One Size Fits All Education

Four Questions for Avoiding a One Size Fits All Education

One type of education does not fit all. Our kids are unique. They all have different learning styles, different interests, different strengths and different weaknesses.

So why do we think that we can give them all the same education and have it work? Why would we even want to do this?

4 Questions for Avoiding a One Size Fits All Education

Here are some reasons we might be tempted to try giving our kids a one size fits all education:

  • That’s the kind of education we received and it feels comfortable
  • We want to do “school at home” to be sure our kids are able to get into college
  • We’ve already purchased a curriculum and it worked for our older kids
  • We don’t know any better
  • We aren’t sure how we could teach all of our kids different things with a finite number of hours in each day

As you can see, there are some valid reasons for why parents begin educating kids in this manner.

It’s easy to do. You begin using a curriculum with your kids and you think everything is going along fine… until suddenly the kids start making faces and seem like they’d rather do just about anything than to have to do their schoolwork.

Have you ever heard your sons say, “This is stupid! I’ll never use this?!?!

This happened with us recently. My goal has always been to help my boys love learning. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to craft their lessons so that they would be inspirational as well as educational.

As they’ve gotten older, however, this has become more difficult.

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Neither of my boys enjoy math at all. In fact, they actually hate it. They think it’s a complete waste of time.

One of my sons is pretty good at math and is actually ahead of where he would be if he were in public school. The other son is probably behind where he would be.

The farther this son “fell behind,” the more pressure I felt to try to get him “caught up.”

After all, everywhere you look there are experts telling us how important it is for our kids to excel in the STEM classes (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.) And math isn’t a subject you can get away with skipping completely, no matter how badly you or your child might want to.

eraser on a chalkboard

So, my husband and I devised a scheme to get our son farther ahead in math.

We started having him do math every day all year round. Yes, doing math seems to be torture for this boy – but we were trying to help him to get better so we felt we needed to really push him in this area.

Every day, schoolwork became hard because as soon as this son had to do his math lesson, he was upset.

Should we focus on improving our weaknesses or our strengths?

Then, I heard a podcast by Michael Hyatt, a leadership and productivity expert. The podcast was called Operating in your Strengths Zone.”

In the podcast, he tells the story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, which was portrayed in the movie “Rudy” back in 1993. You may have seen the movie; but, just in case you haven’t, it basically tells the story of a guy named Rudy who desperately wants to play football for Notre Dame.

Long story short, Rudy works hard to overcome his low grades and his lack of football talent. At the end of the movie, Rudy is able to go on the field for one play and he is thrilled. I watched that movie myself when it came out and viewed it as a super inspirational movie.

Michael Hyatt’s take on it, however, was that Rudy had put a tremendous amount of effort into trying to overcome his shortcomings and that he could only have limited success.

He said that if he had worked that hard improving his strengths, it would have made a much greater difference in his life and in the life of others.

Michael quoted Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton’s bestseller, Now, Discover Your Strengths, with this amazing statement:

“No matter how hard you try, you really can’t improve your weaknesses. You are wasting time and energy trying to do so. The best thing you can do is discover your strengths and then find a role that allows you to use them.”

Wow! When I heard that, it blew me away. Why were we focusing so hard on my son’s weakness in math when we should instead focus on his strengths?!?

Like I said before, we can’t just ditch math. But we didn’t have to put such an inordinate emphasis on it.

Since that time, we have switched things up. Our sons are doing math 3 days a week rather than every day. We are learning logic with them on the off days, which is something they both enjoy!

They have also been able to spend more time learning speaking skills, computer skills, and entrepreneurial skills with the time we’ve freed up.

When we focus on teaching our sons things that they enjoy, they will not feel like they’re wasting their time learning things they will never use.

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4 Questions We Should Be Asking

We need to spend the majority of our time teaching our kids with the following in mind:

  • What are their interests?
  • What is their learning style?
  • What are their strengths?
  • How do you need to prepare them for careers you could actually see them doing?

Tricia Goyer wrote a wonderful post called “Why Your Older Kids Fight Your Teaching… and How to Fix That.”

In it, she lists three questions that I think are vital for us to ask if we’re going to provide our kids with the best type of education for them:

  • If there were no “standards” for your child to follow, what would he or she enjoy learning?
  • What would be an effective way to get your child more excited about learning?
  • What could you do to draw your child’s heart toward God?

I love those questions.

4 Questions for Avoiding a One Size Fits All Education

What would you teach if there were no standards?

We need to think about these questions when we are developing a plan for our homeschools so that we will prepare our sons for what God has in store for their lives – rather than trying to give them a Plain Jane, one size fits all education which will destroy their love for learning.

My son will never be a mathematician or anything which forces him to use large amounts of math every day. But he will have more time to discover what he’s really good at now that we aren’t forcing him to focus on a subject which confounds him so much.

We need to try to ignite our kids’ passions rather than dull their senses by trying to pack their brains full of meaningless facts and figures. Give your son an education which is tailor made for him and you won’t hear him complaining anymore that he’ll never use what he’s learning.

Question:  What have you changed up in your homeschool which has made a difference for your kids? Do you have any tips you can share that have helped your children to be excited about learning? Please leave a comment below.

4 Questions for Avoiding a One Size Fits All Education

20 thoughts on “Four Questions for Avoiding a One Size Fits All Education”

  1. Oh my goodness Lynn! WOW! Thank you for your paradigm shifting thoughts and for being so vulnerable in your journey with your boys. I have educated my children from the very beginning (20+ years ago) and had three girls first. They had their differences in learning styles and passion, but for the most part I easily adapted my philosophy of “teaching them how to learn so they can fly to the heights God has for them on their own”.
    When my two boys came along, I continued in the same path, with varying degrees of success in varying subjects/areas and years. My 13 year old was diagnosed at 9 years old with multiple learning challenges that are pervasive over multiple areas of learning and I was suddenly adrift in a row boat in the wide open seas of special education. Oh and did I mention there was a hurricane out there? 😉 I have spent the ensuing several years trying to stay afloat while I bail water out of my boat with a thimble, inviting others into my boat to help with the task of “getting my son caught up in his education”. This past school year found my family in a new state with new options and we decided to partner with a public/homeschooling school to get my son the one on one services that he needs. I spent the whole year feeling like a failure because I couldn’t find the 4 hours a day “necessary” by the school’s standards to walk my son through his classes word by word.
    Your encouragement to focus on his strengths and make those areas the basis of his learning, removed the blinders from my eyes. YES, I CAN teach this son of mine, YES I know what is best for him (and conversely, not best for him), and I am his primary teacher! Which means that “because I believe this is best for my son” really IS an acceptable answer to any questions asked, by anyone, anytime, anywhere.
    Freedom form the shackles of special education, Thank you SO much! You have blessed me today and I look forward to exploring your site more in depth.
    God bless you , Shelly

    1. Wow, Shelly, thanks for your comment. I’m glad my post blessed you. You’re right. God has given your son to you and He will give you the wisdom you need to make sure your boat doesn’t capsize. (Love your analogy, by the way.) Take care and I hope that this coming year will be your very best one yet! 🙂

      1. Michelle, Apologies for not reading the “byline”! A friend passed on the link and I just jumped in ! 🙂
        Thanks again for your wisdom and encouragement that came at just the right time for this momma!

        1. No problem! I LOVE it when people jump into the conversation, no matter what they call me! Plus, I’m terrible with names… so I’m never offended if someone gets mine wrong, anyway. 😉 LOL Have a great night!

  2. Great article! Your journey is so similar to mine! It took me forever to realize that my children didn’t have to measure up to arbitrary standards. They needed to pursue the things that they were created to do and had a vision for being involved with in the future. One of my sons was super motivated to go to medical school, so he pursued that as we homeschooled and volunteered at our local hospital when he could. Through those experiences, he found that medical school was not for him, and now he is in college preparing for law school- a path we never could have predicted. My younger son is focused on art, and lately, writing. He also likes the outdoors and volunteers at a local nature center. The boys are like night and day, and if we had taught them in the same way both would have suffered. One size definitely does not fit all. In fact, it usually fits no one. I am tweeting this! Homeschoolers need to ask themselves these questions.

    1. Michelle Caskey

      I think that coming to this realization is a process… at least for anyone who has themselves gone through the public school system. Sounds like your sons are doing well. Praising God that so many of us are discovering what’s really important with the education of our kids!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. We are in a similar boat with my 13 year old. I’ve held on too long to what wasn’t working and recently sat down with an open mind and realized I’ve been doing this all wrong. Like you I had a good solid foundational math which he liked for a few months then it got boring and became a chore. In addition we were stalled in history and there was to much going on in all directions with writing (he has dysgraphia and dyslexia).

    I prayed, asked curriculum questions of various homeschool groups, and the answers were right in front of me. He loves woodworking, science and history, this is my in to all of the other areas of study. The next level in his science text would be Apologia Physical Science and is full of math that picks up about where he is. I will use this to drive his math! Instead of doing pages of math via workbook we can use the workbook to support his science and woodworking as he goes, maybe even throw in some challenge math for family fun.

    As for History, we found Answers in Genesis Ancient Civilizations which has learning activities broken down by learning style (auditory, tactile, and so on) and includes reading, writing, and other media options. This combined with All About Spelling and CLE (for grammar only) will reduce his stress and hopefully allow that spark to grow. Of course he is least of my excitement and changes right now I really think that once we start (gradually) we will start to see positive changes. Of course he has his outside activities where he will be actually working with wood and metals, but these will only add to his education and decrease the book works time. 🙂

    1. Michelle Caskey

      Wow, Leah, that sounds fantastic! You’ve done a lot of thinking about how to best connect with your son and tailor his education to meet his needs. Sounds like you’ve got a great plan. Isn’t it awesome how when we ask God to give us wisdom in an area, these great ideas just “come” to us?!?!? 😉

  4. Thank you so much for this article. I really needed the encouragement. I will definitely be re-thinking what our plans for the fall for our son. Thank you so much for being transparent.

  5. Your writings are such a great grounding for me. I’ve been subscribed to your blog for almost a year and never commented, simply because, well, we JUST started homeschooling Kindergarten last month! (I’m a planner, in case you couldn’t tell.)

    It’s only been a month, but I’ve already had to rethink how I’m approaching my sons education. I’m a firm believer that the best education for young children is to play, plus my kids both have severe food issues, so neither of my sons has gone or will go to preschool. Consequently, my sons “Kindergarten” year began with a preschool curriculum book. (Way to make me feel ‘behind’ before I even begin!)

    After just a month of using the curriculum, however, both my son and I are feeling a little burnt out. It’s an excellent curriculum, but I felt a gnawing in my heart that something just wasn’t “right”.

    Now I’m rethinking my entire approach, much to my husbands chagrin. I’m trying to remember that homeschooling is not meant to recreate public school in my house. I’m trying to think about how my son learns best (kinesthetic, hands on) and what interests him most.

    I’m still using the curriculum, but I’ve slacked off on the “every day we Do School” approach. Instead, I signed him up for the Wildlife Explorers Club, ordered Math-U-See (since he’s showing real aptitude and interest in math and I loved their manipulatives), flown him to Chicago to see the dinosaurs at the Field Museum (making him keep a journal of his trip – he drew the pictures and then dictated to me what he wanted to say about each experience he journaled), and started using the phonics approach in “The Three R’s” book as my new approach to language arts (teaching sounds first instead of letter names – and surprisingly, after using that approach for only three days, he suddenly began joyfully shouting his complete ABC’s without nagging or begging AND is asking me to help him sound out words he sees when we’re out and about!).

    I have a feeling this sort of evaluation will be a constant factor in our homeschooling journey, but after reading your post today I’m no longer feeling overwhelmed by that idea! Thank you for not just the comfort of today’s post, but for everything you’ve written. Without knowing it, you’ve been helping me grow into a homeschooling mom before I even started. God Bless!

    (And sorry for this incredibly long post. I’m so excited by this phase of our lives and have no one other than my husband to chat about it with!)

    1. Oh, Carrie, I’m so glad to hear that. Wow, you’ve made my day! I pray often that God will use me to speak to and encourage other parents… so when I hear that it has happened, it’s very encouraging to me! Sounds like you’re on the right track with your son. I hope you have a WONDERFUL year homeschooling him and that you both enjoy the journey! 🙂 God bless you!!!

  6. Hi Michelle,
    I have a soon to be 16 yr old son, in 9th grade this year. He is ok at math but just doesn’t think he needs all the Algebra stuff. I have asked him what type of things he would like to learn in school. He asked for things to build, electrical type stuff, engines, etc. Do you have any idea where I could find these type of things to purchase? On timberdoodle I’ve seen the dunokit kit, something like that, I’ve consider purchasing that. I may have to take up your 3 day a week math schedule, my kids would love that!

  7. Hi Michelle
    This is such good timing for us. We are just about to complete our first term (semester), for the year and already we have felt burnt out.
    As my two eldest are twins with very similar interests it is so easy to give them the same work but it is becoming evident that they have a couple of areas where they are different. And they both dislike math so I can relate to all you have written. My youngest really doesn’t like any work that involves writing at all which makes a lot of subjects hard, we do dictation a lot.
    Thanks for a great post.
    God bless

    1. You’re welcome, Fiona. It sounds like our boys have a lot in common. 🙂

      Be encouraged that you’ve been able to observe your sons’ areas of interest because that will enable you to change things up and revitalize learning for them. You can do this!

  8. Hello, I recently subscribed to your blog because homeschooling my children has always interested me but has never happened. My daughter is a senior and has done well in our school district however my son who is a freshman has continued to struggle tremendously with school. He really plummeted at the beginning of middle school when multiple classes per day along with common core was introduced. He is very intelligent but overwhelmed and forgetful when it comes to assignments. I am saddened for him because he sincerely thinks he’s stupid which I know he’s not. In all his subjects he does know what’s going on and can talk freely about it, even tests well but the assignments are either not turned in or are not complete. Yes, I’m in contact with teachers and his counselor. He’s been through therapy and is now taking an extra strength omega 3 to help boost his “focus”. I refuse to medicate him with aderall because I know that he can focus just not so much in an over stimulating classroom. His school is very large. It’s a great high school with a great reputation and my daughter has thrived there. I have considered an online high school but wonder if that would be too much every day as well. At this point I would love to consider homeschooling and letting him thrive by steering him towards his strengths. I’m naturally concerned about him loosing his friendships and of course how he would be at home learning. Also, that fear of correctly keeping records and getting him to graduate in our state of California worries me. If he was getting average grades I would not be so worried but he’s going to have to repeat classes so now he’s getting behind. Any thoughts? Thanks

    1. There isn’t one right way to educate your child and homeschooling doesn’t solve everything. I’m partial to homeschooling, of course, and think that it could definitely help with some of the struggles your son is facing such as the large classroom sizes. But it certainly isn’t the only answer. Also, if you choose to homeschool your son, you can work to help him maintain his friendships but the truth is that some of them may not last because they won’t have the common bond of going to school together anymore.

      I would have a heart to heart with your son. He’s old enough that he should have a say in your decision. Talk to him about your concerns. Make a pros and cons list. If you’re a Christian I would also recommend you pray about it together. No matter what you decide, it will go more smoothly if your son is on board.

      I hope and pray that you’re able to be at peace with whatever you decide and that you can help your son to thrive in whatever educational environment you determine will be best for him. Take care and I wish you all the best!

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