Practically speaking, as far as "cattle-prodding children from one subject to another," our family also suffered through this for a time. I can definitely relate. The way I solved this issue was to give my children their own planners. I started out with regular weekly school planners, but we now use planning forms I designed which better suit our needs. The kids can see the week at a glance, with the work they are expected to complete by the end of each day as well as the work they are expected to complete sometime during the week, to be finished by Friday. The planners don't include any of the learning we do together as a family, but only each child's individual work: math, writing, spelling, grammar, and so on. Each child does the work in the order he or she chooses, and I check it off when it's been shown to me and we've gone over it. This has totally eliminated the need for me to make the kids move on to something else because it's "time," and it puts the kids in control of their own learning and days in a limited but substantial way. Because the kids know exactly what is expected of them, they happily (most of the time) do their work diligently. If they finish early, they know they're done for the day. But if they dawdle or daydream or procrastinate, they will only have themselves to blame when they still have schoolwork late in the day. When I am not working with another child, I announce that I can work with someone on the subject he or she cannot do without my help. This system also made it abundantly clear whether the children are behaving the way they are due to laziness or because the work is either too difficult or too easy. A clear picture of how the children like to work, what subjects they enjoy, what their learning style is emerged

I have found it helpful to have a checklist of what children are expected to have learned or have mastered by certain ages. I use Robin Sampson's What Your Child Needs to Know When, but there are other lists out there. Your state will have general learning expectations in checklist form that the public schools are supposed to follow, due to required standardized achievement testing, and you can request a copy from the State Department of Education. Using such lists helps you evaluate where they stand in relation to generalized standards, and you aren't tied to any curriculum, publisher, or textbook. We can spend more concentrated time when we need to, and skip ahead if we want to. As long as the evaluator can see progress, you'll be just fine in that regard.

It is our sinful nature to compare ourselves to others and to compare our children with others. A friend, homeschooling mother of 12 children, explained to me a way she helps her children understand about the futility of this. Imagine you have just finished running a marathon. You wouldn't say, "I came in ahead of those six people," but would say, "I came in twelfth," counting back from the winner. In the same way, because Christ is always best and always first, we should look to Him as the standard, not the other people running with us. No matter what, none of us are any better than second rate in comparison.

Helene Barker Kiser is one of our "Trenchperts." She lives and learns with her husband, children, and assorted animals in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She welcomes your thoughts and comments on this article or on any aspect of educating gifted children at home. Contact her at