I’ve spent the past few days reviewing the CA state standards for education (slowly becoming the national Common Core Standards). This is always my first step in preparing for the new school year. I realize that many homeschoolers want nothing to do with state standards; that’s partly why we homeschool, right? But, for me, the standards are a natural starting point. Maybe this is a byproduct of my time as a public school teacher. My credentialing program taught me to design lesson plans based on the state standards. Additionally, I was encouraged to write those standards specific to the day’s lesson on the whiteboard so that the students would know why we were studying whatever we were that day. I’d be shocked to learn, though, that even one student paid any attention to what I wrote. Kids don’t care about state standards. Why would they? The wording is so convoluted that, often, even adults have to reread them several times to understand the meaning. From the students’ point of view, standards are just another set of rules they are asked to follow without question. Writing the standards on the whiteboard might have made my classroom appear more focused and exemplary to visitors and administrators. But, did it actually serve a useful purpose and benefit the kids? No. In fact, I think it might have overwhelmed some of them. I stopped writing the standards on the whiteboard.
So, why do I still read the standards? I believe they are worthy goals for teachers. Granted, it’s very difficult to achieve these standards in a classroom setting with 20-30 students. With just two students, though, I can do it. Also, as a teacher and mom who likes to plan, I feel most confident organizing my curriculum around concrete goals. The standards give me a framework. In reality, as I read the state standards for each kid’s grade level (which can take a while and be somewhat tedious), I find that Ashby and Ryan are already secure in many of them. So, I just highlight the ones I want to address in the coming year and build from there. As the school year progresses, I occasionally review the highlighted standards to make sure we on track and adjust future lessons accordingly. This review process takes only a few minutes at a time and gives me a sense of reassurance that we are headed in the right direction. Of course, I never ask Ashby and Ryan to read the standards; they’re just for me.