The most common myth that I am regularly addressing at conferences, on the phone, and in emails, is the concern that a student is behind. I often diffuse these concerns by asking what is it that determines what age a student must be when taking Algebra 1 or Geometry or beginning to study fractions? There is often a pause, then a light begins to dawn, and the look of consternation from wrongly surmising their child is behind, is replaced with a look of relief when they realize their child is right where they need to be.
I remind parents their student(s) are never behind. Your children are where they are. Will it make a difference in twenty years whether your student is studying fractions when they are 10 or when they are 12? All three of my college graduates were 20 when they entered college, and they did fine. In fact, I think they did better with a few more years of maturity than they would have done as an 18-year-old.
Readiness > Grade Level
The primary indicator when moving from one concept to another is a child’s readiness and math background, not his age, or his grade level. In fact, most studies do not support putting children in school at 5 years old. Neither is it in the law, that children must leave home at 18 and enter college. This is not to say children can’t begin formal schooling at 5 or enter college at 17.
Math is Sequential
The subject of math, especially, is sequential and you need a strong foundation that is built by mastering concepts in order. The process cannot be rushed or the gaps in understanding can bring frustration. These gaps in your students’ mathematical foundation can lead to difficulties in upper levels of math. Math-U-See does not have grade levels. We have noticed many older students were moved through successive math classes based on their age and not their achievement or understanding. So these students have gaps in understanding fundamental concepts and may need to go back and redo earlier levels or use a supplemental program, such as our Accelerated Individualized Mastery (AIM) program, before moving on. By not assigning grade levels we try to eliminate comparison and focus on building a strong foundation for each individual student.
A benefit of homeschooling is the great opportunity to focus on the individual needs of each child. There is no pressure from a principal, a superintendent, and a school board that has a need to follow and finish certain amounts of material every year. Instead, there is an opportunity to let children move at their own pace and not a one size fits all program. Please trust your instincts and teach your children according to what you know about their abilities and readiness.
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