Homeschooling at Peace Inside the Bell-Shaped Curve
It is time for a kindness revolution in homeschooling
By Lee Binz
In the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, the children are all above average. Every parent would like to think their own children are above average, but scientifically, we know that every child is located somewhere within the bell-shaped curve of academic performance. Too often, parents judge their own or others’ children based on relative position along the curve. They tend to ignore the uniqueness and individuality that makes life more meaningful. Homeschoolers are no exception. Let me explain what the bell-shaped curve looks like from different perspectives, so you can see how it may impact your day-to-day life and social interactions.
On the Left
On the left of the bell-shaped curve are children who test below grade level. They may even be academically behind. Homeschooling works, because it can improve their academic performance level, even allowing children to achieve grade level in their most challenging subjects. These children thrive at home, without teachers labeling them or children teasing them. Parents can use a learning style that works for their child, and keep the repetitive work to the minimum their child needs in order to practice and learn. These children can pursue learning without having to lean on their weakest ability. If reading is a challenge your child can learn through listening, if writing is difficult your child can answer questions orally. Without being slowed down by their unique learning challenges, children can progress through grade level and beyond.
The problem is that some children will not excel academically, and may never quite make it to the 50th percentile, even with great struggle. For them, achieving the 50th percentile can represent a huge success that few parents with average or above average children would understand. While they are celebrating success beyond their wildest dreams, their friends may still offer advice and make suggestions, assuming something is wrong without recognizing how much is going right.
Without seeing how it might hurt the parent who is doing incredibly well with their outside-of-average child, thoughtless comments do damage, even when well-intended. The mother or father may internalize negative messages and begin to think they are less than capable or not doing enough. Remember to listen before jumping to conclusions. A parent is a successful homeschooler if their child is performing to the best of their ability.
On the Right
On the right of the bell-shaped curve are children test above grade level. They may be engaged in advanced courses as well. Some of these bright or profoundly gifted children are also socially awkward or bookish. Others might be charmers, kids who are prom-king or queen material and seem like the proverbial 5-tool players in baseball. Homeschooling works because these children can learn at their own accelerated pace, with their parents carefully choosing curriculum to balance their academic needs and social maturity. Parents can find a curriculum for anything, no matter how advanced, so these kids can learn independently and become self-motivated, self-educated students of advanced topics.
Outsiders want to label these children, too. People tend to either think that all gifted children are awkward or that they are all charismatic over-achievers. These children have innate gifts that can’t be changed. Friends don’t understand what the parent of a gifted child may be facing. They may assume the parents are driving their children too hard to succeed. But, more often they are desperately just trying to keep up. It can feel like being tied to the saddle of a thoroughbred on the racetrack; all you want to do is get off because you aren’t a jockey. Like a teenager who is always hungry, these gifted children constantly want more information. It’s exhausting and can be incredibly expensive.
Well-meaning friends will try to fix the parents, as if it’s their fault the child is smart. They might imply parents are turning their children into nerds by force; they may label the child while suggesting a course of action, “Your child will not be normal unless you …” Through homeschooling, these parents can meet their children’s academic AND social needs without requiring excessive busywork. Remember, this parent is also successful; their child is succeeding to the best of their ability.
In the Center
In the center of the bell-shaped curve are parents who get to determine what the words “grade level” and “normal” mean to them. Public school might be a good fit for their children academically, but they choose to homeschool for other reasons. They may homeschool because they feel called to do it. They may worry about socialization, spiritual integrity, bullying, the common core, violence, or lack of discipline in the schools. Their normal children obtain normal test scores in normal test settings, and yet these parents worry their kids are dumb because their scores aren’t sky-high. They may be focused on family harmony and home education and not have the time or desire to pick ideological fights.
Parents with kids in the center may choose normal curriculum and may be home-educating in an ordinary, every-day, successful way. These parents are judged for their choices as well. Other parents may wonder aloud why they don’t push harder so their child can succeed and attend an Ivy League college. Friends may complain that they aren’t actively fighting common core. Some of these parents may even be criticized for their religious or political beliefs.
Neighbors don't recognize the hurt they cause. Friends don’t understand that homeschooling can still be effective and fulfilling for normal children using grade-level curriculum, even when the parent homeschools for a different reason than they do.
The Center of Kindness
The problem among homeschoolers is that they often see their own successes and think that if other parents homeschooled the same way, they could be successful too. Other parents see their own weaknesses, but do not see the weaknesses of others. Thanks to the perfect pictures and stories on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, they end up feeling inadequate and incapable of homeschooling. The problem is that we think homeschooling will solve everything, from personality traits and learning styles, to salvation and sin nature. In reality, parents and children are individuals, with unique gifts and challenges others can’t understand; they make mistakes, just like we all do.
People are less judgmental when they know each other personally. When interacting with your “friends” online, recognize that you know very little about them. When talking with real-life friends, understand that there can be circumstances and a side to the story that you simply can’t imagine. Give grace to them. Don’t fan the flames of insecurity with judgmental, know-it-all responses.
You have to trust other parents to do what is best for their beloved child. Be nice. Play nice. Be kind. You don’t know what the mom next to you is going through. You don’t know how her child challenges her, or what constitutes success in her home or homeschool. Ask her, “Are you OK? Tell me about that. It sounds difficult.” Share your own struggles. Extend grace. Use kind words.
True kindness is not saying, “Bless your heart!” True kindness is blessing others with genuine words of appreciation and encouragement.
It is time for a kindness revolution in homeschooling. If we must compete, let’s strive to be on the same side of that movement, standing together, and building each other up. If we spent our energy on this instead of critiquing and gossiping, we would all end up with happier, healthier children, families and friendships.
Copyright © 2015 The HomeScholar LLC, www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com. Text may be reprinted without permission if used in full, except for use in a book or other publication for rent or for sale. Reprint must include this copyright, bio (below), and the original URL link (https://HomeHighSchoolHelp.com/homeschooling-at-peace-inside-the-bell-shaped-curve).
Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com.
Creating Homeschool Balance: Find Harmony Between Type A and Type Zzz...
(Coffee Break Book) [Kindle Edition]
How do you know if you’re doing too much, too little, or just the right amount of schoolwork in your homeschool? Finding that "just right” balance is a challenge because just like everyone has their own preferred porridge temperature, they also have their own individual circumstances and goals.
This book will teach you what balance looks like, feels like, and how to create it. You’ll learn strategies to find that unique, perfect balance for your family and homeschool without going crazy!
Delight Directed Learning
Learn what a guidance counselor does - and why parents are the best high school guidance counselors. Learn to educate with flexibility, plan classes, arrange tests, find a college, and guide the college application process.
Find out the key ingredient that will ensure your success. Determine the steps that will help you achieve the most important tasks of homeschool high school.
The HomeScholar Guide to College Admission and Scholarships: Homeschool Secrets to Getting Ready, Getting In and Getting Paid
There’s nothing more stressful to parents than college admission and scholarships. Many parents question whether it’s even possible to find a college that is satisfying to both parent and child, a college that will love their student and offer them scholarships to attend. “The HomeScholar Guide to College Admission and Scholarships” puts these concerns soundly to rest. Author Lee Binz shares the principles she followed to help her own students achieve admission and full tuition scholarships to their first-choice universities.
Learn the secrets to successfully navigate the college process from start to finish, including selecting a college, negotiating college fairs, earning merit-based scholarships, and marketing your student effectively. Receive gentle encouragement and practical help from Lee Binz, a homeschool coach and mentor who really understands. Relax and enjoy a casual conversation, sprinkled with scripture, humor, valuable tips, and quotes from The Princess Bride! Whether you’re looking at college entrance for your first graduate or want to do better with your next child, you will find countless treasures in this book.