As a type-A homeschool mom who has been through burnout and the nightmare of temporarily putting my kids back in school, there are a few things that will literally make me cringe when they come up in homeschool circles.
This is one of them.
Every so often I’ll see a new homeschooler looking for advice on how to get started, and inevitably, someone will recommend they get one of the What Your (Insert Grade Here) Needs to Know books. I don’t doubt that these people truly have the best of intentions when making this suggestion, but there are a few things about these books (and others like them) I’d really like to address because they can be a gigantic stumbling block for new – and seasoned – homeschoolers.
Before I get started, I’d just like to point out that I have nothing against these books, in general. I think they can be an excellent resource for people who are able to take them with a grain of salt, or for those who one day expect to send their kids back to school.
Unfortunately, however, I’m guessing that a good portion of homeschoolers don’t fit either of these criteria, which is why I felt the need to broach this topic today.
Why I’m Not Worried About What My Kids “Need” to Know
Our society today is obsessed with timelines and milestones. Everywhere you turn, there are checklists, pamphlets, books, and charts telling you what your children “should” be doing by a certain age. It’s enough to make any parent neurotic.
Oh no! My baby is 8-months-old and not crawling yet. What should I do??
This chart says that 3-year-olds should be able to hop on one foot. My 3-year-old can’t do that. Should I call the doctor?!
My 18-month-old can’t draw circles! What could be wrong??
As if that weren’t bad enough, we’ve got the schools stepping in with their timelines and arbitrary expectations.
Your son is in 1st grade and is still having difficulty reading. He may have to be held back.
Your daughter fidgets an awful lot. Maybe you should have her checked for ADHD.
In 2nd grade, we expect children to have completely legible printing. This just won’t do.
You would think that homeschooling would offer a welcome reprieve from all of this unnecessary pressure, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Since we’ve been brought up to believe that school is the “only way,” a substantial number of homeschoolers and authors of educational books treat children exactly like schools do – as nothing but cookie cutter images of one another.
The thing is, that’s not what children are! They are unique individuals who grow at their own rate and learn and develop at their own pace. What is “normal” for one child may not be for another, and that is as it should be.
While books like these may be a good resource for getting ideas, all too often what happens is they start being treated like Bibles instead of tools.
So why am I not worried about what my kids “need” to know?
Because the authors of these books and creators of these charts don’t know my children. I do. They don’t know their strengths, weaknesses, and insecurities. I do. They don’t know their interests and learning styles. That would be me, too.
The fact is, the best people to determine what your children should learn are you and them. That’s it. No fancy books. No milestone charts. And no arbitrary educational guidelines.
Take advantage of your homeschool freedom and let your children grow as they need, develop as they need, and learn as they need. If you ask me, that’s a pretty simple recipe for an uplifting homeschool.
But it works. And that’s what matters the most.
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