Sometimes You Must Compare, by Briana Elizabeth
I’ve said it so often myself, as a veteran homeschooler, “Don’t compare! Your child learns at a pace different from everyone else, and it’s an injustice to them to compare how fast they learn!” I mean, isn’t that what homeschooling is all about? A parent having the power to choose what’s appropriate for their student?
But I have found an exception to my rule, and I want to be a warning to you that sometimes, you must compare.
We’re almost into the middle of June, many of us are winding up our school year, or at least changing tracks for the summer, and planning out the next year and giving final grades or assessments to our students.
My 11th grader and two freshmen have all used David Hick’s Norms and Nobility Humane Letters lists which I love because I see them as an orchestra of beauty and truth, and my children have read through those challenging lists with gusto. Some of our favorite books and poetry are found on those lists. We truly love them. But my youngest son, who will be entering 8th grade this year and is a boy who would rather be playing in a fort, had to have a lot of accommodations made for his 7th-grade list (which is quite substantial, I assure you). I was getting upset with his work, and though I have always taught to an A, meaning we do the work until it’s done perfectly–there is no mediocre and move on–I was having to constantly move projected dates back for him, and I started to realize that he wasn’t as mature as he needed to be to accomplish this list, never mind the 8th grade list. I was dreading how I would eventually have to drag him through those books.
Because of all this, I began to wonder if I should red-shirt him. Now, I have done so before with my current 11th grader, and it worked out incredibly well. I remember my math teacher in high school remarking that he wished all boys could enter school at seven years of age, instead of five, because they needed time to mature. Although it puzzled me then, now as the teacher of my children, I see what he meant. Not all boys need the time, but some do, and that should be available to them as a gift, not as a punishment of being held back.
Then I began to consider doing a 7.5 year, and just idling where we were until he was ready to take off again. Kind of like a gap year, but for middle school. It isn’t a bad idea, and one I was happily starting to pull together.
However, I recently received Memoria Press‘ Classical Teacher in the mail and it hit me – I was expecting so much of him because I had only ever compared him to his siblings. As I read Memoria’s catalog, I realized he could more than accomplish the work they had laid out for 8th grade, and I wouldn’t have to make any accommodations.
I have long held that a parent should use MP as a plumb line, but I had forgotten to follow my own advice. I know Memoria’s choices are wise, and their scope and sequence challenging yet appropriate. In our case, it will work perfectly.
Comparison doesn’t always have to be the root of envy. Sometimes it can be a reality check that doing less than what you’ve expected or previously accomplished isn’t always a bad thing. I was reminded to adjust my expectations to the child. After all, he learns at a pace that is his own, and I have the power to accommodate my student as a homeschooler.
And that is always a wonderful thing.
Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.