We have all been conditioned to believe a lie.
A one word lie.
The lie that there is such a thing as "behind" in education.
When a baby walks a little later than expected, friends and family say "don't worry, she will get it when she's ready".
When a toddler isn't potty trained by 3, friends and family say "don't worry, he won't go to college in diapers".
But when a child gets to school age, and is struggling with reading, we worry that he will "fall behind".
When that child does continue to struggle in school, and we bring them home to homeschool, our number one worry becomes that he is "behind" and the thinking usually goes that it's our job to help him get "caught up".
We try curriculum after curriculum, trying to find the magic bullet that will rocket him up to where he is "supposed" to be.
We worry that he will never catch up.
Sometimes we even lie awake at night imagining that he will never learn to read or do algebra or write a cohesive paragraph.
Eventually someone suggests not comparing him to public school, and to stop trying to "fix" him, because there is nothing wrong, he just has a different time table - harkening back to those suggestions from babyhood - "don't worry, he will get it when he's ready".
But the fear of him falling even further "behind" has such a grip on us, we have been so conditioned by the conveyor-belt approach to education, that we have a very hard time shifting our paradigm, and in the process, our child comes to believe he is dumb, that he will never get it, and that he hates learning.
What a tragedy.
Truly, no child is "behind", they are uniquely made, and that's not wrong.
Just like Elizabeth Ann in Understood Betsy, we fear that being different means there is something wrong.
“What's the matter?" asked the teacher, seeing her bewildered face."Why—why," said Elizabeth Ann, "I don't know what I am at all. If I'm second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade spelling, what grade am I?"The teacher laughed at the turn of her phrase. "You aren't any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You're just yourself, aren't you? What difference does it make what grade you're in! And what's the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don't know your multiplication table?”-- Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Understood Betsy
That teacher knew the truth. The truth that each child is unique and there is no point to trying to force them neatly into a single grade-level.
Did you know that originally the grades were meant to be sequential developmentally, meaning that when you mastered the first grade material, you moved on to second grade material, regardless of age.
But now, the grade levels are tied to age. So that if you have an 8 year old who is not a fluent reader yet, they are labeled "behind" instead of just being first grade level in reading.
Tying age to grade level has created this belief that all children must be on the same level in all subjects, or there is something wrong with them.
If you look at that logically, it doesn't make any sense.
Adults are not held to this arbitrary pattern.
If a woman is an engineer, she is not told she is behind if she doesn't also perform at that same level in writing, and history, and music.
If a man is a screen writer, he is not told he is behind if he isn't at that same level in math and science and art.
That would be absurd.
Not everyone needs to be at the same level in everything, and that goes for children too.
So please, let's just toss the word "behind" out of our homeschools.
There is no such thing. It is a creation of the conveyor-belt system and is irrelevant to our children's education.
Your children are not "behind", they are just themselves
and they have their own path.
So if you notice yourself thinking this sabotaging thought, remind yourself that it is a lie, and you don't have to listen to that lie any more.
If you liked this, try this one next: Why does a Love of Learning matter?
@Tami – Stay tuned as I have several upcoming posts that address how these kids fare when it comes to college entrance and state testing. I think you’ll be very encouraged.
I totally ageee with this and have tried to teach my children this concept. My only problem is when my unique child come up against state oversite, standardized testing, college entrance exams, etc. Then, my uniquely gifted child is judged by an age=grade level system… and world. :-(
@Kasie – I agree with you, a student does get to a point where they need to study things they wouldn’t choose to in order to get where they want to go, whether that is an elite college or entrepreneurship or whatever. That is part of their path. My desire is that they decide to do that work because they believe it is important, not just because I believe it’s important. And when they do get to that point, they look at what they’ve learned, discover their “holes” and do what is necessary to fill them in. I still hold to the fact that wherever they are on their path, at no point are they “behind”, they are just where they are, moving forward.
Delight led learning is something we all wish we could do every day, not only for our kids but for ourselves.
If a delight- led child wants to enter a program in you -name-it…astrophysics so she can work for NASA…
That child will probably be required to have certain courses and certain standardized tests on her transcript. If she wasn’t “delighted” to learn algebra, she will find it tough to score well enough to be chosen at many schools. There certainly are unschooled kids who are hugely focused and successful, but for those who are not as focused, it seems that a parent needs to make sure that child’s options are not limited by lack of delight in some topics or activities.
Sometimes we don’t know what we like or don’t like, do well or don’t do well, until we are exposed to different things.
As my kids have gotten older, we keep our learning creative, and it doesn’t “look like school,” but there are some things they learn abt because I think it’s important … the trick is keeping things interesting!
Understood Betsy.. SUCH an adorable book my kids LOVED it.
Great message in that quote too… its soo true… they are where they are and they are all learning at their own pace!