Homeschool: Why I Don't Worry about Grade Levels (and You Shouldn't Either)

Nov 23, 2015


"What grade are you in?"

A seemingly simple question, isn't it? Adults and children alike ask this question as a potential conversation starter.

What throws people off is the response, or lack of response, it may elicit from a younger homeschooled child.

The child simply looks to mom for a response. 

She then explains, "They're homeschooled; we don't do grades. But if she were in school, she'd be in __ grade."

Why I Don't Use Grade Levels (and You Shouldn't Either)

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This is a pretty common scenario, believe it or not.

In fact, I've lived that scenario hundreds of times. But why? Why did my kids not know their grade levels? Am I a terrible homeschool mom, not even teaching my kids what grade they're in?

I'll tell you why: We don't use grade levels in our homeschool.

Most homeschoolers understand this. Some don't. But I have never met a non-homeschooler who wasn't confused by this. 

Don't worry. It makes sense.

I've been homeschooling for 16 years. Prior to that, my kids were in public school. In 25 years of my children being formerly educated, I've noticed there is a common factor among all schooling children, homeschooled or not.

Children don't develop according to grade levels.

Sure, in public school the children must work on a particular grade level because they've been placed there. But this is not the nature of a child. 

Education is not about grade levels. It's about moving forward as the child masters the material and skills.

Each child is endowed with his own strengths. Each child also has his own weaknesses. Because of this, one child isn't progressing on a single grade level in all areas of study. 

That's just not how humans work.

Homeschooling allows me to truly individualize each child's learning. Even when I taught both of them together, their activities were customized according to their needs and abilities. Their individual work was customized. 

What it boils down to is this: A 9-year-old child may be reading on a 5th grade level, while perfectly capable of understanding 8th grade history. Maybe that same child can only do 1st grade math. And that's fine.

That's how it works. As homeschoolers, we move forward as the child masters a skill and subject. 

We Must Accommodate for Individual Issues 

Alexis is profoundly dyslexic, while Lorelai is mildly or moderately dyslexic (we're awaiting the final analysis from the neurologist)

Alexis definitely is more right-brained, needing visual and hands-on activities to help retain information. Lorelai enjoys hands-on, but can learn just as well from auditory-visual activities. 

The best plan, of course, is to mix it up, offering a variety of activities that stimulate various parts of the brain. But I must always consider their individual needs and abilities.

Alexis has dyscalculia, but Lorelai does not. Lorelai is, in fact, able to grasp mathematical concepts before I can finish explaining them. Alexis will never be able to master math beyond the basics. Needless to say, each of my children is working on various grade levels at once. 

And that's even more reason to not stick them in a box and label it with a grade level.

Yes, you can teach your child what grade she's in for the purposes of answering other people or signing up for classes. My middle and high school kids know what to day. 

Just don't worry yourself that they may not be doing what everyone else at that grade level is doing. Just follow your child's path.


  1. Hi, I'm really interested in this article but your right sidebar is cutting off the words on the right. Guessing it's some kind of format issue with your blogging platform?? Lmk if you fix it. :)

    1. I'm sorry you're having trouble. What browser are you using?

  2. Anonymous5/15/2016

    Fantastic article. I spend much of my time helping other home schooling families create transcripts for college or enrollment in public school, so we run into the occasional issue of "translating" multiple grade levels to be understood by a traditional institution.

    Please continue to support families who use multiple grade levels! So many feel guilty about it! You nailed it- it's all about the individual issues.

    1. Interesting. I've never had trouble creating a transcript. Once in high school, it's easy to keep track of subjects/grades in a planner and create a transcript as we go.


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