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What Grade Are You In?

By Lara DeHaven
How do I answer the question?

How do I answer the question?

I am willing to bet that I am not the only home schooling mom who cringes with the above question. We live in a society where children regardless of their ability are labeled with a grade level. The beauty of home schooling is that parents get to teach their child at his/her ability and level. We don’t have to teach to a standardized test. We don’t have to teach to the average student while leaving some behind and leaving some bored. We truly do not leave a child behind. However, determining the grade of the child can sometimes prove difficult.

When I first began home schooling, my daughter had just turned four. Kyla is a very bright child and had been attending a very good daycare while I taught at the local high school. The daycare evidently used a great preschool program because Kyla could write, count, spell her colors, etc. She was ready to learn more.

So I decided to put her in Kindergarten. Therefore now six years later, Kyla is in the 5th grade at the age of nine. I began thinking long-term and realized at this pace she would graduate at 16. I am not ready for that. I don’t think that it is in her best interest to graduate at that age. I was seventeen when I started my college education. It was not the academics that were hard for me, but rather the college life and environment for which I was not quite ready.

So now what do I do?  There is no 13th grade.  A great book by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Understood Betsy, sums up the struggle of grade assignment. “Why — why,” said Elizabeth Ann, “I don’t know what I am at all. If I’m second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade spelling, what grade am I?”(61).

My daughter shares a similar confusion. People are always asking her what grade she is in. This question makes her feel uncomfortable because an accurate answer involves a lengthy explanation. She would have to describe what she can do and at what level in all of her subjects. Most of the time people just aren’t that interested in the actual answer. So this year Kyla answers, “5th.”

I wish that people understood like the teacher in the book, Understood Betsy. To Elizabeth Ann’s question, her teacher responds,

You aren’t any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You’re just yourself, aren’t you?
What difference does it make what grade you’re in? And what’s the use of your reading little baby
things too easy for you just because you don’t know your multiplication table (61-62).

After all, aren’t we teaching our children to love learning and to continually seek learning new things. We want them to find and develop their individual talents and gifts. At the same time they need to identify and strengthen their weaknesses. These goals have little to do with grade level.

Next time someone asks Kyla the grade level question, I think she should just smile and say her age. What do you think? Does your family experience the same awkward feeling? Or, do you have a suggestion for me? Please let me know.

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14 Responses to “What Grade Are You In?”

  1. Kat

    Boy! We sure can relate to this! My daughter is the same way, scaterred all over the board! We simply answer the grade level that her agemates are in and it simplifies things for us. You are right no one wants to hear the true explanation. I like your blog a lot, Lara. I think you are right we must be kindred spirits.

  2. Marjorie

    Ugh…..we have the same problem with Madeline. She also has an October b’day which put her another grade behind. She too would graduate at 16 if we keep this pace. She just answers 8th grad when people ask. If they are more curious I just tell her to say she is young for her grade and that usually stops them…..too much to try and think through on their part we have found. :-)

    Madeline is looking at all the extra academic and 4-H things she can concentrate on after her ‘official’ schooling is over. We will not “officially’ graduate her until she is 18. So, we are looking at it as a great benefit and opportunity for her to work and serve the community more her last “two years’ before graduation. This should be easy for us since she is the youngest and no other child to be schooling after her…..we will see if this is the path that God will keep us on….

  3. This makes me smile. I have kids who have a wide range of ability too. Actually one of the things I’m fighting now is a bit of pride at their perception that they are doing well. It doesn’t take too many writing assignments to bring their math and reading hubris back down to earth.
    A funny story. I was once at a wedding rehearsal dinner. The groom’s nephew was at our table and I asked him what grade he was in. I got an answer about how he was fifth grade age but doing seventh grade math and eight grade reading. I looked at his mom and asked, “So are you homeschooling?” We ended up having the most wonderful chat about homeschooling and their experiences. So the longwinded answer isn’t always a bad one.

  4. Lara DeHaven

    Thank you, ladies. I really appreciate your input. It is nice to know that you are not the only one experiencing the same thing. I like the idea of just schooling until 18 regardless. I enjoyed the wedding story. Thank you for sharing.

  5. […] What Grade Are You In? — Besides being a great post, it has an extremely funny photo, and it mentions the wonderful book Understood Betsy. […]

  6. silvermine

    My son just answers whatever he wants. :D He would be in Kindergarten this year, but he’s managed to figure out some of his books are first grade… ;)

    When I was in the 2nd-4th grades, half my classes were with the grade above mine anyway. What grade was a I in? Well, I guess if you go by my homeroom, I was one. If you go by my math class, a completely different one.

    I wouldn’t worry about it. Have her say whatever she feels like. :> Her age, 5th, “None”. Who knows. Think of it as a great way to let people know more about homeschooling?

  7. Very nice great article thank you…

  8. What Grade Are You In? | Texas Homesteadervery nice good article. thank you.

  9. thank you for share . great post

  10. thank you for share.

  11. thank you great article

  12. very very good thank you admin :)

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  14. Katy Did

    I really like the answer of “I’m 5th grade age,” because that’s what people are really after–the approximate age of the child.

    As to being done with high school early, I’ve heard of many homeschoolers in that boat. It’s a great time to take a Community College course or two, and concentrate on figuring out what career they are interested in. They can shadow different people at their jobs, volunteer or find other ways to learn about different jobs. I heard of one kid who wanted to go into Emergency Medicine; by 16 he had his EMT certification and was riding along with the Ambulance company. That’s not for everyone, but with that experience he’s got a very good idea of what that career will entail (not to mention it will look great on a resume when he’s looking for his first real job!). I wish I had known more about what different jobs were really like when I was in college and choosing a major.

    It’s still a long way off for me (my daughter is 7), but I wanted to share some good ideas I’d heard about.


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