Saturday, March 17, 2012

What Grade Are You In, Dear?

By far, the funniest side effect of home schooling is that Colleena has NO IDEA what grade she is “in”.  As she looks old enough to be in school now, people often ask her, and she looks at me helplessly as if she hasn’t the faintest clue of what to say.  Baden, having spent a few years at school, understands the importance of this question and answers much more naturally with “ grade 2”.

I never noticed before, but this is our culturally normal way of finding out how old children are.  It becomes a moot point after high school, but until then, it’s the way we gauge a child’s age, likely interests and areas of learning. We might say “ Oh, you’re in grade 3?  That must mean you are learning cursive in school… do you like it?”  

I kept coaching her to say “ I’m in Kindergarten this year”.  This is what people expect, and from that they can deduce that she is 5 or 6.  She refused, however, and one day I pressed her to find out why.  “ I thought I was in Grade 1 and 2!” she said.  It was cute, and it made me laugh, but honestly, I can understand her confusion.  None of her workbooks are for Kindergarten.  The thing about homeschooling is that children learn whatever they need to understand next, and this is different from the public system .

Neither Baden nor Colleena does many workbooks in “their grade”.  Many homeschooling materials come with no grade, suggested grade windows, or are very different than the province where we live.  Language Arts Through Literature has different colors of workbooks that you progress through, with suggested grade equivalents.  Colleena is doing the “blue” level, which is “about grade 1”, and Baden the “red”.  Although “red” is marked for grade 2, in our province, they wouldn’t study the topics in it until grade 3, maybe grade 4 if they are in French Immersion.  Their Math books are graded, and each child is ahead by one year, besides, this curriculum is again further ahead than the province’s stated levels for their years.  They are both doing grade 2 Bible, as it was easier for me to have them do the same one, and their science books are “grades 4-6”.  In French I am sure they are behind where they would be in school, as I have really dropped the ball there and am having a hard time finding enough materials.

So, you can understand Colleena’s confusion.  She has no idea why people expect her to be in Kindergarten.  Homeschooling has made me realize that I have to stop lumping all kids of the same grade together as having similar interests, abilities or areas of study.  Just in case you’re wondering, I am not going to be teaching cursive to Baden next year in “grade 3”.  I can’t read his printing a lot of the time, and I am not moving on to a potentially messier style until he is neater at this one.  He is not going to be hurt by another year of printing, he’s an 8 year old boy and this is just where he is at. I for one am going to simply ask how old a kid is from now on.


  1. Great post, Melissa. As a non-homeschooler, I find it tricky to ask kids who are homeschooled about school. I want to know how it's going for them, but I understand that grade level is a bit different. I just always hesitate to know what wording to use b/c I never want to seem like I am judging or thinking they are 'less than' b/c the truth is, I know they are all ahead of my schooled kids. :) You're doing a great job, Melissa!!!!

    1. I have been thinking about that myself. I think that, like many other areas around parenting, it's easy to offend others, or be offended, because we all want to do the best job for our kids that we can, and no one wants to feel judged. I didn't think much about "grades" until this year. We use it at church too, in Sunday School, instead of saying "ages 5 and 6" we have "K-1" right? I think we are all just used to this system and haven't thought about how it doesn't fit everyone. I have wondered about " what are you studying in school this year?". It gives the kids a chance to talk about what they like, but then someone asked my kids that one day. I had to remember that this person loves our family, and just wanted to chat with the kids, but I have to admit, my initial ( internal) reaction was " Are you quizzing them to see if your kids know more!?". ( This person totally wasn't, I know this for a fact) Dumb, self centered reaction, I know! I have to stop thinking that I have to justify our decision to people, or prove that they will learn just as much as if they were at school, and I have to stop being so sensitive. I think most people just are genuinely interested in chatting with others and hearing what the kids find interesting.


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