The Homeschooler’s Balancing Act: Grade Level
How to Manage Your Child’s Progress
By Courtney Duke Graves
If there’s one question a homeschooled kid can’t easily answer, it’s what grade they’re in. Sure, your six-year-old is reading at a third-grade level and can identify every species of dinosaur known to man, but a math lesson designed for one day takes them two or three days to complete.
The biggest advantage to homeschool education can also be the biggest challenge; the student is often free to go at his or her own pace. Click to Tweet
A little tipping in the scales of subject areas is normal. High schools offer – and fill – both remedial and advanced subject classes every year for a reason. Some unbalance can even be helpful, as it leads students to develop a “hook,” or an area of expertise that top colleges look for. While parents aim to raise well-rounded individuals with A’s across the board, colleges aim to have well-rounded classes, with a top concert pianist in one slot and a prize-winning robot designer in another. That means the kid who is unremarkable in one area and would rather spend all his time honing his talent in another has nothing to worry about.
So when does falling behind in one subject become worrisome?
Each student and curriculum is unique, and there is no set line dividing what is and isn’t acceptable. Special needs students are even harder to gauge. There are, however, a few research-backed guidelines to help you determine of your student’s academics are within a healthy range.
-Is the student more than one grade level behind in any subjects? In public school, being held back in a remedial class once is okay. Twice is a serious issue. If you homeschool in one of the 23 states with educational neglect statutes, your student being more than a year behind in a subject could spark legal investigations.
-Is the subject in question English, Math or Science? These are called core subjects for a reason, and struggles in them should be addressed early on to avoid problems in the future. If you intend for your child to eventually take a GED, SAT or ACT exam to get into college or get a job, being up to speed on these three subjects is important.
-Does the student’s academic struggles coincide with problems in your parental relationship with him or her? Do you find yourself fighting with or having to comfort your child after every hard test or lesson? A 2016 homeschool study found that a parent-child relationship in homeschooling can have an indirect effect on academic stress by affecting the child’s self-esteem. These issues, if left unresolved, could affect not only the student’s grades, but their mental health.
What can you as a parent do about it?
Don’t fret if your situation matches any of these scenarios. There are several resources and methods at your disposal to help get your child back on track, including:
-Switching curriculums. What works for one student may not work for another. It could be they need a different style of learning (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) or they need a program that reinforces the same information through multiple subjects.
-Encouraging the subjects they excel in. Don’t slow down on the lessons they’re advanced in just to allow the slower subjects time to catch up. Having an area of expertise can do wonders for your child’s self-esteem and college portfolio.
-Hiring a tutor or counselor. If academics are affecting your relationship with your child, or the subject matter isn’t your strong suit, having a third party help out can lighten the load, while still giving you control over your child’s education. If money is an issue, look to see if another homeschooling parent would be willing to teach a subject, or if you can receive a mini-grant for homeschooling costs. If you simply need a counselor for emotional stress, many health insurance plans will cover that.
-Doing a little each day. Cramming to meet short-term deadlines is a recipe for disaster. They may pass a quiz enough to graduate to the next lesson, but a week later, they’ll likely forget everything they learned. If catching up means they have to do a little work over weekends or vacation, so be it.
As a parent and a homeschool teacher, you know the needs of your child best. Don’t worry. There’s support for you around every corner! Subscribe to the YesPhonics blog or Youtube channel for more classroom advice.
Heaton, Elizabeth. “What Kind of Hook Do I Need to Get Accepted Into an Ivy League College?” Huffington Post. 10 August 2017. Web.
“How to Report Educational Neglect in Homeschool Settings in Each State.” Coalition for Responsible Home Education. August 2017. Web.
Mulyadi, Seto, et. al. “The Role of Parent-Child Relationship, Self-esteem, Academic Self-efficacy to Academic Stress.” Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. (Vol. 217.) 5 February 2016. pp. 603-608.