Rigor is not something to be reserved for only the top academic performers. As a child growing up, rigor was reserved only for those in the “gifted” classes. I can distinctly remember the ways in which I was “allowed” to work through various problems, discover new concepts, and discuss ideas with others in my once a week gifted class but never was this encouraged or even acceptable in my “regular” class the other four days a week. Fast forward to my own public school classroom many years later and I was consistently reminded that we didn’t have time for everyone to do these kinds of activities. Then years on down the road, the same words were spoken to me about my own child’s traditional school experience. The idea that rigor was something only the “elite few” could handle greatly bothered me. Rigor is for every child – no matter age, academic ability / difference, or privilege.
In our house, the boys run a wide spread of ages and there are a few academic differences thrown in there as well. Knowing this to be the case, part of our reason for deciding to pull our oldest out of his traditional school setting and to start the rest of our boys at home was to allow us to to ensure them a rigorous learning experience no matter where they fell in the age and academic spectrums. One of the things that my husband and I were sure of was that rigor has benefits for all students. All children can and should grapple with ideas. Children with learning differences and children who are young do not stifle conversations or “get lost” in rigorous activities. They may require supports such as a different initial text or an additional graphic organizer but these supports do not take away from the depth at which they can work and converse (Blackburn, 2017). Rigor also open doors as it provides opportunities for different types of learners to use their diverse talents to showcase their learning and understanding of various concepts.
Where traditional learning only causes struggle for some, rigorous learning causes struggle for all but it is a useful struggle, a productive struggle. Productive struggles are struggles that encourage deep thinking, problem solving and thinking outside the box. Productive struggle is a type of struggle most commonly associated with rigorous activities as it produces feelings of hope, encouragement and efficacy (Allen, n.d.). Conversely, destructive struggles cause feelings of fruitlessness and frustration such as having a child continue to do math facts practice when he is already fluent in facts or having a child who doesn’t understand how to add doing timed math facts. This type of struggle is common to traditional types of assignments. As a homeschooling parent, we have the ability to choose the type of struggles that our children face. We can also choose to stop a struggle by changing an activity, providing additional support or stopping it all together.
Will you choose rigor for all? I hope so. Keep it smart. Keep it simple. Keep it within reach.
Allen, R. (n.d.). Support Struggling Students with Academic Rigor – ASCD. ASCD; ASCD. Retrieved August 4, 2022, from https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/ support-struggling-students-with-academic-rigor
Blackburn, B. (2017, October 24). Rigor in the Differentiated Classroom | edCircuit. EdCircuit. https://edcircuit.com/rigor-differentiated-classroom/