I always try to prepare my children for social situations–just doing our part to break the awkward turtle homeschool stereotypes! (“Okay, Little Loves…We are about to enter the library–let’s not run and yell and tear every book off the shelves! That would be awesome!“). I guarantee my 4-year-old twins will be asked, “How old are you, Girls?” So we practice answering that question. And all moms know the very first question any of our school-aged children (homeschooled or not) get asked when meeting a new adult: “So what grade are you in?” For many of us, this is pretty straightforward. But some of our kids make this a little more interesting and challenging to answer! Let’s dig in and explore the question: What grade level is my child in?
Many homeschool families disregard formal grade levels (especially in the elementary years). The focus is on mastering skills and working at an individualized pace. Grades can seem irrelevant.
And many homeschool kids are keenly aware that they’re doing a mix of grade level work. My 2nd child loved to answer people something like this:
“Well I do 7th grade reading, 5th grade math, but I do everything else 4th grade.” (Not awkward turtle or anything! HA!)
I had to explain people didn’t really
need want her educational resume…”Let’s just go with 4th grade, Honey. 4th grade is good.”
Initially, your child’s grade may seem irrelevant–until you need to sign up for Summer Camp. Or Art class. Or Sunday School.
Many, many activities and sports place children into groups/teams according to grade level, forcing most of us homeschool moms to pick a grade…
So Which Grade Do We Pick?
I’ve had children with summer birthdays, late-bloomers, academically gifted, and ones with learning challenges…Here’s the approach I’ve taken:
I consider the following points:
What year would you start them kindergarten if you were sending them to school?
This is particularly helpful to contemplate when you have a kiddo with a summer birthday…I have 4 summer birthday babies! I wouldn’t have felt comfortable sending a single one of them to school the year they turned 5. My son’s birthday is literally days away from the public school “cut-off.” He would have been the youngest child in the class! There’s just zero reasons I would send him that young.
Plus my kids are peanuts…And there is nothing wrong with that (I’m 5’2″ and my husband is 5’9″)…but I remember feeling so sad in school when I couldn’t reach things! In first grade, I’d go home and cry daily about not being able to get my lunch box off the shelf!
And I just think a little physical growth/maturity in comparison to peers is helpful. Of course, at home kids don’t even notice how they compare or measure up physically to their peers. But put kids of the same age in a group together and. oh. my. goodness! I vividly remember my 2nd grade class all lined up for recess…The kids would be turned this way and that, hands on each others heads–trying to see (or prove) who is the tallest! It truly seemed to matter and affect the classroom “pecking-order” (which, yes sadly exists–even in 2nd grade)!
Sometimes this is determined by birth date–but sometimes participation is settled by grade level. Again–I think physical maturity is always an advantage (especially when it comes to sports)! So my thought is to error on the side of caution–I’d rather my child be one of the older kids in the group than the youngest.
High School Graduation
Think about what age you would really want your child to graduate–and perhaps more importantly: what age would you feel comfortable with them leaving for college? Do you really want to send a 16 or 17-year-old off to the dorms? My summer birthday babies will all be 18 their entire senior year of high school–I am totally good with that!
Instead of concern over physical maturity–my main concern with teens is emotional and mental maturity. So much growth is still going on during those final teen years!
But My Child Works Way Above Grade Level
If your child is working way above grade level–that is amazing and wonderful! But that doesn’t mean you have to “technically,” place them in a higher grade! Let them be at the “top,” of their class!
The beauty of homeschooling is that you can individualize the work and choose curriculum levels that match up with your child’s ability and interests!
By the time they reach high school, your child may be way ahead–but here’s something to consider: All high schools have differentiated tracks! One freshman may be taking Algebra 1 and another freshman may be taking Pre-Calculus. All of it is good! All of it counts the same towards high school graduation–one math credit! Your child may be doing advanced work–which will be perfect for getting AP or Honors Credits! And they may be able to start dual enrollment by taking online college classes or enrolling at your local community college.
When high schoolers take college entrance exams or standardized tests–they are compared to all the other students across the country taking the exam on that given day! A perfect reason to want your child to be “ahead,” for their grade-level–their scores will shine!
- For more comprehensive help and advice about homeschooling high school, I LOVE Lee Binz, the Homescholar! Here’s a LINK to her site–don’t miss her free resources!
What if We Decide to Send Them to School Later?
Some families plan to homeschool for the long-haul, but others expect their children to eventually return to a traditional classroom. And sometimes our intentions don’t go as planned…My oldest two children desperately wanted to attend public high school. This was such a hard decision for me (honestly heart-breaking)–but we let them…Just as I had trusted God when I started my homeschool journey, I had to trust Him again when I let them go off to school.
I found that it was an easier transition into a traditional school when my children were aligned in age with their peers. My daughter truly could have gone to high school a year earlier–she had always done the same grade level work as her older brother. Instead, I kept her in the same grade that correlated with her birthday.
She had all the benefits of being advanced academically–but also more maturity. And when her friends all started driving, she was older…It was hard enough letting her go-out and explore Kansas City with her friends, but it would have been so much harder if all her friends were older and she was the youngest! I probably would have said, “No,” to a lot more of her adventures–which would’ve been really frustrating to her (and not fun for me)! So keep all those teenage social milestones in mind…driving, diner or coffee out with friends, movies, and dates…These will be real issues you have to face!
Don’t Be Defined by the Grade Level
Grade levels don’t define your child. Let your child progress at their own pace, doing individualized work. Think of grade levels as an extension of the social structures we live in–not necessarily an academic measuring stick!
Enjoy these special days with your kiddos–I say keep them “little,” for as long as you can!!
Let me know if you have any questions! I’d love to hear how you’ve dealt with homeschool grade levels!