Thinking Beyond Grade Levels When Planning Your Homeschool Year
If you’re brand-new to this blog, coming over from Meet the Timberdoodle Blog Team — WELCOME! I’m so thrilled you’re here.
I’m Gina Munsey, a second-generation homeschooler and a third-culture kid, child to homeschool pioneers and missionaries. I was born in Southern Mexico (Oaxaca wuh-HA-kuh specifically, thus the name of this blog), and then spent my formative childhood years behind the Iron Curtain in the former Yugoslavia. (Fun fact: I was in Germany the day the Berlin Wall fell, and came to America just after the tanks rolled in to Yugoslavia, but before Sarajevo fell.)
After stints in the Midwest, Florida, and the West Coast/Best Coast AKA California, I now find myself in the idyllic historic town of Franklin, Tennessee, just outside Nashville. I homeschool my neurologically gifted 8-year-old, and our school days usually involve an abundance of books, lots of math, and yes, Mandarin Chinese, too. I’m expecting my second (miracle!) child this fall, so our school days are about to get a whole lot more…interesting.
And a whole lot more heavily caffeinated.
I’m in the thick of planning for it all now.
Are you like me? Do you love planning for a new school year? I definitely do. I
obsess over delight in all the new catalogs, text about curriculum endlessly with friends, click through book preview thumbnails until my eyes cross and water, shuffle through my note-ridden index cards, and track down all the used book sales in the area, tempted to buy enough schoolbooks to teach at least half a dozen more students than I actually have.
Homeschoolers love to talk about curriculum, don’t they?
Whether it’s in person or online in my FREE homeschool community for outliers, people always have questions about curriculum.
But curriculum really can pose quite a conundrum for our differently-wired kids. If there’s anything I’ve learned through the years of being a child to homeschool pioneers — and now a second-generation homeschool parent to a neurologically gifted, asynchronous child — it’s that homeschooling allows us the immense privilege of creating a completely personalized custom education for each child.
Think about that for a minute! As a homeschooler, you have front-row access to choosing a learning path tailored perfectly to your child’s unique strengths and weaknesses.
- no IEPs to battle through,
- no boxes you have to force your child into,
- no rigid grade levels you’re tied to.
For each subject, you get to
- choose the level,
- set the pace, and
- adjust the overall trajectory.
What a privilege!
While selecting curriculum can be overwhelming (so.many.choices), I find it helps enormously to take your eyes off the hundreds of choices floating around out there in CurriculaWorld, and focus your eyes on your child for a moment.
- What does he/she need?
- Are there any specific area of interest he/she especially loves?
- Where could he/she use some extra support?
- In what areas does he/she excel?
You’ll have to work these into legal requirements, of course. For instance, in the state of Tennessee, we’re required to conduct school for at least 180 four-hour days — and some states are required to cover a set list of subjects — but within those parameters, there is
- so much freedom,
- so many possibilities, and
- endless opportunities to learn.
Grade levels can be used as a baseline, but as a homeschooler, you can adjust these up and down to meet the needs of your child.
Remember, as I’ve written before, “The belief in same-age sameness arose out of institutional necessity, as the school system sought to streamline the education of large groups of children. And as a result, we’ve all been conditioned to think in terms of being behind or ahead of grade level.”
But what if we broke free from those restrictions? We don’t have to educate classes full of children en masse, we only have to tend to the personalized education of our own children. And when we’re focused on individual needs, we can be so much more personal and intentional in our curriculum selections.
For example, my daughter — who would be considered a second-grader according to her age — is at a fifth-grade level in math and fourth/fifth in grammar. For science, we’re firmly in middle school, yet in art she’d be delighted with a kindergarten or first grade project. Then when it comes to choosing comprehension guides for rooting out themes, identifying inferences, and analyzing literature, she’s about a second-grade level — but she’s already devoured the unabridged Hobbit and Oliver Twist.
And that combination (or mashup, if you will) is just plain amazing. She’s able to thrive in this customized environment, rather than being locked into learning only those topics associated with her chronological age.
Can you tell I love the flexibility and freedom of this whole process?
Truthfully, I’ve loved the process of choosing curriculum since I was about ten years old. (Yes, really. #homschoolkidproblems) I’ve always loved reading curriculum catalogs. Our whole education was a gloriously eclectic smorgasbord of the very best resources available from across various publishers (plus thousands of reading books over the years.) I used to go to book fairs and conventions with my mom, and I remember pouring over the pages of the Timberdoodle catalog in particular, starry-eyed over all the amazing books and learning tools.
So as I’m pulling together all the details for our 2019/2020 school year plan — a plan which
- is tailored for asynchrony (being many ages at once),
- allows for hands-on and kinetic learning,
- basks in the glory of dozens and dozens of free-read books,
- gleans from many eclectic sources,
- remains true to classical foundations, and
- incorporates a Christian worldview —
I’m also delighted to announce I’m a new member of the Timberdoodle 2019/2020 blog team.
But what does this mean for you?
It means throughout the year, I’ll be sharing — right here in this space — helpful detailed reviews of various learning tools, to help you as you tailor an individualized education for your own wonderfully quirky child.
Who are you homeschooling this year? What is it about your unique students that makes homeschooling such a great fit for your family? I’d love to get to know you better. You can find me on
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Meanwhile, what subjects do you most need help figuring out for the upcoming school year? What’s the one area that always leaves you feeling stumped? Leave a question in the comments — or join my FREE online homeschool community — and I’ll help you brainstorm.