I was my children’s first teacher from the moment they were born, even though I didn’t feel like it when Tristan was in the NICU after his premature birth and others were essential for keeping him alive. However, ever since the moment he came home, Phil and I have been involved in his home education, but when speaking with others over the years, the question has come up about how do I know my kids are learning?
I’ve watched my children grow and learn on their own from 11 weeks and 4 weeks before their due dates, and I can indeed observe that they have learned a great deal in the past 12 years.
It does help that I have a psychology degree with an emphasis in developmental psychology – or does it? Because I’m always questioning, especially after the Tristan’s early birth and worrying if he was meeting developmental milestones. However, many people do that, particularly first-time parents.
Yes, sometimes we compare our children with other kids, but I believe all parents do that, too. I think we may be under a little more of a microscope because our children aren’t in an institution, but that’s okay.
I know that some areas could improve, such as physical education because we aren’t a particularly sporty family, but other areas are just fabulous, such as current affairs, and vocabulary; my children can hold a conversation pretty well with adults they feel comfortable with.
One knows their own children – if they aren’t still babbling like a baby when they’re 3 years old, you know they are progressing and therefore they doing well. You don’t need school tests weekly from the age of 3 to know they’re learning as you can see their progress daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
Sometimes learning frustrates children when it’s challenging as they want to know everything right now. This can be the same for adults, sometimes. Everyone needs practice and reinforcement to improve.
Home educated children learn at a young age to take responsibility for their own education and become lifelong learners. They have the opportunity to learn things they’re interested in, which means they’re more likely to learn quickly in these areas. Of course, they still must learn some things they may not find fascinating, but that in itself is important, too.
How do I know they are learning what they are supposed to be learning?
Who has the right to say what children should be learning? Should the government rule what every child, every citizen is allowed to know? Where’s the creativity, diversity, and uniqueness in that? Knowledge does not have to be dictated to the masses with no self-thought.
Children can more easily follow their own interests when they’re in the homeschool world. They can move through different areas of interest and find out what truly interests them and what they excel at.
Home education is not a workplace so why then must we keep a leash on children and tell them they’re not allowed to learn this or that you must learn that.
Each child is different and no one learns at the same pace, which is one of the beauties of home education. What one of your children learned at the age of 9 another one may learn at 7 or at 12, or perhaps they’ve learned something different that was more applicable to them. Just as school curricula change from time to time, so can the personalised education of our children.
Even ‘schools’ change their curricula from time to time, and home educators can change their classes as often or infrequently as suits their needs. In the UK pretty much every student learns the same thing at the same time in every class in order to pass standardised exams at the end of high school. This obliterates free thinking and doesn’t account for different learning and teaching styles. Throw caution to the wind and learn what works best for your family.
But How Can You Prove Learning?
Some districts may require that your children write standardised exams or submit work to prove that homeschooled children are learning to the ‘right’ level. However, we all know that individuals reach each level at different times and if a child cannot tie their laces by the time they’re 5, that doesn’t mean they won’t be an expert at a dozen nautical knots when they’re 12, it just means they’re not ready yet for tying a bow.
We use a mix of online and traditional paper-and-pen education for our children. For the online programs we can log in and see how our children are doing on specific lessons and cumulative tests. When we use a textbook we know even better when they’re struggling and can adjust accordingly.
Of course, it depends what your idea is of successful learning. Some people would say a pass of 50 percent might be good enough, while other parents will say children should master each area and must receive 90 or even 100 percent before they can move on. Therefore, they don’t really fall behind, but it might take a little (or a lot) longer to get to the same subject topic level but everything previous is known to its full extent.
Every child learns at their own speed according to their abilities, interests, and learning styles. How and what your child learns should not be directly compared to others, but celebrated in their own rights. As long as they are moving ahead and making steady progress, that is the important thing.
Learning never stops, and I’m sure your children will be teaching you many things along the way as well! Make it a family affair and learn together.
And yes, there are times, particularly as a home educator responsible for my children’s learning that I question if my kids are learning as well as they should be, and perhaps even if I am failing my kids’ education. Of course, teachers also have the same concerns, and it means that we truly do care about our children. Feelings like this mean it’s time to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t and what can be adjusted to improve matters. This is constantly ongoing, which is why I don’t set some of my classes in stone long-term. We learn what works for us and what doesn’t over time. This is something that cannot be done in schools for every student, so although it’s more work, it makes for a better education.
If you are concerned about your own children’s learning progress, see your GP or pediatrician for guidance.