How to Tackle Knowledge Gaps When Homeschooling

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The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
— Socrates

But we’re not Socrates, we’re homeschoolers. And as homeschoolers, we know that there are two ways to consider the reality of knowledge gaps:

  1. They are inevitable because no one person can ever know everything under the sun

  2. Our children will need to acquire a general knowledge of basic subjects–without significant gaps–to prepare them for higher education.

In spite of the first, part of your job as a homeschooling parent is to make sure your children do not have glaring gaps in the general knowledge that's required of them to be able to graduate from high school and continue their education in college.

Some gaps, yes, but not gaps that will hold them back in their studies.

How do you do this when you most likely have gaps in your own general education or maybe you don't like to teach a subject and, consequently, you can’t teach it well?

Let's say you're a homeschooling parent who loves to teach language arts, history, and science, but you're not good at teaching math. You just don’t like teaching math.

Or maybe you are good at teaching math, but your child has surpassed you in his math knowledge. You now find yourself in the position of not being able to take him any further in his studies.

In these two scenarios, there are four options you can choose from to fill in any gaps your child might develop while homeschooling.

Option One

Let’s say you don't enjoy teaching math or you're not good at teaching math. Either way, you can seek out another homeschooling parent willing to swap teaching subjects. If you find a parent who doesn't like teaching language arts, but they love teaching math, you will agree to teach each other's children. You will teach her children language arts, and she'll teach your children math.

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The bartering system works well except for one disadvantage; scheduling can be an issue for some people. To team up with another parent means that you have to coordinate schedules with one another, and not all homeschooling parents have this kind of flexibility.

Some parents may work and have limited times for when they can homeschool. Some parents may already have full days and not have time to make an extra trip plus the transition time it takes to settle in once the children arrive at the new location.

You also have to factor in times to meet with the other parent to go over each's child's progress, as this takes more time too.

If time is a concern, a bartering system might not work.

But if time and scheduling with another parent are not a problem, then this is an ideal situation and can make homeschooling easier for some families.

Option Two

A second option is that if you are not knowledgable enough to teach a subject, you can always plan ahead of time so you can study enough to teach your child before it's time for him to study it.

Doing it this way will require more work on your part, and you might not have the time or desire, but if you did, then this would also be an option. There are plenty of online courses you can take and self-study books you can learn from too.

Option Three

A third option, and by far the easiest though it can also be expensive, is to hire a tutor.

Sometimes you can find another homeschooled child who's older and more advanced in a subject, and who is willing to tutor younger children. My daughter did this for grammar, history, and geography with a couple of homeschooled families in our town.

She loved it, it helped the parents tremendously, and it also deepened her understanding of these subjects. And she was affordable!

To hire a professional tutor, though, I'm going to tell you right now that this can get very costly.

Professional tutors are expensive, especially if you live in a more expensive area. The costs can add up. If your child is trying to graduate from high school and get into a competitive college, and you have no other options, you will have to make the investment. There is no way around this.

Sometimes people get lucky, and they might have a neighbor who's a retired teacher or expert in a subject, and they're willing to teach for the fun of it, but I wouldn't count on this. If it happens great, but I would still plan to hire a tutor at some point.

Option Four

The fourth option is for older children (usually age 16). Older children can dual enroll in the community college. Dual enrollment can be a great choice because they will get more advanced teaching at a fraction of the cost, and most of the classes will go towards both high school credits and college credits.

There are pros and cons to dual enrollment, so you want to be sure you know what these are before choosing this option.

For example, one of the concerns is that the grades will go on their permanent records, so you want to make sure they are ready for college-level work, including the pressure that comes with testing.

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There are other disadvantages, so you want to know what these are before you choose this option.

As you can see, there are multiple ways to fill any gaps you might foresee in your children’s studies.

As we started out saying, no one will ever know everything there is to know! Do your due diligence when it comes to homeschooling, but if you understand that everyone has gaps in their knowledge, it will help you to relax a little.

I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.
— Mark Twain

While the idea of knowledge gaps can make a new homeschooler nervous, by the time your children reach the middle-school years, you should be able to relax considerably.

By then, with a good plan in place, you should have no doubt left in your mind that by homeschooling you were able to keep your children above the fold as far as their education is concerned.

About this time in your homeschooling journey, if not before, the concern about knowledge gaps tends to recede into the background.

As a competent homeschooler, your child will likely grow up to know a lot more about a lot of things that children in public school don't get the chance to learn.

Keep yourself focused on your goal, and don't worry too much if your children miss learning something here or there; we all do.

For my upcoming course, Raise Your Child Well: Correct Preparation for a Satisfying, Successful and Happy Adulthood, please join the waiting list to be notified first when enrollment opens again in August, 2019.

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Elizabeth Y. Hanson combines her training in holistic medicine, parenting coach certificate, plus 17+ years working in education to provide you with a unique approach to raising and educating your children.

A veteran homeschooler herself, she now has two homeschooled children in college.