Monday, November 22, 2010

What grade is your homeschooler in? And how do you know, anyways?

Since we got to Beirut and sending our children to school became an option (homeschooling was really our only option in Cairo, but here there are a couple of possible schools, and our employer would pay for it), I’ve been thinking about grade levels: at a certain age, when and at what level should a child be? If my boys were to start a public or private school, what grade would they be in? What grade ARE they supposed to be in, anyways?!

Also, a lot of parents of children who attend public or private schools ask me how I know what grade my children are in. How do I know that they are doing a particular grade’s work?

The short answer is, Because I’ve done a lot of research, and I know what they should know and be able to do when.” To be more specific, I’ve written very detailed curricula based on information I’ve retrieved from educational websites, programs, state standards, and whatever other sources I’ve found useful, and besides letting my children take standard tests retrieved from several US state education departments, I’m making sure they fulfill their grade curriculum satisfactory.

In the US school system, it seems a child will usually start first grade the year he or she is six years old on 1 October (At least this is what it is like in the schools I know of). In Sweden, a child will start first grade the year he or she is turning seven (even though he or she might not be seven quite yet when school starts). In Belgium, a child will start school the year he or she turns six years old. These are the school systems we’ve taken into consideration, although the main factor in determining when to start a certain grade level for our boys has always been their maturity and readiness. Imprudent, I know, but hey, it’s our school system and we can do what’s best for our students! So August started first grade the year he turned six, as incidentally did William, only August was just six, and William was six and a half years old. This means that although there’s only a year and a half between them, they’re two full grades apart. Now William is almost a year ahead of his grade level in everything except for reading and writing, where he’s right on track. I can’t push him any faster without those two most essential subjects however, so on top of practicing these two particular subjects intensely every day, he’s doing a lot of extra activities, like art, music, and reading to Abraham while I work with August. He, on the other hand, is right on track in all his subjects but behind in writing, as in English composition. His handwriting is nice, and he has no trouble spelling, but putting together a text using his knowledge about paragraphs and topic sentences is quite a challenge. He’s doing fourth grade work in everything, and very well at that, but really; he writes like an early third grader or sometimes almost a second grader. Of course, again, because this is our school and we can do whatever we want, for example adjust our curriculum according to our students’ current needs, I’m slowing down all the other subjects for the moment to catch up with this particular one. “Operation Writing Camp” has been going on for a few weeks now, and I’m hoping that if we keep it up, we’ll see some progress soon.

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