Your State or Your Choice?

As a mom who has homeschooled for 14 years, I often get questions from new or potential homeschooling moms.  Most moms who homeschool their children honestly want to do what’s best for their children.  They want to provide their children with the best education they possibly can while providing a safe and happy environment for those children in which to live and learn.  Because they want to do a good job educating their children, these moms sometimes wonder if they should follow the curriculum guidelines that are set forth for public schools to follow.

Your state or your choice

Do you need to follow these guidelines for which subjects should be taught certain years in certain grades?  Won’t your child suffer if she doesn’t learn algebra the very same year she would have learned it had she been in a classroom somewhere instead of in your home?  Isn’t there some wonderful reason why certain subjects are taught in certain grades?  Won’t you be a terrible mom and a horrible teacher if you don’t follow the state’s guidelines just like public (and maybe even private) schools in your area follow?

My answer is no.  There is nothing “magical” about teaching certain subjects at certain grades.  Of course public schools must teach certain subjects in certain grades, or there would be no way to test all of the students at the end of the year.  It would be chaotic if each teacher decided what she wanted to teach her children that year.  There would probably be some subjects that never were taught at all and other subjects that were taught year after year if there were no state requirements and teachers could teach whatever they wanted to in each grade.

But don’t the folks who create those state requirements know what’s best for your child?  The answer again  is, “No!”  The people who set those requirements do not know your child or your family.  They don’t know your child’s strengths and weaknesses.  They don’t know your child’s interests.  So while it is necessary for public schools (or even private schools) to teach certain subjects at certain times, we homeschooling moms do not need to feel bound by those requirements.

There may be some states which do require that homeschool families teach certain subjects in certain grades.  If that is the case where you live then, by all means, it is important to follow those guidelines.  If that is not the case in your area, then I encourage you to be confident in choosing what subjects you do each year according to what works best for you and each of your children.  Consider each child’s level of maturity and interests.  Consider how each child likes to learn.  Don’t feel like you must use a “cookie cutter” approach!  One of the most wonderful things about homeschooling (in a very long list of wonderful things) is being able to do what’s best for each child individually!

My younger daughter learned to read very early but was not ready for math instruction at all.  Math was frustrating for her, and she just didn’t “get it.”  I waited until 3rd grade to do math with her.  By that time, she was mature enough to understand the basics of math, and she learned quickly and wasn’t frustrated by the experience.  Some of my homeschooling friends found it hard to believe that we didn’t do math at all for K-2nd grades.  My daughter is now finishing 4th grade, and she’s doing great with math!  I honestly believe that,  if I had forced her to do math before she was ready, she would have hated math and never been very good at it.  I’m so thankful to have been able to wait a few years until she was ready.

My son loves history and maps and wars.  We spend much more time concentrating on subjects like history and geography because of his interest in those areas.  Of course we still do the other subjects like math and science, but I think it’s more important to concentrate on his areas of interest since those are more likely to be important when he chooses a career later on.

What happens if my child who hates math right now one day develops a love for it and decides to become a math teacher or an engineer or some other math-related career?  If that is the case, then that child will obviously be self-motivated enough to learn whatever math is required for his career.  The same is true for a child who dislikes science or history or any other subject.  If that child decides to pursue a career in which that particular information is important, then she will be motivated to learn that subject on her own.  Until that point, she won’t be receptive to that subject and won’t learn much about it anyway.

What I’m basically saying is to do what’s best for your children and your family.  Consider the state requirements if you must, but don’t feel bound by them if not.  Encourage your children to pursue their particular areas of interest.  Teach the basics of each subject, but really spend time on those subjects that your children love.  Allow them to develop a love of learning by presenting certain subjects and information once they are mature enough to understand them.  While you may not have total freedom depending upon which state you live in and what that state’s homeschooling laws are, do what you can to tailor your children”s homeschool programs to their needs and interests.  You will find that your children will enjoy learning and you will enjoy teaching if you do these things.  God put you in charge of your children’s homeschool program, so don’t be afraid to take charge and do what you know is best!

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  1. Great post! I feel like it is so important to follow your child’s lead. Especially in the early years (which we are in now). This is the reason we are homeschooling, to give our kids a better chance at learning, and continuing to love learning. I don’t want to force her into something she isn’t ready for, and I don’t want to wait too long to introduce something because it is too advanced. It is unfortunate that some states are so strict with their homeschool laws. I think that as long as you are able to show progress, you shouldn’t need to do anything else. And the sad thing is that there are so many kids in public schools that don’t show progress, because they need the individualized attention, they just get by and passed onto the next year.

    1. Yes, Heather, that is unfortunately true. There are many publicly schooled children who don’t make progress from year to year while there are very few homeschooled students who don’t make progress. And we homeschooling moms (and dads) should have the freedom to make decisions related to homeschooling our own children without having to prove to the government that we are doing a good job. God put us in charge of our children and their education, not the government. Thanks for your comment!

  2. This is really a good post. It is worthy of being bookmarked. It took me many years to know this and believe it. Now, after 14 years of teaching my kids, I wish I had been less stubborn early on. The fact is, there is a lot of comfort in following what the school is doing and the pattern we followed in school, as children. But, the minute we break free from this thinking and look at our children with fresh eyes that long to do what is best for them we really start helping them to reach their potential. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, it is comforting to follow what the public schools are doing (and what we did as children when we were in school), and it’s a bit unnerving to do something in a new and different way. The results, though, are well worth the effort of stretching ourselves a bit and doing what’s best for our own children. I appreciate your comment!

  3. I appreciate this so much…..it is so very true. I’m constantly under pressure from outsiders to teach what is being taught in the respective grade levels….but just because it is being taught does not mean that all the kids are ready for it!

    1. I totally agree! My mother, who doesn’t quite get the whole “homeschooling thing” called to have a visit. We live 1000 miles away, so we rarely get to see her. She started asking my oldest about her “math facts.” I have explained what we are doing, but she just expects it to be just like public school. It just isn’t right. I’ve had to remind myself so many times not to fear man, but to fear God, and make sure that what I’m doing is pleasing to Him.

  4. I agree with you 100%, IT is so sad that the government schools we all grew up in has indoctrinated us to do the same to our children. I am thankful that God showed me this at a very early time in my childs homeschooling. I try to explain this to other homeschooling moms, but they are so afraid. I also see the fear of having to take end of year tests like IOWA or one of those. I always say, what I taught my child during the year may not be what is tested through the IOWA test, why do I want to put my child through that, It DOES NOT show an accurate picture of my child’s knowledge. I will not teach to a test, I will teach for my child to love learning. My child’s particular bent. Thank you for sharing this. It is so true. FREEDOM!!!! that is what God has given us!!!we know our children better than anyone. God bless, nancyt.

    1. Yes, Nancy, it is sad! I know quite a few public (and private) school children in my area, and they spend a huge amount of time each school year being taught to pass the end-of-the-year test that they will have to take each year. God gave our children to us to teach and train, not the government!

  5. I am a new homeschool mommy of three children, 8 (girl), 6 (girl), and 1 boy just over 1 year. I would agree with you completely. However, being a new homeschool mom, I have a lot of insecurities that I am working through. I have been reading literature put out and recommended by the Thomas Jefferson Education system (TJed). I really love it and believe it is going to be the best thing for my children. Now, it is about getting the right support, and not letting my insecurities cause unneeded stress and concern. So far, in the 2 months that my children have been out of school, I couldn’t be happier with the results that I have seen in their character and attitude. I look forward to doing more, and inspiring them to want to learn and one day become scholars!

    PS I’m new to your blog… and so far, I love what you have to say! Any TJeders out there, please visit my blog and shoot me a line. Support is the key… something that is a bit of a hard reality for me. 🙂

    1. Evelyn, I’m so glad you found our site! Some new homeschooling moms have support groups and are able to be mentored by older moms. If you have that opportunity, it could be very helpful. Of course we at Hip Homeschool Moms are willing to help answer questions and provide support too. (And we strive to make our site a fun place to visit!) If you have questions or need advice, feel free to post your questions on the Hip Homeschool Moms Facebook page. Our moms are great about helping to answer questions and give advice and support. We’d love to help you however we can!

  6. I really agree. I have been homeschooling for 13 years now.,,,and have a good 8 – 10 to go. All my three kids were five years apart. All together, I will probably have managed homeschool for about 22 years. I wish I could say that will make me an expert, but right now I really feel more like a survivor. 😉 Very seriously, I am painfully aware of my shortcomings and weaknesses and am so glad that God continues to bless our endeavors in spite of those things…or maybe because of them? When I started out, I had such a hard time knowing what was ok – and I spent a lot of time trying to cram things into my first child’s head that just didn ‘t fit – at the time. If there is anything I have learned, to my own relief, is that kids are going to learn. It’s the way God made them. So we don’t have to be intense and have an artificial agenda generated by outside parties. Just be there. Just pay attention. Just provide opportunity and stand back. You will be amazed. I can’t tell you the number of things I never “taught” to my children. But they learned through life, through natural interaction with their worlds. I actually feel more like a manager than a teacher, although there are times when we just have to slog through a difficult subject together. For example, all three of my kids, esp. my boys, were reluctant and late readers. I had to be patient and just keep at it and they all got it. But my last one REALLY doesn’t like to read. He has some eyesight issues, doesn’t like his glasses, and just doesn’t find reading to be fun. So….I make him read a little each day. He tries not to complain and he is a rule guy, so if I make it a rule, he can buckle down and do it. 🙂 Praying the fun of reading will come. It peeks through from time to time and I smile.

    1. Dianne, I think we all feel like survivors from time to time. It’s true, though, that our kids keep right on learning anyway, and that’s a good thing to remember during those times! I pray that God blesses you and your family and that He will direct you and be your strength until you feel like a winner instead of just a survivor!

    2. I am really new to homeschooling, but I was wondering if you had ever thought of using the TJed method? It has been a blessing for my 6 year old who does not want to do anything formal. 🙂

  7. I love this site because there is always such great information. I am a big rule person. Often I find that I try too hard to adhere to what everyone else thinks is best for my children. It is very eye opening for me to hear that I should just do what they enjoy most! I am in constant conflict because deep down I feel that way but still try to do what I feel I am supposed to do. It is refreshing to be reminded to look at the bigger picture – we homeschool to give our children more opportunities and we absolutely should take into consideration their interests because it could alter their future. Right on!! Thanks so much!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy our site! I used to be an “always-follows-the-rules” person too. In fact, I spent the first few years of homeschooling being pretty miserable and disillusioned. I didn’t realize that I was doing anything to cause my children not to enjoy homeschooling. Finally I began to realize that I needed to focus more on my kids’ interests and needs. That has made a huge (and wonderful) difference!

  8. Lori, you are right. When we homeschool, we have the freedom to go faster in areas in which our children excel and to go slower in areas which are difficult for them. If people ask me why I’m not doing so&so subject in a certain grade, I just tell them that I follow the Hilton Road Christian Academy recommendations for my students. 🙂

    Evelyn, I’ve had that happen so many times! My mom has now realized the many wonderful benefits of homeschooling, but it wasn’t always that way. It might help if you occasionally video tape your children giving a “progress report” for your mom. It could even be a fun activity that you and the children enjoy putting together. Then perhaps she will not only enjoy the video, but she will see almost-first-hand what they are learning. Or maybe you can think of something else that might help. Blessings to you and your family!

  9. Oh! Praise the Lord for answered prayer concerns of my heart!
    I have been on and off of concern about my children and teaching stuff they seen not to get for months. I have been told this by a few parents, but it didn’t seem to sink in too much for me. I felt like I had to keep up with the other children their age, especially in our church. Well that is me. I need to relax a bit and start to think about THEM and their learning, which I notice do well in a vastly wide range of areas other than what we’re covering.
    Does that make sense?

    1. Hi MerriLyn,

      Yes, that sure does make sense! It is very natural for us to feel like we need to “keep up” with other homeschool families. It’s natural to want to compare our children with others. We need to be reminded from time to time, though, that there are some areas where comparison is not such a great idea. I feel like homeschooling is one of those areas. It’s tempting, and we all do it now and then. Once we realize, though, that it’s not good for us OR for our kids to play the “comparison game,” we can begin to resist that temptation and focus on our own children and their strengths and weaknesses and interests. I’m so glad you were blessed by my post!

  10. Wendy,

    This is a very informative post for people considering homeschooling or those struggling to do it just like the public schools do it. I know that some states have fairly strict requirements, but we’re blessed in Montana. We have some of the loosest homeschool laws in the country. Freedom!

    I love how you describe how your children learned different things at different times. It’s all about knowing your child and when they are ready to learn something. Waiting for math until 3rd grade was a brilliant choice. I don’t know many mothers who would do that because of the fear that their children will “get behind”.

    I don’t know how kids can recite the Gettysburg Address and the Preamble and the three branches of government and the purpose of each at 11? Mine could. Because I thought it was important for them to know. I don’t know what the public school kids were doing while we were learning those things, but if it was important, we’ll get to it – eventually.

    I recently started a blog about trying to find freedom in our lives and homeschool. Relaxing enough to see the bigger picture. You can’t do that with a life cluttered with too much stuff going on.

    Loved your post. I’ll look for more from you.


    1. Laura, I really appreciate your kind and encouraging comment! It sounds like you are definitely on the right track! I am thankful to live in a state where the government doesn’t interfere with our rights to homeschool and to teach our children what we feel is best. I agree with you that our children will eventually learn whatever is of importance even if they learn it in a different order or during a different school year than other children.

  11. I think this is sage advice to a point. After a certain age/grade level, this is hard to apply (I’m taking late middle/high school level). Enjoy the freedom while you can!

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