When we talk about our kids in the sense of the spectrum of what they're doing, what they're able to do and where they are emotionally, we naturally compare our students to their 'peers'. But, what if... What if their peers aren't all the same age as them? What if their peers come from a different familial situation, different home life, are different to their core neurologically? What does 'behind' mean then?
When we're all in our nice little boxes at public school; everyone has the same aged peers, everyone lives in the same neighborhood so their parents have similar incomes, similar life experiences, similar well... everything. When someone is 'behind' they stick out more in this scenario than they do in a homeschool world.
When we homeschool, we see the real world. We meet families that have fostered kids, adopted from foster care, are neurodivergent in a multitude of ways. We talk to strangers on the street and learn how to greet them while keeping safe boundaries. We talk to the cashiers at the grocery store as they're in awe of how well adjusted our homeschool life actually is. We have friends that are years older, or years younger than we are. We see how our parents interact morning, noon and night, and get into the rhythm of their day. We are more involved in the day to day care of the household as it is our sanctuary, our home, and we are more imbedded in it than anywhere else in the world.
So, what does 'behind' mean to homeschoolers? Behind might be a more severe swing on the pendulum for homeschoolers than it would be for those in public school as the exposure for homeschoolers is just so much wider than it is for the limited public school mind.
As long-haul homeschoolers, we should consider the array of experience offered to our youth before we examine where they are on the spectrum. Let's zoom out and take a long look before we analyze and try to redefine what 'behind' looks like for our family.
Do you have a 7 year old that hasn't yet shown interest in reading? What are his peers doing? What is he exposed to? How often do you read as a family? Children mimic what they see - so if your student doesn't see you reading, why should he be interested? If you live your life engulfed in books and your house looks like a library - and your 7 year old acts like a book is so foreign he doesn't know how to open it - maybe you have him evaluated and seek out outside help to figure out what the issues are.
Do you ever notice how families show similar interests? The mom and dad are avid golfers and the children happen to like it too? Maybe the children gravitate toward writing and it just so happens that's what mom used to do in school? We can go back and have the argument over heredity versus environment all day long, but there's just something about general interests that seem to appear within familial units. I have a friend who is an avid fitness gal. Her kids don't go to the gym with her, but they see its importance in her life and immulate their mom and practice curiosity about mom's interest.
If you had issues learning to read as a child, is it that much of a stretch to understand your child's plight and maybe innately know why he might struggle?
Jenny L. Cote was on an episode recently and she talked about how she didn't know she would be a writer. As a child she was interested in different things and that God had had a plan for her she didn't understand until she was an adult and began writing. It was foreign to her, a surprise provided by God that she write and that she just writes what God dictates. I love that about that episode but I also know that writing was implanted in her very young. This was a plan God provided to her parents, and as such, was passed to her. Her father was a minister of a well known church (don't tell me ministers aren't writers) and her mother was an imaginative encourager. God put those two people together to create the award winning author we see today in Jenny L. Cote.
When you're trying to determine if your child is 'behind' in comparison to their peers, take a long look at the lives of their family lineage. Did you or your spouse have difficulties in school? Did you or your spouse have life experiences that sent you backward? Does your child do things that fall out of line with the character of the family? Are their personalities just different than what you experience in life? If so, maybe talk to their doctor and see about an evaluation. If not, dig deep and look into yourself and have conversations with your child about what it is they want to learn. Make it fun. Construct an environment around their passions to make learning fun and see what happens. Afterall, their homeschool experience does not need to be built around the teacher's needs. It should always be based on the needs of the child.
If homeschooling has taught me anything, it's that it's not about me. 'Behind' is ambiguous. It's a term that is only defined by the beholder. What does 'behind' mean to you? When does it trip you up and stop you in your tracks, making you evaluate all of your life's choices?
Is it worth it?
I propose it's not worth a second thought. Instead of evaluating whether or not your child is 'behind', why not just enjoy them?
Albert Einstein was 16 years old when he learned how to tie his shoes. He didn't really learn to talk until he was 4. He didn't start learning Math until he was 12.
Was Albert Einstein 'behind'?