Thursday, January 14, 2010

Homeschooled Super Kids

The uninformed sometimes assume parents can't effectively teach their children at home. My teen enjoys wearing a tee shirt designed to poke fun at this impression. It reads, "I Are Homeskooled".

If we have friends or relatives who are concerned our homeschooled children will grow up poorly educated and lacking in social skills, we've probably armed ourselves with some statistics designed to quell their fears. Homeschoolers' standardized test scores average twenty or thirty percent higher than students in public school. In states where homeschooled students register with the school district, 25% of homeschoolers are enrolled one or more grades above their age level. Students taught at home read earlier and more regularly. They attend college classes during their high school years. They excel in geography. They win spelling bees.

But what if YOUR child isn't doing any of those things? We may have armed ourselves too well! By using exceptional students as examples to defend our decision to home educate, we often set up unrealistic expectations. Now there's something "wrong" with our child if he is simply average.

Mothers, especially, may feel pressured to produce super kids. The decision to homeschool usually follows a period of concentrated focus on the needs of the child. It's only AFTER home instruction begins that the teaching parent realizes their OWN performance is now being scrutinized by critical family and friends. "I feel as though I'm under a microscope," one mom confessed. "My family reads about homeschoolers who excel and they expect me to produce the same results with my son!"

One dad stepped up and declared his children's academic performance off-limits during get-togethers with extended family. "My kids were held to such high standards!" he explained. "No, they haven't won any contests lately . . . but we've more than satisfied all the requirements for homeschooling in Oregon. Why isn't that good enough?"

The baby in the picture is my son. I snapped that shot because it looked like he was reading at nine months, despite his special needs. "Look what homeschooling can do!" I joked. I no longer try to promote those high expectations. Enter the spelling bees, if your student is interested. But feel equally free to decline. Ignore those who expect homeschooling to produce near-genius results. It's only fair to expect our kids to do their best.

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