What are educational standards… and how are they met?

What do you think of when you hear the word “standard”? I think “run-of-the-mill, usual, average.”

Kind of boring, right?

In education, standards may not be sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat exciting; I get that! But they are so important. Here’s why: standards are simply goals. They are goals for student learning in a particular subject or at a particular level.

Here’s what Michael Hyatt says about goals: “A goal is not just about what you accomplish, it’s about what you become.” As parents and educators, our big-picture goal for our children and students is for them to learn what they need to know to become successful in life and fulfill their potential, right? 

So these educational standards are, in a sense, micro-goals that bring children a step closer to that every day. Good educational standards build on each other. In order to learn algebra, we first learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide. In order to read to learn, we must first learn to read.

Here’s what parents, especially those who teach their children at home, need to know about educational standards:

1. Make sure you understand what standards your child’s curriculum was built upon. Good standards might be drawn from the standards developed in a particular state in the U.S. Another good source of standards might come from a professional association of teachers (such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics).

Sometimes a particular curriculum is built upon the passion of its author, especially in areas of social studies or science. That’s fine, but make sure that their passion aligns with yours! 

You may find a particular curriculum to use for something that you want to teach, but whose author does not share your perspective. For example, at Learnwell we base our social studies units upon a solid world history curriculum. We love the U.S., but we find that a lot of social studies curricula, particularly designed for homeschooled students, have a hint of nationalistic, “We are the only country God has blessed” flavor. We want our students to understand U.S. history, certainly, but in the context of what has happened in the world as a whole. Learnwell began by primarily serving families who were located overseas, so it was important to us to find a curriculum based upon solid, age-appropriate world history standards. 

2. Each curriculum is based upon at least slightly different standards, taught in a slightly different order. So if you switch between schools or curriculum often, there will be gaps in skills and/or knowledge that you’ll need to be aware of. 

3. When you consider that a good education is built on good educational standards, there is no reason to think that homeschooling would be less rigorous than an education received in a large classroom of students. Any education is only as good as the goals (the standards) upon which it is based. 

Parents (like you) who are taking the education of their children into their own hands do need to consider this issue carefully as they select curriculum and design their child’s education. 

We created Learnwell years ago to take this particular task off the plates of busy parents. 

If you have problems figuring out what standards the curriculum you’re using is based on, dig a little deeper. Write the company or author and ask!