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There Is No Behind in Homeschool

Don’t miss the follow-up post Objections to “There’s No Behind in Homeschool” Answered!

I regularly hear homeschool moms lament that their child is behind.

This is public school mentality.  

For most of us it is all we have known, and it’s takes some amount of convincing to consider that it might not be the way we have always been told.

But let’s take a step back.

Someone, somewhere, sometime decided that children should learn certain things at certain times.

Who was it?

No idea.

When was it?

No idea –but it was a long time ago.

Did they know our children?


Does someone you’ve never met, who has never met your children, and probably lived decades ago really truly have a right to decide what’s best for your child?

No! Absolutely not!

Children are all different.  They don’t mature and grow physically, emotionally, or psychologically at the same rate.

Why should we assume they’d be able to learn at the same rate?

This is, quite simply, the foundation of homeschooling. It is the reason homeschooling was revived in the late 1900s: parents wanted to be able to make individualized choices for their own children based on what they believed was best. 

Parents have fought for that right and gained that right in all 50 states.

While the laws in each state vary,  the basic goal of homeschool remains the same: to educate your child as you believe is best for your child.

Some state laws will dictate what must be done when. I am not suggesting that you disobey your state laws, but rather that, as much as it is possible you allow your child to learn at their own pace in as natural and unforced way as you possibly can.  

Do not let the pressure to perform or for your kids to perform to persuade you to push your children beyond what is best.

You will be tempted to push them.

The pressure on homeschool moms to prove that they’re doing a good job is immense.

Remind yourself that it’s not about who finishes first. It’s not even about the acquisition of knowledge.

It’s about preparing this child for adulthood.

Damaging a child by pushing beyond what’s best is not preparing the child for adulthood.

The child’s emotional and psychological well being are so vastly more important than if your child can regurgitate names and dates and facts on cue.

Don’t sacrifice your child’s well being for a schedule, a goal, or a test. And especially not for your pride.

Your child is so much more important!

Let go of what you were told was supposed to happen. Don’t force learning on your child.

Make the child’s well being the highest priority, and make learning fit in with that.

If your child is having a bad day, don’t force learning.  He will learn better when he’s having a good day and no good can come from forcing it on a bad day.

Learning should be enjoyed and not forced –if we can make it that.

School doesn’t have to be fighting and tears and frustration.

”We have a mistaken correlation between grades and years.  We tend to think if our child is 3 grades behind in the acquisition of a subject it will take intensive effort and tons of time to overcome. But time and time again I have seen children go from years behind in a subject to on point or ahead in 6 months to 1 year. Sometimes a change in curricula was involved, but more often the child just matured to the point that they were ready and an understanding of the subject just started clicking into place. Be faithful to love, support, and joyfully teach, and it will come.”  -Joy Bishton

It does not matter how fast they are learning as long as they are learning.

It will all even out in the end.

There is no behind in homeschool; there’s just where we are right now.


Sarah Forbes

For more of my posts on homeschooling, see this blog series. 

This post is my reply to common objections to this post. It delves more indepth into the idea of children learning at their own pace. 


51 thoughts on “There Is No Behind in Homeschool”

    1. I loved this so much because I recently got caught in this trap myself of worrying about where my kids fit in with their peers. We attempted to pick up the pace to get “on track” and it was a disaster that led to burnout. Thank you for writing such an inspirational post :).

  1. I am the editor of our homeschool newsletter and have given this advice often to new homeschooling parents (usually moms). You have stated this advice so well, that I would LOVE to reprint it in our next newsletter with appropriate credit, of course, if it is alright with you. Please private message me if you are willing! Thanks!

    1. Thank you for the post I feel like I’m not doing a good job at this. I have being homeschooling a little over a year. It seems I change curriculum every few months.😞

  2. I absolutely needed to read this today. Yesterday was a rough school day for us that resulted in tears from both sides. And the main reason — I got hung up on whether my little guy is doing math appropriate for his age.

  3. I love this! As a mom with kids who are in regular school and one who is homeschooled I often find myself worrying about if I should be pushing the homeschooled one to be at the same level as his peers. This was a refresing reminder that he needs to learn at his pace.

  4. You’ve made a good point, Sarah. We can give children some challenge each day without stressing them out and ourselves. Children like to progress and see evidence in “moving onto the next story” in reading practice, for one example, but the joy is in the day – in the present – in the learning at hand. And when the love-of-learning for the sake of knowledge (and developing the individual person) is the goal (not the grade or grade level) mostly progress takes care of itself.

    I came here through a “share” on Facebook. I sent this post to my daughter (by email) who I home taught and who is now home teaching her children. Thank you for your encouragement. Karen Andreola

  5. Thank you Sarah…..I feel so much pressure from my step dad….all that matters to him is that people succeed…become wealthy. That is where value is placed. He struggles with homeschool ideas. He supports while at the same time having so many negative things to say. Your post has given me some ammunition the next time it comes up.

  6. Thank you so much for this. This is just what I needed today. I was just sitting here feeling like my daughter was so behind but this gave me the reassurance I needed to press forward.

  7. Thanks for the article of encouragement to homeschooling parents such as myself who sometimes question if we are on the right track or not. It sure is worth rereading when we begin to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others. Blessings

  8. Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s books are all about this very subject;they were big advocates of not starting formal schooling at an early age, and allowing children to progress at their own pace. They warned of the dangers of forcing learning on children before they are developmentally ready: damage to eyesight, lack of confidence, a dislike of learning. Every homeschool teacher should read them.

  9. Wow! Did that speak to me! My first born son does amazing. He is on target and gets it. My second son is slow. He doesn’t get it, struggles in reading BIG TIME, slow in Math. It takes so much time for his brain to understand new things. We had him repeat 2nd grade so he would not be so frustrated. He is now 9 1/2 and in third grade. He is reading 1 grade readers. He is doing 3rd grade Math and most days can complete his page. I spend a lot of one on one time with him. I was frustrated with him in the beginning of schooling him. I have come to realize he is currently a slow learner. I do hope for the day where I see him blossom. Yes, I do see improvement but it is at turtle speed.

  10. I’m a public school teacher, and my wife, a behavior therapist, homeschools our daughter. You’ve touched on something that teachers in public schools speak of often, an arbitrary standard for our kids set by someone in a state capital that has no idea of the rigors, trials, and tribulations faced by my students on a daily basis. I have so many kids that just won’t pass the state test in US History because they just aren’t ready to read at that level, they aren’t emotionally mature enough to handle the holocaust, they have a family to run and would rather spend the day asleep than working towards a goal that has no relevance or impact on their immediate goal of feeding their family. Don’t stop at homeschooling. Teach your kids government by getting involved and being a voice for all the kids trapped in public schools. Give teachers back our classrooms and society will benefit, I promise. Keep up the good work!

  11. I so agree, but here is where I get stuck…the state I live in mandates we test and score within a certain percentile. So how do I balance these two conflicting thoughts?? Any advice?

  12. So well put! As long as the kids are engaged and exploring, they are learning. The ability to regurgitate dates is no where near as valuable as being able to solve problems and tap into creativity. Great post!

  13. Great encouragement in this post! We live overseas and so only do the English component of homeschooling while the kids go to local primary school. I always feel like I have no idea what I am doing and whether we are doing the right thing, and at what stage the kids should be at. But it’s good to remember if they are learning and moving ahead, even if very slowly, it still counts as learning! Thank you.

  14. Very true. I have found this especially true during the early elementary years. I’ve taught four children so far, one of which has graduated and gone on to college. Each kid has areas they excel in and areas they struggled in. I have had to remind myself that one of the best benefits of homeschooling was that they got a custom education – not a one size fits all! I think we all need this reminder sometimes!

  15. Absolutely agree. Although, parents do can feel easily the social expectations on their shoulders and that can really cause a contradiction…
    Each parent is a teacher – and if somebody has a concept of a ‘teacher’ maybe it should be forgotten: love is above laws and regulations.
    It seems, instead of living in a free life in the 21st century with these God-given inventions around, we tend to let these “oppressions” overwhelm us…
    A child is the largest and greatest gift of the whole Universe. No expectations and standardizations should ruin him/her.


  16. Thank You so very much for this Article. Thank You Thank You! It will totally help to refer back to when i myself need reminding. I Love how this point you make “Make the child’s well being the highest priority, and make learning fit in with that.” Happy Children in my book learn and retain more. <3

  17. I totally agree! My goal is create a lifelong learner and teach her HOW to learn because we can never teach our children everything there is to learn. We are all lifelong learners ourselves.

  18. Thank you, I needed to hear this I’ve been so stressed that my 6th grader is several grade levels behind in math and spelling I didn’t know if it was me or him or both but seeing that this is common puts me at ease.

  19. AMEN to this, i am a new home school mamma and I’m 3 weeks in and the pressure is quite immense to perform i think I’ve made my little one cry a few times already and hate myself of it every time, so this post is just what i needed but more so i just need to constantly remind myself of this and it is such a journey and i am learning to relax its so hard in the beginning though…

  20. I think the biggest thing that concerns me is high school and graduation. My daughter is considered a certain grade level at co-op and in her youth group. There is a graduation ceremony for the co-op so I feel like she has to be ready to graduate by then (or at least close). She has had some health challenges that have put her “behind” in the work she was doing. She is only in 8th grade but that is my biggest concern when I am planning for High School.

    1. Hi Teri, thanks for your comment! As a mom of special needs kids, I understand your concerns. ❤ It’s so hard to navigate these issues sometimes. I would say that as long as you’re doing what’s best for your daughter and not pushing her beyond what’s emotionally and psychologically healthy, you should be fine. I’m trying to focus on what my special needs children actually need for the their future instead of focusing on what’s considered normal and standard. Of course, you’ll have to be aware of your state laws. I posted more about this in a follow-up post. Feel free to ask questions if you have them. I’m here to help. ❤

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