I was filling out paperwork for our doctor’s office the other day when I was confronted by this question: How would you rate your child’s academic performance? I was to circle one of the following: Excellent, Average, Failing. If my children attended public or private school, I would have simply fished out the latest report cards and circled the appropriate answer. As a homeschool mom, the question made me pause. I am I truly an unbiased judge when it comes to my children’s academic performance?
Make no mistake, I know I am competent to give my children a good education. I know that for the day to day work I am well able to assess their strengths and weaknesses and to guide their growth in each academic area. Nor do I believe that every teacher in a traditional classroom is completely unbiased – they are after all as human as we are. But I do also believe that as parents teaching our children we fall prey to a particular bias to view our children and their academic progress as above average.
I do think this bias is somewhat accidental on our part, after all, what parent isn’t proud of their children and when we have a direct hand in their education, we naturally magnify that pride as it reflects on us too. But I do think it is something we should be aware of. And I think that sometimes we need to seek an outside view in order to make sure our own view of our children and their abilities is well balanced.
I am not advocating annual standardized testing or getting the opinion of an education professional. What I am advocating is occasionally checking in with the people who interact with our children to see if they have input on how our children are doing. I appreciate, for example, when my children’s Sunday School teachers pull me aside and let me know how my kids are doing in class. I like to know what kinds of questions they are asking. I like to know whether they can keep up with the writing, whether they are able to follow the thread of the discussion. These things give me clues as to how they apply the academic skills we are learning at home when I am not the one guiding the class.
I think the older our children get, the more important getting an outside prospective is. Obviously as parents we know our children best, but because we have to focus so much on the day to day of running a household and educating our children, we may not pick up on the fact that our student has a particular interest in one subject area or a special aptitude for something. As our students consider college and careers, we ought to seek outside opinions.
Co-op teachers, youth leaders and others who interact with our students on a regular basis may have valuable input about the kinds of careers our students should be considering. They may have ideas about how our students can apply their particular interests and talents. They may also have information about colleges or other educational opportunities that we are not aware of. As we consider our children and their futures it is well worth getting a different perspective.