When I wrote “There’s No Behind in Homeschool,” I had no idea that within a few days thousands of people would read it and share it on social media. I also had no idea that saying “your child’s well-being is more important than your schedule or a test” would upset some people.
I wrote the post for one simple reason. I’m an administrator on a Facebook group for parents who homeschool special needs kids –most often kids with autism, bipolar, or ADHD. I regularly answer the question “What do I do when my child is behind in homeschool?” on my Facebook group. Instead of typing out my reasons why there’s no behind in homeschool each time, I decided to make a blog post and link to it when the question was asked.
Even though it was written for parents with special needs kids, I believe the concepts still apply to “normal” kids, if there is such a thing as a normal kid.
And that’s how we got to this post.
Although the responses have been overwhelmingly positive, I’ve experienced three primary objections to my post.
- “You must only have gradeschoolers”|“This will only work for grade school”|“If you had high schoolers you’d not have written this.”|“What about high school/college?”
- “What about state laws?”|“Will you just let your kids fail the state requirements?”
- “I’m the mom so they have to do it anyway even if it’s emotionally or psychologically damaging”|“I have goals, and it doesn’t matter if they like them or not.”
Let’s address those objections one by one.
I purposely kept the original post short for ease of reading, but we’ll delve into these in more depth now, since the post has received so much attention and since these comments need addressed.
1) “You must only have gradeschoolers”|“This will only work for grade school”|“If you had high schoolers you’d not have written this.”|“What about high school/college?”
Let me tell you a little about myself.
My husband and I are both homeschool graduates with ADHD and other learning challenges. He was homeschooled kindergarten through age 16 when he got his GED and attended Bible college, graduating at age 18 with an associates degree before he entered trade school. He is a plumber/pipefitter/welder today.
I attended public and private school until the age of 8 (which was an altogether horrible experience). Then, my parents homeschooled me until 10th grade. In 10th grade, we tried private school again (which was again a miserable experience) and then I was homeschooled until I graduated from 12th grade at age 17.
My husband and I met at Bible college a few years later. We both knew we were going to homeschool long before we had kids.
Our own experiences with learning disabilities –like being up until 10pm at age 8 or 9 trying to finish school work– and our own struggles –like loving to learn but not wanting to be force fed information– affected our educational philosophy.
As of the time I am writing this post, I have two boys, one is 12 and the other is turning 15 next week. Both of them have learning disabilities that they inherited from their parents.
So, to say that I would not have written this if I had high schoolers is inaccurate. I currently have a high schooler in homeschool. I have used this method, this educational philosophy, to educate him. Furthermore, I myself was homeschooled in high school.
I’ve been involved in the homeschool movement since the mid-1980s. I’ve seen a lot —including the damage done by parents who pushed too hard.
Pushing harder doesn’t always help; most often it damages.
While it is true that some kids do not receive a sufficient education in homeschooling (this is incredibly rare), in my experience, it is far more likely that parents –fearing that their child will be one of those kids who have a insufficient education– push too hard and do not consider first the well-being of the child.
Notice that I didn’t say “only consider the well-being of the child.” I said consider the well-being of the child first. You’d think that this would not be controversial, but in some circles, based on the responses to my blog post, it apparently is.
What about high school? Most kids, even many special needs kids, have matured by high school to the place that they can handle on grade work. Many of them by age 12 or 13 are able to start filling in the gaps that occurred during the grade school years when they were emotionally immature and unable to do certain work without stress and potential trauma.
Case in point: my oldest son had pain in his hands when writing for many years. He had underdevelopment in his muscles, which is not uncommon with ADHD, SPD, and autism children. We did all his school work orally and worked on gross hand movements finally working to finer hand movements. He could write a sentence if I forced him, but with pain and great difficulty. It would take him about 10 minutes to write one sentence, and it hurt so much he would cry. It’s important to note here that he wasn’t just having a bad attitude. About age 12, he decided that he wanted to be able to write and spell. He asked me to work with him. At age 14, he corrects my blog posts and is designing his own board games including instructions.
Imagine the damage I would have done if I forced him to write at age 7 or 8 when writing caused physical pain.
Maybe your child doesn’t have physical pain. Maybe it’s that emotionally he can’t handle on grade level math, because it’s overwhelming. If he’s young, he won’t tell you it’s overwhelming. He’ll fight you and get angry, because that’s the only way he can communicate that it hurts.
Emotional hurt is longer lasting and harder to heal than even the physical.
If your child is still emotionally unable to handle on grade level work when he reaches high school, then you might need to look into your state laws and see what provisions are made for students who aren’t able to keep up.
If you have a child –like I was– who has learning disorders, it maybe later (into their 20s) before their brains mature enough that they can do college level courses.
But homeschooling is about doing what’s best for the child. It’s not about doing what’s socially acceptable. If socially acceptable was your concern, you’d have left them in public school.
I saw a study years ago that compared a spiral approach to learning to a one year class with high school students in which all 12 grades worth of instruction was given. In the study, it was a grammar course if memory serves. The high school students were able to learn in less than one year what the other students had spent 12 years learning because, when the high schoolers were finally instructed, their brains were mature enough to receive all the instruction at once. (I saw this study many years before we had internet, so I’m not able to provide a reference link).
My point is that –unless your child has a learning disability– by age 14 or 15 he should be emotionally mature enough to make up whatever was lost in the earlier grades. Therefore, college shouldn’t be a problem, if your child chooses to go. (There are growing arguments in favor of not attending college due to the changing landscape of business and education, however, at this point in time, it is still considered the norm.)
If, by age 14 or 15, your child is not able to make up the difference in his education, then you should look into the possibility of developmental delays or learning disabilities which, like in my case, can easily go undiagnosed because of the child’s high intelligence and coping skills.
2)“What about state laws?”|“Will you just let your kids fail the state requirements?”
Those who ask this question seem to have not read or not thoroughly read my original post. I’m not criticizing. I’m as likely to skim an article as the next person.
This is what I said in the original post:
“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.”
I live in state with very laxed laws. If you live in a state that dictates what must be done when, then you have a two options: move to a state with fewer restrictions or try to work within the laws of your current state.
Even if there are things that must be done at certain times, you still most likely have freedom about how you teach and how much you push. You have a choice between
a) standing at the kitchen table and yelling at your child because they’re taking 4 hours to do math or
b) sitting beside them and working one-on-one or
c) spreading that one-on-one work over 3 hours with 20 minute or half hour breaks.
Do whatever you need to do for this experience to not leave lasting trauma and not leave your child hating school and all forms of learning. Choices b and c work toward this end.
As I discussed in point 1, you need to know your state laws and especially how the state laws make provisions for struggling learners. Make use of those provisions if you need to.
I know families who have moved across state lines and the dad drove two hours to work every day, keeping his job in their hometown, so that their children could be homeschooled in a state with fewer regulations.
The options are truly limitless, if you’re willing to make the sacrifices.
But above all, put the child’s well-being first.
This is truly not a radical concept.
3)“I’m the mom so they have to do it anyway even if it’s emotionally or psychologically damaging”|“I have goals, and it doesn’t matter if they like them or not.”
We all have goals for our kids, but our goals need to be less important than their emotional and psychological health.
If you decide that your goals are more important, not only is that incredibly selfish, but it is incredibly damaging.
I quite frankly find it disturbing when any parent says “I know I’m damaging my children, and I don’t care.”
If your schedule or your pride or your goals are more important than the well-being of your child, maybe you shouldn’t be homeschooling.
I’m the last person to say that someone shouldn’t homeschool (I’m hesitant to even write that), but that statement displays such a level of arrogance or narcissism that it indicates that you do not have the child’s best interest at heart and that perhaps the child’s would be better if he were educated by someone else —unless you can reevaluate your priorities.
Anytime a parent says “I know I’m hurting my child, and I don’t care,” that raises huge red flags for me. Huge red flags.
Homeschooling was started (revived, really) by people who believed that formal schooling (book learning) should wait until the child was 9 or 10 years old. You can see more about that concept in the book School Can Wait. In that context, my position about “There’s No Behind in Homeschool” is not far-fetched. It is in keeping with the ideals and goals of traditional homeschooling and reflects what homeschooling has stood for over the past few decades since its revival.