I was recently watching a documentary about the pressures put on many kids in public school. They are pressed to get the highest grades, but also challenged to get many hours of homework done, after going to school for 7 hours, plus sports practice. And that’s in upper grade school. The highschoolers are taking 6 AP classes with hours and hours of homework, and clubs, and sports, just to create a great resume – oh I mean transcript – to get into collage.

At one point a 10 year old boy on the show said, “I’m just frustrated.” Nathan had been playing Legos on the floor listening throughout this show and piped up to ask, “Why is he frustrated?” I explained that the boy had to go to school for 7 hours, “That’s a LOT of work!” Although that did include lunch and recess, he still had to do 2 hours of homework after.

“Why do they do homework?” Nathan then asked. “Yeah! That is a really good question!” I responded. (As in do they really need to?) “It’s so the teachers can judge if the children are really learning the content; plus extra practice.” I told him.

“Is that why I’m doing homeschool?” He asked. So I replied, “Yes, that’s exactly why. I want you to learn exactly what you need and with a good amount of the right challenge, but still have lots of time to play and do other fun things together.” Yeah, it doesn’t take very long at all to do homeschool. In fact, it’s usually finished before nap-time is over.

So I’ve pondered this whole idea for a while now. What is an appropriate amount of educational expectation for children? I can’t help but come back to the conclusion that it really depends on their own personal levels of knowledge and ability, and that really is one of the greatest strengths of homeschool, (if it’s done right). But is there a line were challenging above the average age to grade level education for a child is inappropriate? Does it bring excess pressure or stress?

Sister playing dress-up.

Sister playing dress-up.

Should I stop teaching anything to my 4 year old for a year because there is nothing else preschool level left for him to learn? Am I ‘stealing his childhood’ by pressing him to study the next level of learning (at his own pace) even if it’s on average 1 1/2 years above the average age/grade level for a 4 year old? I really think about these things. Am I a neurotic mom with unrealistic expectations or selfish ambition? After all, it is so hard to see what it might really look like from an outside perspective. But then this happened:

It was the third week of school. We’d done ‘school’ for the day. We’d practiced number pairs for math, how 2 and 5, 1 and 6, or 3 and 4 all make 7, reviewing the pairs that make 5 and 6 as well. It was challenging but he was certainly getting the hang of it. He’d traced the numbers 0-9 and his name, with extra practice for numbers that were more challenging for him, and then he practiced a few on his own. We opened two nonfiction books to several sections about daily life in Ancient Egypt, I read exerts and captions, discussing what it might have been like to live then, and what kinds of tools and clothing they had.

kids using nebulizers

Showing a very curious friend how Pulmozyme is done with expired equipment. (We have THE coolest doctor play box!)

Next we spent a great deal of time looking at the details in a cut-away drawing of a housing complex of the era. And that was it. So I told him, “Ok, we’re done with school.” The next thing I knew I was grinning from ear to ear watching Nathan and a girl in our daycare playing transformers together, costumes and all. She had adapted his way of ‘transforming’ into a car with his elbows running along the floor, and they were creating that classic make-believe dialog, “Now you say, …..” and the other says, “…” “And then I say …..”

5 children in a circle, each caring for a babydoll.

This is ‘the Mommy group;’ ages 4, 2, 4, 8, and 2. Each child with their own baby to take care of. What wonderful friends!

That was it. My mind was made up. Yes, Nathan will be challenged with his school work. After all, what would be the point otherwise?! And yes, it will be at the next level of learning for him, even if that is far above, or at, or below his age/grade level. But am I stealing his childhood? Certainly not! And I know that for sure. I see it everyday. After an hour (to hour and a half) of ‘Level 1’ learning… outside of that hour/hour and half of learning each weekday, he is entirely a 4 year old boy, with a 2 year old sister, and friends ages 1, 3, 4, 6,and 8, that he plays with regularly. I refuse to second guess myself anymore, and feel more than confident in my choices for his education should anyone question it. (Not that anyone has.)


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