What Grade Are You In?
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.