Failing homeschool is not an option in my home. It just isn’t. Ultimately, a test is designed to tell the teacher (ME!) whether or not the students (my kids) have mastered the material or lessons. If they fail the test, they obviously have not mastered the material. If they have not mastered the material, we won’t move on to the next lesson. We stay put until they have mastered the material before moving onto the next lesson.
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This is one of my favorite aspects of homeschooling! We can spend weeks on one lesson if we need to. We can also zip through other lessons. I love having that freedom.
Many years ago, I was a special education teacher teaching a resource class in a public school. I have seen so many children who just got stuck on a single skill… frequently single digit multiplication. Interestingly, kids who can’t do single digit multiplication will likely fail double and triple digit multiplication. You’re not shocked by that? Of course not! A child who can’t multiply 9 X 9 will not be able to multiply 99 X 99. However, these children are being dragged through double digit multiplication lessons even though they don’t know single digit multiplication. Children who can barely sound out the word “dog” will not be able to read the word “notebook”.
Schools have programs to help, but a lot of children fall through the cracks… especially the children who just need help with a few small things. Many times, their grades and other indications just won’t signal a problem, but the child isn’t ready to move on quite yet.
My boys are seniors this year. We are working on trigonometry in math right now. They passed the test over chapter 2, but I don’t feel like they have a firm grasp on the material. Chapter 3 heavily builds upon chapter 2. We could move on to chapter 3, but it will be so much more difficult than if we repeat chapter 2 and make sure they really get it. Chapter 3 will still be there when we are ready for it. We are also more likely to finish chapter 3 quicker if we have a better understanding of chapter 2.
I do make a few exceptions. My daughter hated botany with an absolute passion. I don’t know why, but she easily aced every science topic while barely being able to squeak by with a low C (at best) in botany. As soon as I figured out that botany just wasn’t her bag, I had a parent/teacher conference with myself and decided that my daughter could become a successful adult without botany mastery. Did she still have to do the botany? Yes. Botany is important… but so is sanity.
Know your educational goals.
Educational goals are an important step to making these tough decisions. My children are college bound so I ask myself, “Will they be ready for college?” Do they need to have mastered this lesson to get into college? To graduate college? To become a successful and productive adult? Or more immediately: To understand the next lesson? These questions guide me in evaluating their success. Sometimes a C average on a quiz, test, or project is fine while other times a A- average is not good enough. Have they mastered enough of this material to achieve their goals?
Jay Leno used to go to college campuses and ask college students basic American history questions or questions about current events. Other talk show hosts, YouTube personalities, etc. have done the same thing. One of my goals is to make sure my children wouldn’t look like complete idiots if they were interviewed by one of these people… or relatives during the holidays.
Children planning to go to a Trade School might need a greater mastery in the areas related to that trade than in unrelated subject areas. Children taking over the family business would need to have greater mastery of both the business and the finances related to running a business. Children who plan to join the workforce without continuing education past high school will need mastery in subjects that are relevant to their own needs as an adult. One size does not fit all.
One size does not fit all.
But isn’t that why most of us homeschool anyway? We don’t want our children to be squeezed into a one size fits all approach to education. A grade on a test is just a letter or number. Mastery is so much more than a letter on a test. Mastery of skills and information that is vital to your child’s goals is essential to your child’s success in life. I would be failing my children if I allowed them to fail those essential skills and move on to the next topic. That is why failing homeschool is not an option in my home.
If you’re just beginning your homeschool journey or thinking about homeschooling, find out Why I Choose to Homeschool.