Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Grades My Kids Aren't In

Here is something new.

When someone who knows we homeschool asks what grades the children are in, I'm no longer going to spout off a number. 

Instead I'm going to say, "We don't do grades, but this one is eight years old, this one is seven, and this one is five."  If the person looks at me with confusion--or contempt--I'm going to try very hard not to add, "If they were in school, they'd be in such-and-such grades."

The reason for this change is that I've stopped thinking of my children in terms of grade levels.  I no longer care what grades they would be in if they were in school.  It's no longer important to me that their skills are at or above grade level, whatever that means.  In fact, that goal seems utterly incompatible with the kind of deep, joyful learning my family values.

I have seen each of them, in turn, learn about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln because they were interested in money. 

They have learned about fractions because they are interested in being fair.

They are learning to write, at different paces and in different ways, because they have things they want to say.  Yesterday, one of them set up a booth with our face/body paints (the safe kind, in case anyone's wondering) and a sign that said "TATTOO CITY."  The other two paid a quarter each for custom-designed body art.  A few hours later, I noticed a discarded piece of paper that read "TATTOO SITTY."  I don't know the process by which the spelling was corrected, but neither I nor any other adult was involved.

By the way, I didn't come to this decision (realization?) about the kids' grade levels by myself.  A few things Sandra Dodd wrote crossed my path at the right time.  One was the essay, "How Holly Takes the World for Granted," from Moving a Puddle, though there may have been others.  Sandra has written a lot, for which I am grateful.


  1. I absolutely agree!
    I generally say, "Well, homeschoolers don't really think in grade levels..." When met with the blank stare, I say, "Well, we actually don't know...I guess my son would be in the seventh grade or daughter would be in high school..."
    I tend to let it fade off, just to make the point that grade levels are superfluous to a learning environment.

    Peace, Karen
    P.S. I am enjoying your blog! Your writing really appeals to me!

    1. Karen, thanks for stopping by--and for sharing your experience with this subject.