Monday, May 30, 2011


I so often hear homeschooling parents who are deeply concerned about "standards", especially from those who are new. While I realize that in some states, parents are required to submit to standardized testing and regulation of curriculum, the vast majority of states do not require these kinds of restrictions. So why do so many of us who don't have to be concerned with standardized testing and regulated curriculum care so much about "meeting the standards"?

Perhaps it is because we obsess with "grade level" questions. There are many places this happens. Some curriculum is based on "grade level" therefore making us constantly question what "grade" our child is in. Yet, even in those sources, what is "on grade level" isn't universal so it's a rather useless measure.

Then there are the questions that keep a homeschooling parent up at night.

"Is Timmy able to go back into school with the same class of kids he left?" It's a legitimate enough concern if you're only planning to homeschool for the short run, but long term, it's really not a sufficient concern. "Is he learning enough?" Most likely, yes. Children who are homeschooled repeatedly outperform their public school peers. And so on they rattle in the brain on sleepless nights.

I could go on about this for hours but the bottom line is that nationally developed standards don't even work. Each state is in charge of it's own education so the standards already vary from state to state. The new "national standards" are attempting to remedy that problem, however schools are consistently struggling with implementation and getting their already behind students to get caught up.

Children in public schools often appear to be running a race with an award at the end - a high school diploma. We continue to hold it slightly out of reach while forcing them to run faster and harder. It's almost like watching a cartoon of dogs racing with the "bait" dangling from the stick - ever elusive, ever just out of reach.

When are children are nearing that goal during their high school years, we begin to dangle another bait - college. Students who choose not to attend college are immediately looked down upon by their peers as the entire school is abuzz with who was accepted where and what they will be doing with their bright futures. Yet studies show far less students will ever reach this second bit of dangling bait with a diploma and those who do haven't always found it to be worth the cost of having a piece of paper.

I challenge you to try letting go of standards.

At first, the process is frustrating. Leaving public school established grade levels behind can be infuriating. Instead of constantly looking for "his grade" you'll have to start doing some homework. What, exactly is in the curriculum? What is covered? Dig into that table of contents and question ANY publisher who does not make their scope and sequence available to you as a consumer. "It's meant for __ grade" is not an answer, it's an excuse.

Consider stepping further outside of the box. You know what your children know. Allow them to become secure in their newfound knowledge. Perhaps it's time to let them pursue some interests that don't appear to be on the learning spectrum. In our home we're currently rebuilding a 1950's Willy's Wagon in school. You'd be amazed how much science and math it's taken...and it sure beats a textbook in the schoolroom. Practical experience beats textbooks every single time.

I'm often asked for a glimpse into our curriculum. I respond with the typical answer of publishers, books, and such that we are currently using in our home education program. To be frank, I believe I need to expand that. Our NEW curriculum is:

Math U See - Beta
Investigate the Possibilities - Elementary Physics
All About Spelling - 2
Catholic Heritage Handwriting - Level A
Homemade unit studies of the American Revolution

Building a 1951 Willy's Wagon Jeep
Putting in a new Garden
Building planter boxes for veggies, herbs and flowers
Planting apple trees
Researching and placing a windbreaker of shrubbery
Finding and researching insects we find
Watching Mythbusters
Watching Only In American w. Larry the Cable Guy
Church school
Taking care of our pets
Cooking classes

This could go on for pages - but I'll stop here...


  1. Great post - both in your analysis of the absurdity of "standards" and in listing your curriculum (i.e., including bookwork and the rest). One other point about so-called "national standards" that warrants considerable coverage: Education is technically a state responsibility according to the Constitution. Therefore, any national efforts toward education (including plans to implement "national standards" and even the very existence of the Dept. of Education) are actually unconstitutional. Best reason of all as far as I'm concerned to fight against them and/or ignore them as much as we can!