Are Grade Levels Arbitrary?
Grade levels are not the end-all-be-all of education, but milestones and objectives are important. There are some homeschool camps that feel grade levels are arbitrary and unimportant. While I agree that homeschoolers don’t necessarily need to stick to a strict standards -based education, I do think it is important for parents to be aware of different goals and milestones that children should meet in their educational career.
Think about it. Eventually, our kids will leave our homeschool. They will enter the workforce, enlist in the military, or will return to a brick and mortar school (this includes higher education). We need to make sure we are preparing them for that next step. Sometimes it is hard to look so far forward, but if we do not have a goal in mind, our homeschool journey may not be focused and we may be cutting our kids short.
I encourage parents to take their time to teach the basic math and reading skills, especially in the younger grades. It is important to build a strong educational foundation and you may need to take an extra week or even year to build that strong foundation. It will be more than worth your extra time in the end. Students who have been given that strong foundation tend to have better higher level thinking skills and can communicate better through written and verbal communication.
But it is important to keep your eyes on the final goal or you may miss it. When our kids leave our homes, they will have to be competitive with other people...competing for a job, a rank in the military, or a spot at a college or university. I like to compare it to athletics...if you don’t know your opponent's strengths and weaknesses, how can you effectively compete against him?
My first suggestion when thinking about whether or not grade levels or standards are important in your homeschool is to think about the end goal as well as the competition. Are we preparing our kids to be able to “compete” in the real world once they leave our homes? If other kids in brick and mortar buildings are learning "ABC" but we only teach our kids "A", we are cheating them. Do we need to strictly follow our state’s standards? No way. Do we need to make sure we are teaching everything the “other” kids are learning in a brick and mortar setting? No, again. But let’s be aware of what our kids need to know and be able to do in order to be as successful as they can be when they leave our homeschools.Let's work hard not to cut them short.