What About Learning Gaps With Homeschooling?
I was recently visiting with a close mom friend who has been homeschooling for 4 years.
She is tempted to walk away from her box curriculum because it’s exhausting and overwhelming her…but she is so scared to do it.
“But what about learning gaps, Lauren? If I piece a curriculum together, how do I know that I won’t miss something?”
Trust me, I feel her pain and uncertainty. I, too, have white-knuckled my box curriculum teacher’s manual.
It made me feel safe, taken care of, and secure.
But it was also becoming a burden with its oppressive schedule.
You can read more here about why I ultimately ditched my box curriculum years ago, but today I want to talk about that terrifying question of educational gaps.
What Is A Learning Gap?
An educational gap can happen in just about any area of learning.
It means that you were not taught a significant piece of material or you were taught it ineffectively (never really understood it).
A gap in learning is the nightmare of homeschoolers everywhere.
It is the fear that your child will be behind in an area, you will forget to teach something, or you won’t know when to teach something (i.e. health, state capitols, cursive, paragraph writing, and so on).
The First Question You Should Ask Is: Do Traditional Schools Have Learning Gaps?
When you were in school, do you remember finishing any textbooks? Even one?
Probably not. Your teacher just cherry-picked what she thought was the most important information.
It is literally impossible to fit *everything* into any education over the span of 12 years.
There is just way too much material out there to cover for literature, math, science, geography, history, writing, etc. Your child can have a solid, strong foundation in those areas, but they are not going to be taught *everything* on any one of those subjects.
Of the things that your teacher taught you, did everybody understand it equally well?
Again, probably not.
There were likely smarty pants kids who got it without paying attention, and other kids who had to work extremely hard to just pass the grade.
Lastly, public schools, in general, are having a terrible time right now closing educational gaps caused by COVID.
Teachers are attempting to teach students in the classroom who are literally years apart in ability.
Many are significantly behind, but continue to be pushed to the next grade.
I have personally had several parents reach out to me and report that they pulled their kids from public school because their kids were so far behind in the foundational subjects of reading, writing, and math.
They felt their child had a better chance of closing the learning gaps at home than in the current school system.
Anecdotal Evidence Of Educational Gaps
If you’re a little skeptical about the presence of learning gaps in the traditional school system, I want to offer some examples from my own life and other people who have experienced the same thing.
It is a bit unnerving to look back and recognize that your own education may not have been as solid as you thought.
Can you see yourself in these examples?
1. My Personal Experience With Learning Gaps
Not to toot my own horn, but I graduated from high school with a high GPA. I went to a private college on a full scholarship and graduated with high honors.
I still treasure my 4.0 mug, despite how sad that may be after all these years.
But I have learning gaps that I am acutely aware of.
My AP US History teacher never got to modern history. It if happened after WW2, I have a very shaky understanding of what happened.
I never took British Literature because I opted for a college writing class instead. That means I never studied classics like Julius Ceasar or Hamlet.
There are several words that I never learned how to spell correctly. Why is there a “y” sound in “convenience?”
I would guess at where a comma should go (despite that college writing class).
My mental math skills are embarrassing. I always freeze up and immediately start looking for a paper and pencil to write out the problem.
My daughter’s math curriculum called for me to explain every single hash mark on an inch ruler last week. Let’s just say I was tongue-tied for a couple of seconds while I fumbled through the teacher’s manual to teach something I was definitely never taught.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Despite a strong performance in school, I still have educational gaps.
2. Homeschool Moms Around Me
I have spent time with so many homeschool moms who gush about how much they have learned since beginning to homeschool their kids.
They marvel at all the things their children are learning that they were never taught in school.
Apparently, there just wasn’t enough time in school to really dive deep into certain subjects. Usually history and science.
They also say they have a more solid grasp of certain concepts because they understand it better the way the homeschool curriculum taught it.
They often say, “Why wasn’t I taught this in school?” or “Why wasn’t it explained to me this way?”
Well Then, Do Homeschooled Kids Have Learning Gaps Too?
As I said earlier, it is impossible to not have gaps in your education. You need to just accept now that there will be things that are missed or you will go crazy as a homeschool mom.
Just like the traditional school teacher, you need to focus on what you think the most important pieces of your child’s education should be.
For example, I want to raise kids that have a strong understanding of Biblical truth, devour books for pleasure, and can write confidently at a high level.
I want them to have a love of real (not whitewashed) history and an appreciation of science and the world around them.
I want my girls to see math as a puzzle – not an adversary – that they are more than capable of solving.
Again, my goal is not to teach them everything – it is to teach them the most important things.
That all being said, I would venture to say that homeschooled kids are likely to have fewer learning gaps.
Well, because homeschool moms are on their kids like white on rice. As parents, we know everything that they are struggling with and work one on one to help them really “get it.”
My oldest daughter hates math. She is still doing very well in it though because I go over every single problem with her that she misses. We pinpoint what she doesn’t understand and I patiently teach it again.
In homeschooling, there is no “slipping through the cracks” or just accepting “C level” work. Every wrong answer is addressed, discussed, and corrected.
That level of attention and passion is just not possible when you have 25 to 30 kids in a classroom.
I Do Have One Major Caveat About Learning Gaps In Homeschooling
Many homeschoolers are expected to teach themselves as they get older. My own 6th grader does do the majority of her school independently.
I love that it teaches her responsibility and time management, but we do meet twice a day to go over every single thing she does.
I am always checking in with her to see how she feels about the curriculum and what she’s learning. She knows that I am borderline obsessed with her education.
But I have read many stories from homeschool graduates who did not experience that level of attention.
In particular, they were expected to teach themselves high school-level math from a book with no help. In fact, if they asked for help, they were met with frustration, anger, and even punishment.
Some girls were told they only needed to know enough math to run a kitchen.
Another reported that they tested at the 5th grade level of math after finishing high school homeschool.
I know these stories are disturbing, but I share them to motivate you to reach higher for your kids. If they need more attention, tutoring help, or a different curriculum – especially in math – then make sure they get those things.
Always remember that homeschooling is about opening up doors for your kids, not isolating or limiting their possibilities.
Should You Be Worried About Homeschool Learning Gaps?
Everybody, everybody, everybody has gaps in their education – no matter where they went to school.
Maybe it’s because your teacher never got to a certain subject matter.
Or they did a bad job of teaching it.
Maybe you didn’t put your best effort forward to learn it.
Whatever the reason, know that many parents are turning to homeschooling to bridge the educational gaps brought on by COVID. They want one-on-one attention for their child that traditional school cannot provide.
At the same time, homeschool parents shouldn’t take it for granted that homeschooling will produce well-rounded, highly educated kids.
Put in the work with your kids every day.
Give them your very best.
Invest in them and you will reap the reward for years to come.
We used an all-in-one language curriculum for the first 2 years of homeschool. It was what I needed to get in and feel confident, and I will say that for 1st grade level it worked! However, 5 short lessons a week for 2nd grade left a lot to be desired. When we did our end-of-year review my daughter remembered NOTHING. Well, maybe a little more than that, but not much. So this year we took the plunge and split up reading, writing, and spelling to give her a better depth of her studies. Instead of 20-30 minutes of language each day, she does 20 minutes of each subject in an hour block (plus additional handwriting independently while I work with her brother on math). While it’s a lot more for her, it’s broken up enough that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. And I have every confidence that she is building those most important foundational skills at her level, because I can change each piece separately at any time I need to. I am SO glad we broke up her language!