Knowing your child’s learning readiness—in addition to their learning preferences —can help you make clearer choices for curriculum and teaching approaches.
Honestly, it’s common for parents to find that their child is on grade level in a certain subject, like math, but is a few years behind in some other subject, like reading or language arts.
So, if that’s your child’s situation, you’ve got options.
Consider Curriculum Options
- Depending on your child’s age, learning preferences, strengths, and needs, you can choose from (or mix and match) different course delivery and response formats like textbooks, workbooks, DVD courses, recorded online courses, and live streaming online courses.
- Maybe a co-op in your area will allow your student to take classes à la carte—one subject at a time.
- Instead of buying a whole “grade package,” you could purchase subjects individually from a curriculum publisher, each at the grade level that meets your child’s functioning and needs.
- But you may decide to go ahead and do what a lot of homeschoolers do and just take an even broader “eclectic approach” to curriculum—or even in how you approach education and learning. It won’t help you answer the “What grade is your child in?” question, but it may really help meet your child’s learning preferences and academic needs—and that’s the point!
If you want a good evaluation of many different curriculum options, we highly recommend Cathy Duffy’s Homeschool Curriculum reviews. Starting here will save you a lot of time and money!
If you find out that your child has a specific learning disability, there are also companies that specialize in curriculum for these students. (Learn more here!)
Adjust Pacing of Instruction and Exposure to Concepts Based on Readiness
Most parents can sometimes find it hard to relax with pacing and grade levels because we’re tempted to compare. But it really is okay to adjust the pacing of instruction, based on your child and what she’s ready to learn.
You can move faster, like skipping lessons that are too easy, or even a grade level that’s too easy! Or, you can move more slowly and break up one lesson into many days, weeks or even go back a grade.
It can be hard to accept the “going back a grade” or slowing down options—we get that. But it can be helpful to swallow hard and remember that the goal is real learning and steady progress, not keeping up with others.
You have the freedom to think outside the (grade level) box! Instead of limiting yourself to only the material labeled for a certain grade, consider what your child has mastered, then move to the next level.
In other words, it’s OK to use the grade level on your curriculum as a suggested order, rather than a rule.
Or, you can take your cue from the gifted/talented class model: A child in this type of program in school still retains his age grade label, but he moves ahead more quickly in the areas where he has special interest or ability. For example, a 3rd grader might be at a 4th or 5th grade level in math or science. That’s pretty common!
If your child is racing ahead, and chomping at the bit, you can also encourage her to dive deeper into that topic! This might speed up the pace or slow it down as you give her more time to explore and grow. This is the freedom of homeschooling—fostering deep richness instead of a running a fast race.
Allow for Accommodations or Modifications
Sometimes, your child may find that if you allow certain accommodations, he can accomplish grade-level content. So, what is an “accommodation”?
Accommodations don’t make the work any easier. An accommodation is just a change in the way the student takes in the information or shows that he’s got it.
So, for example, a child with visual processing challenges might do better following along with a recorded book, instead of simply reading the words on a page. If you remove the pressure of the visual part of reading, you may find his mind relaxes so he can listen and learn the content more readily. You’ve removed the stress-barrier so this “accommodation” may enable him to freely learn! This is an example of “accommodating” the way he uniquely takes in or receives content.
Think of all the senses. Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and even tasting! They are the gates which open up learning.
Experiment and see which senses seem to open the widest gates for your kiddo.
That’s the taking-in side of accommodations. But, then there’s also the giving-out part—demonstrating material learned.
Some kids thrive with written tests, and others can show the same level of learning, but need to do it orally. That’s an accommodation—same content learned, just a different way of showing it.
However, if your child has more significant learning needs, he may need to have the curriculum modified.
A modification does change the level of difficulty of the assignment.
For example, maybe a high school course is written at a 5th grade reading level. Or, if a written assignment is shortened for the student to write one paragraph instead of a two-page report. These are examples of a modification.
You can learn more about modifying curriculum and resources for your child’s specific needs here.
Remember, you get to decide!
At the end of the day, you are the administrator of your homeschool. You know your child best and so you get to decide how you handle the “grade level” question.
Maybe you’ll be like some families who don’t move their child to the next grade unless they are on grade level in every subject.
Or, maybe you’ll choose to keep moving through curriculum at your child’s pace. Then you might allow your child to answer The Question by saying they are in the next grade, even if they are behind their peers in some subjects.
Or maybe, you’ll just be like other families who disregard the use of grade levels altogether.
It is up to you.
You are addressing your child’s educational needs. You are working with her to maximize her gifts and potential and help her progress. So you and your child get to decide yours best answer to “The Grade Question”!
Interested in learning more about placement testing? You can learn more in Part 3.
Or maybe you’re ready to jump into finding curriculum?
If you have concerns that your child is working significantly behind the average for his age, you may want to chat with one of our HSLDA Special Needs Consultants and discuss your concerns with a legal representative for your state. We are here to make homeschooling possible!