Is She Falling Behind?

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This article is a follow up to “Why My Kids Got an Extra Week of Christmas Vacation.” In it, I touched on a situation that emerged last fall. One of my kids had a crisis of confidence in our homeschool. She was convinced that she was falling behind her public school peers, especially in math. I had to figure out how I might restore her faith in what we are doing. Here’s what I learned from that crisis.

Revelation

“You better go in and talk to your daughter, she’s freaking out about school!”

It was well after 10:00 p.m. and I had just plopped my weary carcass into bed, when More Love Mama came in to inform me of our twelve year old’s freak out! Apparently, earlier in the day, Renaissance Girl had been talking with her public school friends about math. Why they would be talking about that while playing, is beyond me, but they were. During the discussion, she found out that her friends were learning how to “factor” and she’d never even heard of it.

That made her panic!

Worrying is No Good

I’m a worrier, or at least I used to be. Over time I have learned how to (mostly) beat it.

When I first started homeschooling, I realized that there was plenty that I could worry about if I chose to. Questions floated around in my head. Am I keeping my kids from going to college or even getting good jobs? Are they going to be social outcasts? What if I ruin their lives?

It’s easy to worry yourself into a funk even before you get your homeschool off of the ground. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’d better focus on the more likely outcomes of homeschooling, or I’d worry myself do death .

I decided that the most realistic scenario would be that my kids would all learn how to read and do math, some of them really well and some of them just good enough to get by.

  • Some of them will excel at school and go on to college, and that will make them happy.
  • A couple of them will do well enough to go to trade school. They will have the career of their choice, and that will make them happy.
  • One or two of my kids will really struggle academically. They will count the days until they can stop doing school and get a job. They will eventually find a job that they like and that will make them happy.

I realized that all of the worrying in the world won’t change these truths about my kids, and therefore, I won’t worry about it.

That’s how “Worry Free Homeschooling” was born.

Smooth Sailing

So there you have it. We were cruising along, fulfilling my vision of Worry free Homeschooling. My kids were learning how to read, write and do arithmetic, and whatever else interested them. School was casual, and for the most part fun,and not terribly regimented or tedious. Smooth sailing ahead.

Until More Love Mama burst my bubble!

This Coin Has Two Sides

When I created the mindset, or mantra, or whatever you want to call it, of Worry Free Homeschooling, it’s purpose was to set “my” mind at ease. I never considered that my kids would worry about school. That’s a public school problem! I just figured that as long as I kept things casual, easy going, and centered on their interests they’d all be happy. Sounds great! Right?

Yeah, well, I forgot about Renaissance Girl!

She’s the prototypical first child, responsible, conscientious, and driven. So when she and the boy next door began talking about math that day. Well…….That’s the night More Love Mama came into our room and told me that I needed to pay her that visit.

When I went to talk to her, I found her sitting in her bed working on language assignments in her very thick (nearly 800 pages) workbook. I sat down beside her and let her share all of her concerns. When she was finished, I told her that we would figure out what to do about her anxiety in the morning. In the meantime, she could work on language worksheets as long as she wanted. I went to bed.

But I didn’t sleep.

Worry Free Homeschooling doesn’t work if even one of the students is worrying. I spent much of that night alternatively praying for peace for my sweet little Ressaisance Girl, and trying to figure out what I would do about this situation come morning.

When I woke up, I had a plan.

Five Ways to Assure Your Worried Students

Do you have a kid who’s worried they are falling further and further behind in school? Or, maybe the worrier is you. Either way, somebody’s unhappy and something needs to be done about it.

If that’s the case, then worry no more, because there are at least five things that you can do to assure that your kid or yourself that everything is OK, or at least can be made OK, in short order.

Don’t Compare Apples to Oranges

The following morning, after breakfast, Renaissance Girl and I went into my office so that I could help her put to rest all of her fears about being behind in school

The first thing that I explained her was that since she and her friend were both in the 6th grade, they should be learning the same things, however because she was doing her math online and he was doing his in a classroom, they would be doing things in a different order and pace.

Unless you are using the exact curriculum, scope and sequence as the public school, your kids won’t know all the same things as their public school friends. Then again, they will most likely know some things that the public school kids don’t. It’s good to remind them of that.

Diagnostic Test

If you or your student fear that they are behind in school, they can always take a diagnostic or leveling test.

In our case, it just so happened that Renaissance Girl was due to take the CTC Math Diagnostic Test I, which tests her comprehension of the first semester of 6th grade math. I decided to give it to her that morning. I was confident that she would do well, and that would soothe her fear about being behind. Just as I thought, she scored very well.

If you are using an online math program, you probably have access to periodic diagnostic or levelling tests. Use them, they are a super useful tool for convincing your kids that they are on track. If your kids are behind, these tests will show you exactly where, so that you or a tutor can address the deficiency before it becomes a problem.

Tweak As You Go

If you or your students are unsure of their progress, you can always make changes as you go. You are not wedded to any particular curriculum or program. Just throw out what doesn’t seem to be working and try something new. You can do it at the end of the year or you can do it in October. Don’t forget, you are a homeschool, you are flexible.

You Still Have Summer

I reminded my daughter that we are a year round homeschool, and therefore if she were to ever fall behind, she’d always have two months to catch up. Of course, that both reassured her and reminded her the depressing fact that she and her siblings would in fact be doing math and writing assignments in the summer. But really! We’re only talking about two hours a day. That leaves plenty of time for swimming and mind numbing YouTube videos.

Despite all of the negative things a twelve year old might think about year round school, the fact that she gets an extra two months to complete each grade, has to be reassuring.

Safety Nets

If you find deficiencies in what your kids have learned in your home school, don’t worry. You can call in the cavalry.

  • Kumon and similar companies- I’m sure that you’re familiar with this resource that specializes in tutoring students in math and reading. If it turns out that your student is behind in either subject, you can always enroll them in one of these programs until they get caught up. There is absolutely no shame in that, in fact, you should consider these programs as a valuable asset in your teaching arsenal.
  • Private Tutors- Believe it or not, there are plenty of teachers who tutor students on the side, and they’d love to tutor yours.
  • ACT and SAT Classes- Just go online and google ACT and SAT Tutoring and you will be amazed at how many companies are out there, who want to tutor your child. Some of them are local and others are online, take your pick.
  • Your local community or junior college- if your student is about to graduate from high school and he or she doesn’t quite have all the skills needed to go to Harvard or Yale, you still have options. Many community or junior colleges offer levelling classes specifically designed to help bring your student up to level. Often your student can take these classes while still technically in high school. Is that cool, or what?

I showed Renaissance Girl all of these options, not that she would need them, but that they will always be available to her if she needs them.

Reassured

By the end of the morning, after our conversation and after she aced her diagnostic test, Renaissance Girl’s worries were put to ease. I didn’t particularly enjoy the sleepless night before, but I did feel pretty good about being able get us through this crisis of confidence.

I learned a lot from this event and I’m happy to be able to share what I learned with you.

Brian Wood

Daddy Go To Timeout

P.S.

Hey! Would you like the support of a Facebook group made up of people just like me and you? Well you’re in luck. A few friends and I, created a homeschool facebook group called Worry Free Homeschooling. If you’d like to join the group, just click here.

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