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Falling Behind

Now, I don't take much stock in grade levels. They're a nice guide or label when speaking with others about where a particular child is academically.

For instance, would it impress you if I were to tell you that Emperor is eight, but halfway through sixth grade Teaching Textbooks? Mind you, he has difficulty with basic "hello, and how are you" type of exchanges. Great difficulty. I think overall he's an average guy.

Or how about G? G is 15. He is in special classes. Oh, he is passing ninth grade in public school, but he cannot construct a coherent written paragraph. I don't fault the school. That's just the nature of his disability. He can speak with you just fine. Good eye contact. Stays on topic for the most part. I think overall he's an average guy, but gradewise? I have no clue what "grade level" I would say he's in were he homeschooled. He'd be working in the same classes as Emperor, and that would probably burn him up.

Here's an interesting story about the "choices" that children and their families are faced with when they don't meet grade level expectations.

"As her sixteenth birthday approached last summer, Curtisha Davis faced two less-than-ideal school choices. She could attend eighth grade at a K-8 program, where most of the students would be two, even three, years younger. Or she could go to Booker T. Washington, a school created for older students who have not yet passed the eighth grade, a place Davis feared after hearing of regular fights."

"In Davis' view, either decision would carry a stigma: She would either be stuck with the little kids, or the 'bad' ones."

"'I had thought about dropping out, but I can't do that yet,' Davis said. 'So I'll just stay and try until I can't try no more.'"

They stuck the kid in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL for another year. In the article, they says there isn't a detrimental effect on socialization in school. I can't imagine, though, knowing your friends are preparing for the prom while you have just been awarded the "I'm a READER" red ribbon and your class got the school bookworm award.

And looking at it as a parent of elementary aged children for a second... Would YOU want a 17-year-old boy in your daughter's fifth-grade class? What on earth are these school folks thinking when they state there is no negative impact on socialization?

Now, I know what you radical homeschoolio folks might be thinking. It would be great to have older kids and younger kids hanging out together, and it's one of the wonderful things about homeschooling and blah blah blah. To me, though... somehow... it just is NOT right in a school situation.

But having 17-year-olds and eight-year-olds hanging out together at a homeschool co-op is ok with me. Am I a hypocrite? I don't know what to tell you.

And there's this: I'm upset looking at the article and seeing the students in the alternative school with no desks. YES, when we homeschool, we don't use desks. We lie around on the couch. We sit at the table. We stand and read. But... I would feel gypped and angry if I sent my child to a public school and found out there were no desks. That's just not right! Am I a hypocrite? I don't know what to tell you.


  1. The current research on child development absolutely supports this! It is called the zone of proximal development. When you have students working outside their zone through age promotion, they have a hard time catching up. But, if they are allowed to work where they need to be, then they will learn more.

    Here is something really retro. Think about the one-room school house. Teachers were allowed to "place" kids at their level. A kid like G. and Emperor could be in the same room. Each would be working in the level that made sense for that kids. Our literacy rates were much higher back then.

    I think that every teacher and homeschooler should read the book Understood Betsy. If they don't have the time, then try this chapter: "What Grade Is Betsy?"


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