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Friday, January 11, 2008

At Their Own Pace

The Lost FilesPrologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 2
Chapter 9: A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 1
Chapter 9 : A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 2
Chapter 10 : Homeschool Burn-out
Chapter 11 : At Their Own Pace


Probably the single most important benefit of homeschooling is the fact that you can give your child a customized, individualized education. By definition alone, homeschooling is an individualized education based on the child’s needs, strengths and weaknesses. Even in the very best of schools, it is just not possible for one child to have such attention placed on them alone, not to mention two children. They are not necessarily able to excel at their own speed, or slow the pace of the program when necessary.

This past year, it was finally clear to me just how personalized homeschooling could be. I grasped the concept early on, but once I actually experienced it, I now realize the full value.

One aspect of a personalized education is that I can make unscheduled changes in the
lesson and go to outside sources for extra help whenever I need to. For example, when my son was working on fractions he scored 70% on the exam at the end of the unit, so I had him redo it. Had he been in school, they would have just recorded his score and moved on to decimals. This is a problem. If you do not master fractions, you cannot begin to understand decimals or anything more difficult. Math will fall apart at this point, as it does for so many children.

Being a typical 9-year-old boy, my son prefers to do his math work independently, but since he was having problems, I decided to observe him more closely as he went through the math exercises. I was able to see that his problem was in reducing fractions and converting whole numbers to fractions before he could subtract. I then went to a different website called edhelper.com, and printed the corresponding worksheets. I printed one for reducing fractions, another for converting mixed fractions and whole numbers, and a third worksheet for adding and subtracting mixed fractions.

By working through these together, we got through the fractions section with a 95%
grade. There was no need to accept a lower grade, and I refuse to as well, because I
know that unless you master certain math skills, you will be weak in all that follow. If for some reason he cannot get through any subject or unit, I am always able to search for new ways, or perhaps a person other than myself to get him through this rough spot.

While it took him a month to get through the fractions section, he did the following four sections within a month.s time. These sections included adding, subtracting, and
multiplying decimals, and percentages, which transitioned into doing the same with
money. The reason he was able to do these next units at an accelerated speed is that he had a firm understanding of fractions, and before that, multiplication. Had I accepted the low grade for the fractions unit, more low grades would have surely followed.

Having the teacher all to oneself, has another great advantage. In the case of a child who is hyperactive, or Attention Deficit, this child is not under as many restrictions as they would have in a classroom. There is no one to complain that this child is disturbing them, and there is no one to steal the attention of an easily distractible child.

Consider this example: One child sits in a classroom, quiet as a mouse and listens as the teacher instructs the class. They receive a .B. average on their report cards. From time to time the child.s mind drifts, but they never utter a word, and when they do have a question to ask, they raise their hand. Sometimes the teacher acknowledges their question, sometimes she does not, and they eventually get tired of holding their hand in the air and gives up. The teacher always describes this child as a joy to have in the classroom, and the parents are happy with the cild's progress.

Another child failed miserably in school. They were a disruption to the teacher and other students. When a teacher asked a question the child would blurt out the answer without raising their hand first, or they would just not pay attention at all. They would rather socialize with the children around them. That child does not go to school anymore. Now they work at a computer at home, usually while standing. When they do use a chair, they are usually on their knees and the chair is on two legs. They stop occasionally to do a little dance, or to run screaming through the house. However, when they find something that engrosses them, they can sit still and quiet for hours. The parents, of this child are often a bit frazzled and worn. However, just knowing the child no longer sees itself as a failure gives the parent-renewed strength. In fact, the child is 5 months ahead of a child in the same grade in the local public school.

I was the first child. Although there were never any complaints from me, or from my
teachers in school, I detested being there. It took years before I was able to figure out the system in order to get better grades. I did not call it cheating; I considered it creative studying, especially in high school. (Creative studying on one history class involved paying previous student of the same teacher for last years tests, as the teacher gave the same tests each year.) I have to admit, although I was at the top of my graduating class, I have managed to retain very little information learned in school.

My daughter is the second child. I do not want her to learn how to play the system in order to please the adults around her. I want her simply to learn. By observing her and evaluating her progress, I have come to find that no child will fail if they are in the right surroundings for them.

You might wonder how a mother with no formal teaching experience can assess her
children progress accurately and without prejudice. Personally, unless I am looking to see where they need extra help, I do not grade their exams myself. I rely on the computer programs and compare information from the local school system to help me make these assessments. Public schools also use the same programs I use to homeschool my children. It has a parental access section that clearly spells out goals and objectives for every unit. To make sure that my children were on the same track as the children in the local public school, I accessed the schools goals and objectives for the year, which are easily available on the internet. By comparing them line item for line item, I found the program I was using matched the local schools program, and seemed to possibly me more intensive. I later found out that it meets "No Child Left Behind" standards.

In the homeschooling community, meeting such standards is not necessarily a desired
goal. It is preferable for the children enjoy learning, and so gain a lifelong love for knowledge. Nevertheless, as a mother new to homeschooling, I was worried that I might damage my children and leave gaps in their education. I needed to be sure I was being thorough. It will probably be a few years before I completely free myself from the compulsive need to compare my children with formally schooled children. Until then I know the information I need is available on the internet, just a few key strokes away.

I do not find fault with schools for falling short in providing individualized education for all children. It is a physical impossibility for a teacher to give each child such individualized attention. Therefore, it is beyond the systems control. In order for each child to be able to learn at their own pace and in their own way, there would have to be an extremely low student teacher ratio, lower than what you would find in 99% of public and private schools.



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1 comment:

Mama Teaching 2 said...

AMEN! I am really enjoying your blog, it is just so darn right on! My children are expected to give 100%! And that is what they give us.

We had my oldest son's bestfriend was over the other day and she was talking about school, (2nd) grade. She said she made a C in reading. Her Aunt was like OH THAT IS GREAT! My husband and I just looked at each other. How is a C in reading okay? Which got me to thinking on HOW does one grade a child with a C in reading? How does one fail that or fall short?

This child has had a hard time in school due to being bored and the teacher and parent always speaking of how much work she needs. When asked about school she bows her head and mumbles how she needs work.

I love this little girl...and she breaks me heart.

If this is what the system cranks out then I don't want any part with it!

You are so right, we must know the basics to move on.

But even if you do know the basics in public it doesn't matter. This said little girl can read mostly anything I give her...tell me then why she isn't up to par?

Keep up the blog, I adore it!