It's Okay More Homeschoolers Are Behind in School

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5 Reasons It's Okay More Homeschoolers Are Behind in School

A 2012 study shows that homeschoolers were [at least] twice as likely to report being behind grade level than non-homeschoolers. Statistically, then, as homeschoolers, we're two to three times more likely to be behind than our publicly educated peers.

Wait. What!?

Bear with me a moment because even with these numbers mocking us, I firmly believe you made a good choice to homeschool. Here are five reasons it is okay for homeschoolers to be behind in school.

1. Schools are strange about grade level.

As Sir Ken Robinson points out, we group children by year of manufacture, which is a poor way of doing so. And I'm not really sure how we can claim that so many kids are "on level" when a local school here can fail to teach 84% of 10th graders math. I wouldn't be surprised at all if homeschooled kids had a more robust standard of what it means to be "on level." But even if that isn't the case...

2. Some homeschoolers start because the other systems failed them.

I doubt it's 14% of homeschoolers, but could it be 7%? If so, homeschoolers are right on target and only appear worse off because homeschooling is the only option left. I know some families homeschool because of special needs; of course, I also know homeschoolers who have special needs children in school for the support they receive, so this could be a wash. I don't know, and it doesn't sound like we have enough information to make any kind of statements. So what else is there?

3. Being on grade isn't our focus.

We both know that homeschoolers have strange priorities. One of the differences is that we are a little more comfortable with letting kids learn at their own pace. This is especially true in the younger years. I was way behind in reading for years. Homeschooling let me grow at my own pace. And today, part of how I earn my living is by writing. So being behind just isn't a disastrous thing for us. We don't get government funding based on how well we can shoehorn kids into batches. We focus on the student.

4. Final outcome is what matters, not the moment of observation.

So what if I was behind a few grades in reading? By letting me slip behind, my parents let me excel. And today, after doing just fine transitioning to public school from homeschooling, the fact that I was not on grade level in reading at one point doesn't matter. But there's one more point I'd like to drive home...

5.  Your student is more important than the system.

As homeschoolers, you and I get that. We're homeschooling for our kids. And the study in question demonstrates that religious and structured homeschoolers do great. Sure, we may not always be on level—we may be well ahead for all the data show—but, in the end, we have had great opportunities to be equipped to do whatever God has called us to do. And we have developed a lifelong love of learning while homeschooling with a curriculum we love.

Left Behind?

So, sure, we homeschoolers may, statistically, be more likely to be behind than their peers. That's fine. There are more important things for us than that.

5 Reasons It's Okay More Homeschoolers Are Behind in School

Learn more about teaching your children at their own pace and on their own level with Sonlight's book-based homeschool programs. Order a complimentary copy of your catalog today.

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12 Responses to It's Okay More Homeschoolers Are Behind in School

  1. Taryn says:

    Amen! Especially point #5!

  2. Luke says:

    Thanks, Taryn!


  3. Pingback: From Luke’s Inbox: What About AP Classes? | Sonlight Blog

  4. I agree 100%, they may be behind for a little while. But our priorities revolve around a much greater love for our students/children. They will excel when its the right time for them developmentally. Our home-school follows the Sonlight curriculum. However, we use the Instructors guide as a guide, and not be totally overwhelmed. My daughters are behind in all subjects, they are excelling though, because this is their first year schooling in english. They come from a Hawaiian speaking school, and have many many many terms in all subjects to learn and be familiarized with. Thank you for your article, and thank you to your family for offering this curriculum. God put this desire in my heart to get closer to Him and train my children up in truth and in love. They are'nt just a number as in a public school, they are our treasures from God. And in many ways their old school experiences have failed them, and I don't want to fail them or God.
    ALOHA :)

  5. Luke says:

    Thanks, Stephanie! All the best as you guys continue to transition to an English-based system. I'm so excited to hear how your daughters come to excel over their years with Sonlight!


  6. Annette Bannister says:

    I read the summary of the study, Luke, and here is what it said: "Green-Hennessy didn’t provide a percentage for religious homeschoolers, but she did say that only 13.6% of less religious homeschoolers reported being 2 or more grades behind their age cohort. While this percentage is 2.5 times higher than the national average, it still means that 86% reported being only a year behind, at, or above grade level. The percentage of religious homeschoolers reporting the same would have been even higher." It sounds like the respondents who were interviewed self-reported their grade level. There were no test scores involved. How many public school students self-report their grade level as lower than the grade they are actually in? Probably next to none (or 5.4%, if we do the math)--even if they actually test or function at a much lower grade level. So, this study really reveals a strength of homeschooling in a way--the strength you point out--that parents are allowed to teach their kids right at their level. So, if they're in 9th grade and working at a 7th grade level overall, their parents might tell them they are doing 7th grade work. The homeschoolers' self-reported grade level cannot be compared to the self-reported grade level among the public schoolers, who assess this in a completely different, less accurate way than homeschoolers do.

    Since learning does not happen in the linear fashion that grade levels suggest, but rather in fits and starts with sudden leaps of understanding and stalls of frustration, then being behind as a homeschooler is not a bad thing. As you point out, they can catch up by riding the more natural waves of learning, and often they do.

  7. Luke says:

    Thanks for digging into this more, Annette! Good points.


  8. So true! I often stress that my boys are "behind" but I also know that we are covering material that wouldn't have been introduced to them yet either.

  9. Michelle says:

    My question is behind what?
    Why do homeschoolers have to be measured by the school system's yard stick?

    Ever since years ago when we started homeschooling I realized how much we categorize and label our children by what the public schools say and do. It was like blinders were taken off my eyes. Or more like the movie Matrix and I swallowed the pill that would free my mind!

  10. Julie says:

    I know plenty of public school 10th graders who can't write a coherent paragraph, much less a whole essay! Yet others who can work an algebra problem on paper, but can't apply math in the simplest way (If apples cost $1.50/lb and you're buying 3 lbs how do you come up with the total?). Maybe after a few minutes of thought they arrive at, "Uh, 1.50 + 1.50+1.50" and then can't do that very simple problem in their head, they need a calculator. Yet, they are passed on to the next grade year after year. The idea that those kids are on level is ludicrous! No one is minding the store. Education is not what is happening in public schools, social engineering is what is happening in public schools!

  11. John says:

    So, sure, we homeschoolers may, statistically, be more likely to be behind than their peers.


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