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Is My Child Educationally On-Target?

Homeschooling Expert Advice from Isabel Shaw

Q: My stepdaughter is being homeschooled by her mother. My husband and his ex-wife do not get along, nor does she share anything about their daughter's activities with him. We are trying to find out if his daughter is on-target in her education.

She began the "second grade" this fall. When my husband plays Scrabble Junior with her, she is unable to spell one word accurately without asking my husband if it's right. I am wondering if there is a way to see if she up to par with kids her age. Her mother never completed school because she couldn't keep up, and we're hoping that her mother didn't choose the homeschool way as an excuse for her daughter.

A: I think the issue here is not verifying if your stepdaughter is on-target with her public-schooled peers, but rather understanding both the homeschool philosophy and how children learn. In a classroom of 25 or 30 students, all of the children are required to learn the same thing at the same time. Out of necessity, individual learning styles, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses cannot be given careful consideration. Thus, all public-schooled first-graders are expected to grasp the fundamentals of reading, spelling, math, etc. Some do, many don't.

Homeschooled students do not have to follow this pattern. Parents can tune in to their child's abilities, and structure their teaching methods to accommodate that child's learning style. Thus, some kids begin to read and spell at four, while others may not be ready until they are nine, ten, or even older. There is no particular advantage in learning to read or write early, and there is evidence to suggest that doing so can be harmful. For more information about this, read How Children Learn by John Holt.

Most six- or seven-year-old children, including those in traditional schools, do not spell well. If your stepdaughter appears to be having a difficult time spelling, it may not be a problem with homeschooling, but rather that she simply does not yet have the ability to grasp spelling concepts. My daughters hated Scrabble when they were six or seven, but couldn't get enough of the game just a few years later when they matured a bit. I suggest reading good books with your stepdaughter as an alternative activity. Reading aloud is a wonderful way to develop children's language skills.

The Homeschooling Book of Answers by Linda Dobson will help you better understand the homeschooling philosophy.

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Isabel Shaw is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom of 15 years. She and her husband Ray homeschool their two daughters, Jessica and Amanda. Besides being a contributor to, Shaw has written for Home Education Magazine, The Link, Homeschooling Horizons Magazine, The Homeschool Gazette, and other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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