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Learning-SuccessTM Coaches

by Victoria Kindle-Hodson & Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis

Dear Learning-Success Coaches:

My son, Michael, is going into the 4th grade. He’s only 8 years old and academically ahead of most of his peers. He’s bored and wants to skip the 4th grade this fall and go on to the 5th grade. I don’t think that this is a good idea. I know that he can handle the academic challenge, but if he skips a grade his brother Jason, who is 10 and in the 5th grade, is going to be very upset. Jason doesn’t understand things as quickly as Todd does, and if the two of them are in the same grade, I’m afraid that Jason will compare himself with his older brother and think that he’s not as smart. I really need this cleared up soon.

Thanks, Margaret

Dear Margaret:

Skipping a grade or being held back a grade is something that is common in public schools, however, you’re homeschooling so you can actually educate your children without talking about what grade levels they have finished or are going into.

In fact, I wish that homeschooling parents would drop grade levels entirely and move children along in different studies at the rate that is appropriate for the child. In reading, a child could be working at a level comparable to the 6th grade, and in math the same child could be working at a level comparable to the 3rd grade.

Without grade levels, a child's interests, curiosity, and willingness to practice a skill, propel the student to take the next steps in the learning process.

When learning is approached without grade levels, siblings see how different they are from each other and find out that comparison doesn't really work. Where one is strong, the other is weak. Where one soars, the other struggles along. When the means for comparison are removed (“You're in the 4th grade and I'm in the 5th” — as if grade level suggested that one is smarter than the other), siblings are more likely to share skill development tricks and learn from each other.

Emphasizing that you want your home school program to do what is appropriate for each child, recognizing that each child has very different learning needs, and customizing the course of study for each child will allow them to progress at their own rates without resorting to envious comparison.

Dear Learning-Success Coaches,

I have a nine-year-old child with sensory integration problems. She has an Inventing-Thinking/Relating learning disposition. She’s adding and subtracting two-digit numbers and memorizing her multiplication facts. Do you have some ideas about how to improve her skills? Thanks, Jeanette

Dear Jeanette:

It sounds as if your daughter is progressing well with her math skills. Sometimes it is tempting to think that our kids “should” be exactly on the same schedule of learning with the public schools. When you’re homeschooling you can adjust the learning to correspond with your child’s developmental needs, which includes the pace of learning. It won’t make any difference in the future whether your child learned the multiplication tables at age eight or age eleven or even age 14.

In addition, because of you daughter’s Inventing and Thinking/Creating Dispositions she may take longer to learn her math facts. In general, these students want time to explore, discover, and figure things out for themselves. They are usually very hands-on and enjoy manipulating things to find answers, which will increase sensory integration if they are allowed to.

What can be frustrating about these learners is that instead of doing their math assignments, they see their own relationships between numbers, and they want and need to play with them in their own way. Their own discoveries are much more important than memorizing facts and finishing pages of math problems.

The quick notations and repetitive routines for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, that we all learned aren’t as important in learning math as we take for granted. When children have a chance to explore the underlying patterns and relationships, they are more likely not to need much instruction about how to do the "operations," and they will be able to remember them, because in a sense they invented them for themselves.

Whole body activities — playing catch with a large ball while saying the times tables or jumping on a rebounder might be a fun and helpful way for your daughter to learn math facts. MEPW and VKH

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