One disadvantage of homeschooling is that there is no competition. Our teens often have no idea where they stand in comparison to other teens, so they have no idea what they are really good at. And it turns out that Mom’s opinion about these things does not always carry that much weight.
When Miss 16 was invited to a weeklong math seminar for doing very well on a math competition, she was surprised. When we looked up the seminar on Google and found it was for ‘math whiz kids’ she was astonished.
No matter how many times I had told her she was good at math, no matter how often I would point out that she doing very well, she always thought I was ‘just being positive’.
I think this is partly because we use a challenging math curriculum and because math, therefore, is not an ‘easy subject’ for her. As my husband tells her, “All hard problems seem impossible until you have solved them. Then most of them seem trivial.” Neither of these situations allows a student to make a valid judgement of his or her abilities in the same way that knowing one’s standing in a class of 30 does.
I have had similar scenarios with other children. Just because I insist on polished, proofread essays, does not mean that the teen cannot write; it just means that the teen has not bothered to proofread the essay.
There is also the other side: Some teens think they are doing very well when actually they are not. Again, comparison with a group of peers is missing, and Mom’s opinion just does not seem to carry enough weight.
Competition and comparison can give our teens a more realistic view of how well they are doing. At home, they miss that, and this is one of the few significant disadvantages of homeschooling.
Of course, it is possible to work around this problem in various ways.
In our family we occasionally get our teens involved in competitions. It helps them to stretch themselves, it helps them to gain an objective idea of their aptitudes, and, if they do well, it looks great on their high school records. We also have them take the SAT test, but it, unfortunately, does not really reflect how well they know any particular subject.
Other families use co-ops, online courses, and other sources of outside marks. Whatever methods a family uses is irrelevant, so long as homeschooled teens do have an objective way to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses as they prepare for their future.