Rebecca's Ponderings

August 7, 2010

Numbers and Nonconformity

Filed under: Growing in Christ,Home Education,Parenting — Rebecca @ 6:59 am
Tags: ,

I got it again today. It is the question I dread most at this time of year. It brings me intolerable mental anguish and anxiety, especially in the month of August. For most people, this is a simple matter; the answer is given to them. Even most homeschoolers have a rather firm grasp on the concept. However, this question causes me to reconsider every parenting decision I have ever made and to doubt my capability as a mother and a teacher. What is the question that causes me such fear and trepidation?

“What grade is your child going into?”

It seems that long ago, someone in this state decided that all children born before September first would be put into a specific ‘grade’ in school. All those born after September first would have to wait an entire year to begin schooling. Unfortunately, my children’s birthdays fall slightly on either side if this all-important date. My children were LATE!

To make matters worse, my older child, who was born after the deadline, was ready to begin learning academics at a young age. My younger child, whose birthday is just before the deadline, is not as interested in academics, but is not developmentally delayed. They both also happened to develop close friendships with children a few months older than themselves. How could I have been so careless!

I realize that the people who made this rule did not intend to make my life miserable. They had chosen to take responsibility for the educations of millions of children. They had to have systems in place to make the process as streamlined as possible. They did not have time to determine the unique needs, strengths, and passions of individuals and customize programs specifically for each child in that system.

So now, the cutoff date has become a critically important benchmark. With that, some parents of children with “late birthdays” choose to delay academic education for an entire year, believing that being older than their peers will give their children an advantage in leadership. Others rush into academics and even use homeschooling in an effort to have an ‘advanced’ student and enjoy the prestige of a child prodigy. One public school teacher actually told me that she tried to time the birth of her child such that it would give him an advantage in school and avoid a summer birthday. I find that rather humorous since I grew up in a state whose cutoff date was in December.

Then, there is the determination of grade-level. What criteria do we use? Do we base it on reading skills? What about a dyslexic child who cannot read but is a genius in math or science? Do we follow the standards in this state? What happens if we move? Should we compare the standards of Europe or Asia? Even the curriculum publishers vary in their criteria for determining grade levels. Where is it written that learning can only begin in August or September, anyway?

Conformity runs deep. It is so ingrained in my mind that I have difficulty recognizing it in my thoughts and attitudes. During the convention last week, the Lord reminded me that we are not bound by these arbitrary, industrialized methods. So why do I still follow them? Why do I allow these numbers and dates to distract me from my calling to teach my children, impress the Word on them, and train them in righteousness? Each year, I have become anxious over what labels to assign to my children. How silly of me!

Because of this transformation in my thinking, I have determined to simply teach my children what they are ready to learn, regardless of grade-level. I have mostly been doing that anyway, but I have been severely lacking in confidence. I will seek God (who holds the keys to all knowledge, wisdom, and understanding) to decide what is appropriate for each child and when. Then, when I am asked that inevitable question, I will simply state that we homeschool and, if appropriate, give ages instead. Of course, I may occasionally get a bit cantankerous and respond with, “In which subject, and by whose standards?”

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