"How do you fail homeschool kindergarten?" One of my neighbors asked me that the other day after I told her that our 6-year-old was repeating it again this year. It's one of those things I've been worried about hearing ever since we made the decision to stop pushing him so hard last December.
He just wasn't ready for it. He would have rather danced in circles and flapped his arms like a bird than do anything that even began to look like school work. So I let him. This year when his books came in the mail, he was excited to see what was in them and try "doing school."
We're taking it slowly and he's doing well so far, but it was one of the most difficult educational decisions I've ever made.
In December, it felt like admitting defeat. Putting those books on the shelf and not opening them was hard on me. (I'll admit that it was all about me.) I'm coming to wish that I had done it in September, or that I just hadn't bought them at all.
I knew he wasn't ready for sitting at a table and doing school work. His maturity level just wasn't there. I ordered them anyway. He was 5, and that means Kindergarten.
The responses from other homeschoolers have mostly echoed my puzzled neighbor - "How do you fail homeschool kindergarten?"
While there is widespread acceptance and approval for allowing homeschooled children to race ahead in school, graduate early, and blow the world away with their brilliance....there is less understanding for the ones who wander along at the back of the pack. So homeschooling moms push their kids to "keep up" and make them drag those books out every day even when they're not ready because there is a perception that someone has failed when your 5-year-old can't finish kindergarten.
But there shouldn't be.
Parents need - I needed - to understand and accept the fact that not all children are going to learn at the same rate as their peers. They're not even going to learn at the same rate as their siblings! Having someone a little on the slower to mature side doesn't mean that we can't teach any more than my 3-year-old's teaching himself to read means that I'm a brilliant educator. These are natural variations in how quickly they grow-up, and we shouldn't be afraid to see them for what they are and to accept them.
Yes, it has been hard to explain to the nay-sayers in my family that he's repeating the Kindergarten. Yes, they've suggested more than once that he might not have to if I had entrusted his education to the care of "professional teachers." Of course they have. But here's the thing, he would be in the first grade this year completely unprepared and unready for it. He would have been pushed through because he's a nice boy and he would have picked it up eventually.....but what if he hadn't? There are those kids in the schools too, the ones who never catch on.
This year, a little older and wiser, he's excited to learn every day and is flying through his lessons. He's still a little slower than the average kindergarener would be, but I'm learning to accept it. He's making progress every day and that's all I'm asking of him. This year, unlike last, is free from the unhappiness and tears that made both of us miserable .
I gave him the gift of time - the time to mature, the time to be ready, the time to be little just a short while longer - and it has been the greatest gift I can give him because it has taken away the frustration and anxiety that I was teaching him last year.
So if you have a slow bloomer, I'd encourage you to wait. Put the books aside and just enjoy him for another year. Spend some time playing cars and dancing around the kitchen and give him the chance to grow up a little bit. Because not everyone is ready to begin school at 5 (or 3, or 4), and pushing them ahead anyway teaches them lessons you may not want them to learn. Stop worrying about what grandma or the neighbors are going to think, and give them the gift of just a little more time.