One of the biggest fears new homeschooling parents have is that their children’s academic education may suffer. How on earth can a parent (especially one who has no training as a teacher) educate their own children as well as a real school?
As a new homeschool mom, I was sure I would miss a critical piece of information that all the other kids in America were learning and I spent much of our first year STRESSED that I was doing my children a disservice. My goal last year–well, what I said was my goal—was to read a lot of book, do some math, and learn how to homeschool. (I secretly wanted the children to be BRILLIANT and to know more than their public school friends so that my choice to homeschool would look like a fantastic decision).
Turns out, we did do a lot of reading (between 200-250 books that we read together and that they read independently). In fact, Pixie’s (2nd grade last year) reading skills skyrocketed and she fell in love with reading. And we did a lot of math. I was intent on improving Sunshine’s confidence in math, which had taken a beating the last several years in public school. We did almost no spelling (outside of a lot of reading),and limited formal writing.
In July, I discovered they would need placement testing for a homeschool enrichment program we are taking part in one day a week this year. I got an email a few days before with the subject areas and just threw my hands in the air—there was no way we could prepare at all for the test at that late date. I tried not to be a wreck about it, but I was sorta convinced my shoddy teaching methods for the past year were about to be revealed.
Imagine my distinct surprise when the results came back and both girls were well above grade-level in every subject they tested—even ones I hadn’t officially taught (aside from Sunshine who tested at grade-level in math, which I was THRILLED with as it meant she had gained two years!). I have no idea how that happened. I was seriously just happy the kid had finally learned her multiplication facts.
My story is not unique in the homeschooling community. Yes, I’d like to think my kids are smart and that I’m a decent teacher, but it’s really just the nature of homeschooling. In a 2009 Homeschool Progress Report commissioned by the Home School Legal Defense Fund, homeschooled kids scored, on average, 34-39 percentile points higher than the national average on standardized tests. That means, where the average for public school kids is 50, the average percentiles for homeschooled kids are 84-89. I know–crazy!
And it didn’t matter how educated the parents were, how much they spent on homeschooling, or what kind of curriculum (more structured verses ‘delight-led’ learning) families used. It seems that parents are excellent teachers for their children, regardless of if they give spelling tests. Or spend months prepping their students for standardized testing. Somehow, someway, your kids will very likely end up better academically than their public school peers.
So, no, you’re not going to mess up your kid academically by homeschooling. Kids are natural learners—they are supremely interested in the world around them and will take the initiative to discover things all on their own, if given the time and chance. One of my biggest surprises in our first year was that within a few months, my girls had re-discovered how to learn. They didn’t need a textbook and a teacher to spoon-feed them. They needed availability of resources (primarily books, computer access, and visits to the world around them), someone to act as a tutor and guide, and they were confident they could learn anything.
I don’t think national standardized tests measure being a self-directed learner. But life sure does.