When you homeschool, you have extreme freedom:
- freedom to choose the curriculum you want to follow
- freedom to do schoolwork in the morning, afternoon, or evening
- freedom to shelve schoolwork for a day and take a fieldtrip
You, as the teacher, are the one shaping your child’s education.
Yet most of us homeschooling parents, especially those of us who ourselves attended traditional school, have trouble letting go of the brick-and-mortar school mentality. It’s deeply rooted within us, and we may not even realize how much it is influencing us and our decisions when it comes to our children’s education. These hidden assumptions are demonstrated clearly in the many misconceptions people have about BookShark.
Misconception #1: BookShark Levels Are Equivalent to Grade Levels
Many people look at BookShark curriculum, and they automatically assume that each level corresponds to a grade, i.e. Level 5 is for a 5th grade student. While a 5th grader can certainly tackle Level 5, what most people miss is that BookShark gives an age range for each level. Level 5, for instance, is recommended for ages 10-13, which means it can be used for what is traditionally thought of as 5th – 8th grades!
I encourage parents to choose the BookShark curriculum along the upper end of the age range instead of the lower one. Using Level 5 for ages 10-13 as an example again, I suggest this curriculum is better suited for the typical 12 and 13 year old (the upper age range) than the lower range of ages 10 and 11. You know your child best. Is your child sensitive? Go with the upper age range. Is your child especially mature or gifted? Then you may want to try the lower range.
This rule of choosing along the upper end of the age range is especially valid for higher levels that include sensitive topics. For instance, my son used Level 5 in 7th grade at age 12. One of our favorite books was the read-aloud A Moment Comes which deals with weighty issues. While he would have understood the book at a surface level as a 5th grader, his added maturity as a 7th grader helped him catch nuances and implications that he would have largely missed at a younger age.
Request a catalog here so you can compare the age ranges of all BookShark programs.
Misconception #2: Your Child Will Fall Behind If He Isn’t at the “Right” Level
Even after hearing the advice to teach your child using the BookShark Level where he is at the higher end of the age range, many parents just can’t do so. Why? They’re afraid that their child will “fall behind” if they’re doing Level 5 as a 7th grader. They worry that if their child is doing Level 7 as a 9th grader, he’s actually completing a middle school curriculum as a high school student.
Yet look at everything your child is learning. In Level 7, your child will read 26 novels. I’m sure that most brick-and-mortar high school freshman are not reading that many books, nor are they reading books of the same quality.
However, it is true that you may need to change some aspects of the curriculum if your child is at the high age range. For instance, a high school freshman is not likely in pre-algebra, which is the math curriculum used for Level 7. That situation is easily remedied by customizing your Math selection. Just choose the Algebra package instead. (By the way, for help customizing a package, just email or call BookShark.)
As a parent who loves BookShark and has seen what tremendous knowledge children get from being on the higher end of the age range, I say your child will not be behind his peers with this curriculum.
Misconception #3: Students Aren’t Learning Because They Aren’t Taking Tests
Here is the last, and perhaps strongest, misconception from our own school days—to learn something, a student must take a test.
Think back to your school experience with tests. Was it like mine? I crammed furiously, hoping the information stayed in my brain long enough to make at least a B on the test. Then I promptly forgot it all because I didn’t learn the information in a genuine way.
We all know that an A on a test doesn’t mean the information was internalized. An A could merely mean that the information was memorized, only to disappear in a few weeks or months.
Because BookShark students are learning in a genuine way that is more likely to pique their interests, they’re more likely to remember what they read. In addition, after every section of reading, there are questions to monitor your children's reading comprehension and to dive more deeply into the events and ideas. These discussions about what you are reading is one of the best parts of BookShark, and they are a superior substitute for tests.
Students are learning more—without tests—because they’re learning much more deeply.
If you bring a brick-and-mortar school mentality to BookShark (and it’s hard not to if that’s the way you received your own education), you may have these three misconceptions. But rest assured, BookShark provides a quality education, just in a different way than a traditional school. For me, that makes it a much stronger curriculum.
About the Author
Melissa is a homeschool mom to three kids. BookShark is her primary curriculum, and she and her kids love it! When she's not homeschooling, she's either shuttling kids from one activity to another or working from home as a freelance writer. You can read more about Melissa's homeschool journey at her blog Moms Plans.