Sunday, August 1, 2010

Above Average

I have read that most parents think that their child is above average compared to other children their age. By definition, "above average" cannot be the status of the majority of children. Most of us have average children; average, individual, special, precious children who have been given the skills they need to achieve their purpose in life. I think we see them as so advanced because we get to watch them as they discover about life and explode into new areas of knowledge that we know are new to them. It is amazing to watch. Because of this, I think it is good to gain some perspective on what an average child of our child's age is learning or knows.

Proverbs 1:8 "Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching."
Whether children are in private school, public school, home schooled or even UN-schooled, I firmly believe that their education is ultimately the responsibility of their parents. We are the only ones with the unique knowledge and perspective of our children to know their strengths and weaknesses. We are the ones God entrusted with their little hearts for this season, and we have a responsibility to them. (Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 31:26, Eph 6:4, 2 Tim 4:2) How well do we know what they should be learning, though? What kinds of things are they learning in school, and what kinds of things will they learn only at home?

I think, as a society, we have assumed that if we send our children to school they will learn all they need to know. How many parents in the past have thought that their child was learning because they were progressing through the school system, only to learn that their child can't even read? Nowadays, I think that is less common. However, all of the children I know that do the best in school have their parents backing them up, checking up on them and making sure that they learn the work habits they need to succeed in school and in life. We, as parents, should know what they are learning in school and supplement whatever else we know they need to be learning.

Prior to our decision to homeschool, I was concerned about character development - how to know what to expect at different ages. I knew they would not be taught about character in school, but I also felt I had no clue what was even age appropriate for their school room learning. How was I supposed to know what "reading at a second-grade level" meant? I have found two resources that I hope will really help as I move forward in teaching my children in character development and academics at home.

"What Every Child Should Know Along the Way" - Gail Martin

I first Heard about this book on the Homemaker's By Choice podcast that I listen to. In one episode of their podcast, they had talked about developing your children's character and other skills. They mentioned that this book by Gail Martin included lists of what you should expect from children of different ages in different character and skill areas. I was excited to hear about a book that would address some of these concerns of mine. When I went to look for it on, it was listed for anywhere from $25 used to $375 new (OUCH!). I decided to wait until I could research it more and see if I could find it cheaper. I just found it and bought it on sale for $4.70 from the ministry that apparently originally worked on it (the foreword in the book is by one of the people from this ministry.) The name of the ministry is Growing Families International, and I found the book in their store, here. It looks like they might have more parenting and family resources, so I plan to check them out more later.

"Evaluating for Excellence" by Teresa Moon:
I have read a few posts about this, but I like this one best from The Homeschool Classroom, it was written by Brenda who blogs at Ties that Bind Us. For those of you not interested in reading the post, let me just give you an excerpt:

When I found this book, Evaluating for Excellence: A Handbook for Evaluating Student Progress, in 2004, I didn’t know what a gold mine I had hit. This book is better then year-end evaluations and it helps me plan our following year more effectively. It is full of tools to evaluate your children and yourself and it tells you how to use them. My favorite one is the Character Qualities Review. It has qualities listed such as: attentiveness, brotherly love, contentment, courtesy, cooperation etc… You evaluate your child by checking off weak, improving, satisfactory and excellent. When you place 2 or 3 years worth of this evaluation side by side you can really get a picture of the type of character your child is heading towards. It tells you where to put your focus.
After that, I was ready to read the book. The introduction of the book had me laughing so hard because of the similarities of my experiences to hers. (She contrasted a day when her son got stitches to a day out for a baby just got stitches and I LOVE my mochas!) Her point was this: how we feel about what we are doing changes with our circumstances, but we cannot judge our progress (or our children's) by how we feel. We need to have a better measuring stick than that. Here are some areas that this book can help you evaluate in your child's life:
  • Character Development
  • Student Inventory (overall assessment of every subject)
  • Diagnostic Writing Checklist (to track writing progress)
  • Family’s Approved Book list
  • Reading Genres
  • Physical education
  • Student Assignment Sheet
One of my favorite forms, so far, is an evaluation for me as a Homeschooling Mom - How am I doing? Do I need outside help on anything? I need to be aware of these things so I can make wise decisions for my kids.

Your child may be in a GREAT school. They may be really smart and getting great grades. I think it is wise to consider if there are things you might want to focus on with them, too, though. Are they learning more or do they just already know what is expected in their grade level? Are they being challenged or are they bored? Do they have a lot of academic opportunities, but not social ones? Are a lot of physical activities offered, but not many spiritual ones? Are they given lots of experiments, but not enough artistic expression? There are so many areas of education, and we need to be aware of how our children are growing in these areas. One of the reasons I think homeschooling is so great is that I can tailor their education to their strengths and weaknesses. I can give them opportunities to excel at their strengths and give special attention to their weaknesses. Even without homeschooling, though, I believe you can supplement their education so they are given those extra opportunities or the extra help they need.

I will be looking more at these two books, and maybe I will do more of a review after I have finished them. I like what I see so far!

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