Meet the Harding family of Alabama: ten homeschooled children, many of whom are years ahead of their peers. Hannah obtained her BS in mathematics at the age of 17, then two master’s degrees in engineering and math; she’s now designing aircraft. Fourteen-year-old Seth is studying finite mathematics in college; he also has the highest averages in one of his classes. The other college graduate siblings are a doctor, an architect, and a master’s student.
I remember being extraordinarily bored in elementary and middle school – even in advanced classes. It wasn’t because I’m super-brilliant; it’s merely that any class that goes at the pace of a reasonably bright, diligent student will leave most of the class in the dust.
As far as mathematics: subjects do not fit neatly into a semester or a year, especially if tailored to the pace of the student. Some kids who struggle with math would be best served by spending more than a year on geometry and more than a year on algebra II, but our school system does not do that for them. Likewise, students who are good at math do not need to wait until age 13 to take algebra; in fact, it’s almost counterproductive to move at such a plod-like pace throughout the early years, then accelerate in college to the point at which differential equations is covered in a semester.
Likewise, a child who is an advanced reader is just wasting her time with Judy Blume when she is capable of digesting Tolkien. Speaking of digestion, science isn’t even really introduced until middle school, but there’s hardly any reason that a reasonably bright 10-year-old can’t be studying the basics of cell biology.
The academic year isn’t made to fit students’ needs; it’s made to fit textbooks and to be interchangeable with other schools and curricula. It’s certainly not meant to push kids to their limits, especially not in elementary school. As a result, many kids spend years of their early lives being warehoused while learning the basics in twice the time they need for it. Homeschooling done well alleviates all of those problems – it ends up being the equivalent of having a personal tutor in every subject.