Taking your child’s education in hand is frightening, and every homeschool mom worries if her child is progressing “normally.” Starting down the educational path with first children is especially intimidating because Mom has no experience with which to compare progress. Questions like, “Is this normal? Am I missing something? How would others perceive my child’s academic abilities? Will my child grow out of this?” loom in her mind. How will she know if her fears and doubts are founded? Let’s explore some practical questions.
How do I know if my child is developing academically?
Pediatrician Handouts: Next time you get a well-child check, read the information you get. It often contains milestones for cognitive and neurological development. These are most applicable in the Starting Out and Getting Excited stages.
Standardized Tests: Some states require standardized testing, and some do not. Even when not required, testing every two or three years gives you an idea of progress. Iowa and Stanford are two of the most common standardized tests.
Scope and Sequences: Major curriculum publishers include scope and sequences. After you finish a course, look over the scope and sequence to see if your student has learned each concept satisfactorily.
Syllabus: Containing some of the same information as scope and sequences, syllabi can help you review previous work. Some publishers and teachers write better syllabi than others, so helpfulness varies.
State or National Standards: Debate over educational standards continues to rage, but they can still give you an idea of areas your child should have knowledge in. They also will give you an idea of how your child’s education would be perceived by the world at large.
Books: The Educated Child and What Your ___ Grader Needs to Know books break down each grade into subject areas with specific topics, making it easy to identify major gaps.
Well Planned Start: Available from Well Planned Gal, these colorful assessments can be used to plan your school year, check progress, evaluate retention, or place your student in the correct grade.
Is my student truly behind?
Have you covered the material yet? It’s hard for your student to get behind in something he or she has not covered yet. If you already have a plan to cover that topic, great; if not, plan now.
Have there been any major life changes in the last school year? Anything from a big move to family illness to a birth can interrupt school time and cause stress. If you have experienced any stressors, give your student a few months to decompress and then re-evaluate.
Have you been switching curriculum frequently? The perfect curriculum does not exist, and switching to find the “best” curriculum is worse than having a less-than-ideal curriculum and using it consistently. Choose a curriculum that works for your family with the fewest number of tweaks and stick with it.
Has your child just left public or private school? Some students function better in small groups or one-on-one environments than in classrooms. Wait a few months to see if your child begins flourishing under the new routine.
Is your student behind in all subjects or just one or two? Very few people excel in all of the multiple intelligences. Expect your child to have favorite and least-favorite subjects. However, if your student is behind in ALL subjects, consider seeing a specialist to rule out a general learning disability.
Is your child behind in foundational subjects? If a student has mastered math and language arts, he or she is well-prepared to fill in gaps through self-education. Intervention for math and language arts is crucial in the elementary years, so do not delay seeking a solution.
How many grade levels behind is your student? If your child is one grade level behind, offer some supplemental activities or try a summer enrichment program to bring him or her up to grade level. If your student is two or more grades behind, think about seeing a specialist.
What do I do if my student is behind?
Make accommodations. Read texts out loud to your child. Allow him or her to use manipulatives. Accept collages or lapbooks instead of research papers. Even small adaptations make learning more enjoyable and easier.
Change curricula. If you have consistently used the same curriculum, look into other kinds. Find something with more visuals or more manipulatives or more read-alouds to accommodate your student’s learning style.
Consult a specialist. Some of the most common learning disorders include auditory processing disorder, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyslexia, language processing disorder, visual perceptual/visual motor deficit, ADHD, and dyspraxia. Start by talking to your child’s pediatrician or a psychologist, neurologist, behavioral optometrist, or speech language pathologist.
Encourage your student. Explain that even adults have things they are not good at. Point out your child’s strengths. It might sound something like this, “Spelling is just something you will have to work extra hard at. Remember all the time we spent in vision therapy? That was to help you spell better. But you know what? You are really great at remembering everything that we read out loud! You can tell me everything you hear. When I finish a project, my coworkers look it over for mistakes. Sometimes I don’t like it when they find mistakes, but that is their job. And I have to remind myself that it is nothing personal.”