondly we teach our children if they don’t know something they can simply learn it (a little more about this How do you know your children learn to read/write/add/etc?). So if we or they notice something that is “missing” (possibly a piece of the scaffolding to something that they want to learn or do) we simply go back to learn that before we go on. There might be times that we never realise a gap although I say again, if we never notice does it matter?
With things that they don’t enjoy but are necessary, we find that life will often show them what is necessary. For example William already wants to be an engineer (or inventor) so he knows that although he doesn’t enjoy reading he will need to be able to read very well if he wants to be successful in his career — so he practices reading. He may or may not end up an engineer although he will learn to read well.
I understand that many people will not be able to accept our style of learning and that is fine although I would prefer that more people have some understanding of it. We accept that what we do is by no means for everyone — I have many homeschool friends that follow a set curriculum and it works wonderfully for them. We have homeschool friends that are somewhat in the middle (some grades and levels and some free learning). I also know people that are much more free than us who do wonderfully. Of course we also have friends whose children are in mainstream school and they love it. What we believe is that there are many right ways of doing things and it often comes down to what works best for your family.
This is a part of the “So what is homeschooling anyway” page, where you can view similar posts that also answer “So what is homeschooling anyway?”.