What You “Should” Know

I’ve clearly read too many homeschool newbie threads lately because this has been bugging me a lot.

What you should know and what skills a child should have at any given time is extremely subjective.

I know that when people are starting out, they worry about this.  Some people, I suppose, never stop worrying about it.  And there are legitimate reasons to check in about where a child is.  If a child is really struggling, there may be a question of learning disabilities.

However, I have so much trouble relating to the desire to follow state standards, which apparently some homeschoolers do, even the standards of states they think are “better” somehow than their own.  These are politically motivated standards decided in large part by politicians, not by people who really know anything about kids, much less your kids.  I also don’t get the mania for the E.D. Hirsch books.  He advocated that children need to know about dead white guys (and not much else) then made books of random, unconnected bits of information for kids by grade level.  I’m less than impressed.  Following a certain curriculum at least makes sense to me as that way you’ve got a scope and sequence, but it’s not an exact guideline.  If a child finishes the 2nd grade math of one curriculum two months into what is technically 3rd grade, is that really going to destroy his whole future?  Different curricula have completely legitimate but completely different scopes and sequences.

This is why, when we assess (and I take the idea of assessment very seriously) we don’t assess against a rubric of skills or against some idea of the average child of their age.  We assess progress and effort, we assess meeting personal goals and moving forward.

For me, what it boils down to is the difference between product oriented education and process oriented education.  I don’t buy into product oriented education.  My child achieving a list of preset skills isn’t what I’m interested in.  I’m interested in helping my children grow, learn and find their path.  There’s information I want them to learn, but I’m guiding them, not pouring it in.  They have to take the steps themselves.  I can’t do it for them.  And in the end, I assume that the learning isn’t what you come out with at the finish of a preset school year, but the journey you took to get there.  You can measure the finish with a checklist of skills and a multiple choice test, and sometimes that’s a fine thing to do, but the more important piece, the journey, is harder to measure, yet more important.

How to identify a fossil shark’s tooth, a piece of coal, basalt, sandstone and a vein of quartz probably weren’t on any list of second grade skills.


5 thoughts on “What You “Should” Know

  1. Great blog, I think this paragraph says it all and what’s important too 🙂 This is why, when we assess (and I take the idea of assessment very seriously) we don’t assess against a rubric of skills or against some idea of the average child of their age. We assess progress and effort, we assess meeting personal goals and moving forward.

  2. I understand where some of the parents are coming from with the “what should I teach/what should they know” thing. I’ve been there, I think a lot of it is just insecurities with starting out, probably made worse by friends and family. Even before I started homeschooling, I heard from a few certain family members about how, “(kid) I met is doing (x, y, z)” and kind of giving me the tone of why isn’t yours. Now it’s worse, because not only do I have the “I met this kid…” but now I have their imagined standards they are holding me against.
    Though of course I’ve learned to ignore that. I’ve stopped pushing so hard to be at this place, doing this thing, right now. We are moving into second grade, still using the first grade reading books, and taking on science that I couldn’t easily place a grade level on if I tried. I do think more of those that are in that pressured filled place should read this blog, and find out progress is more important that some arbitrary standards.

  3. I am a relatively new reader of your blog (I got here a few months ago via one of your Maryland playground posts) and I am not a homeschooler, as this fall my older son will be entering Kindergarten in the local public school system. I loved this post and I feel like appreciating and nurturing the unique pace and style of learning for each of my kids is something that I am always working on, even though they are not homeschooled. I am very interested in our upcoming integration into the public school system and hopefully the inspiration that I draw from your posts is something that I can apply within my own family in some form, despite our different situations. I have really been enjoying reading your blog!

  4. I checked out the MD standards when we first moved here because I couldn’t figure out how to do a portfolio review of “health” for a 2nd grader. 😀 Reading the standards I realized it means telling them to stop picking their nose and teasing their sister. 😉

  5. Excellent post. There are a number of hidden rubrics we use to determine our children’s academic level. Just completing our first year of homeschooling, I was surprised at how much I have dwelled on where my daughter is at compared to the other kids her age. This is even less helpful than using the state’s standards. We, too, do not buy into the product oriented education. That is unless the products we are pushing include tools of learning. This is what we are really after. If we fail to teach a particular subject but have taught our children tools for learning, they will be prepared to learn anything they need. Thanks again!

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