When it comes to education, one size does not fit all. One of the benefits of homeschooling is parents' ability to shape education to fit each, not all.
This is important to you if any of this sounds familiar:
- Your child is seven and not reading at all.
- Your child is eleven and is working on her third novel.
- Your child is twelve and still can't coordinate how to swing independently.
- Your child is eight and is already a promising ice skater, dancer, or soccer player.
- Your child is five and fully understands the concept of pi and has memorized the periodic table.
- Your child is ten and can't play games with younger kids because of explosive frustration.
- Your child is nineteen and still doesn't know what she wants to do as a career.
- Your child is thirteen and is already clear on his path to become a surgeon.
- Your child is fourteen and is already elected president of everything.
- Your child is seventeen and can't keep his calendar straight.
- Your child is fifteen and cognitively challenged.
Kids come with a wide range of abilities—academically, developmentally, socially, temperamentally, artistically, physically, and emotionally. Expectations in schools are based on a "standard" student when there is no standard student. Kids mature at different rates, have unique interests, have their own home environments, and have their own genetic traits.
Todd Rose's book The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness explains how aiming to meet the needs of an average person ends up meeting no one's needs. From the publisher's description:
In 'The End of Average,' Rose, a rising star in the new field of the science of the individual shows that no one is average. Not you. Not your kids. Not your employees. This isn’t hollow sloganeering—it’s a mathematical fact with enormous practical consequences. But while we know people learn and develop in distinctive ways, these unique patterns of behaviors are lost in our schools and businesses which have been designed around the mythical 'average person.' This average-size-fits-all model ignores our differences and fails at recognizing talent.
When the school standard for kids is narrower than the actual range of normal, kids suffer. Children who are simply developing on their own timeline may be pathologized. They may become anxious or depressed; they may feel stressed out.
They simply haven't had the time to grow into who they will be.
And school can be even more challenging for kids who are atypical and have special needs.
Rose tells how schools are purposely set up this way in the Harvard Ed Magazine article, "Beyond Average:"
Students are grouped in grades based on chronological age. Curriculum and textbooks are written to be 'age appropriate.' Most standardized assessments, like the SAT or IQ test, are designed based on a comparison to a hypothetical average student. Walk into an elementary school classroom and even the literal design of the room is for the 'average' kid: one size desk, one size chair, one size table.
But . . . there isn’t one size student or one way to learn. 'Human beings don’t line up perfectly. There is no average learner,' Rose says. Every student has a jagged learning profile, too.
'They have strengths and weaknesses. They all do,' Rose says. 'Even geniuses do.'
What are some of the ways this wide range of kids can be educated at home?
- You can homeschool the child who is academically behind.
- You can homeschool a gifted child or a homeschool a child who is advanced.
- In fact, you can set the level of challenge "just right."
- You can homeschool an anxious child.
- You can homeschool the child with ADHD.
- You can homeschool different subjects at different grade levels.
- You can homeschool and purposely delay academics.
- You can help a later reader build content during a skills lag.
- You can homeschool by helping a child learn through specific interests.
- You can homeschool using right-brain learning strategies.
- You can homeschool without total reliance on textbooks.
- In fact, you can homeschool using real-world resources instead of curriculum.
- Or, you can choose the best curriculum for your child.
- You can homeschool using a homeschooling style that fits your child.
- You can homeschool potential dropouts from public school.
- You can homeschool the defiant or difficult child.
- You can homeschool to meet current needs now, including physical and mental health.
- You can homeschool and cultivate uniqueness by building on strengths.
- You can homeschool without rewards and punishments—they totally backfire on many kids!
- You can support intrinsic motivation.
Individual kids aren't average, and the typical school classroom is not set up to support the wide range of normal kids who are there. Even something that public education calls personalized learning is criticized today as diverting kids to computer-based learning that is isolating. Homeschooling can be personalized—that is, customized for individual persons—without giving up children's social context in the family and community.
That said, there are myths about homeschooling's superiority that are cringe-worthy. We're not suggesting homeschooling will solve all your problems, nor is it always the best choice for every family; we are saying that homeschooling is flexible and customizable, and parents can shape homeschooling to embrace their kids' individual needs and unique gifts, challenges, and timeline for development.