Homeschooling our kids means that we educate them away from an established school... but most any homeschooling parent I know will tell you that a large part of their children's education does not happen in the home. Education can come in many forms and the glory of homeschool is that if you so choose, you can forgo standardized testing in lieu of actual life experiences. While there are those parents out there that saddle up with curriculum and weekly vocab tests, there are also a large number of us that use unschooling and modified curricula to educate our kids on life. How can you grade that?
My family lives in a home where we also help to care for other children that are not our own. My sister in law works out of the city a lot and so we also help her with her son. It's a bit difficult at times simply because her son goes to public high school and my two kids are here at home with my husband and I. It is a markedly different environment for education and I must say, it's an interesting sight to be in the middle of two different eduction systems on similarly aged children. While my nephew is a couple of years older than my son, the stuff they work on for school work is not all that different. This is not to say that my son is some uber genius. Quite to the contrary. My oldest is just an average kid that likes to explore. He has his own lesson plans and can learn at his own place. It just so happens that he likes science and math, but with a mother who has a BA in English Lit that he is forced to do more reading than he would like at times.
I don't do grades at the house. I think they are silly. I have worked for corporate America and I currently run my own business. In neither environment did I ever receive a grade for my work. While it is true that in corporate America, I did get reviews... it was more like a communication from my employer on what my strengths and weaknesses were. I never got a letter or a number that defined my work. That being the case, I have never bothered to label my own kid's learning that way. I am a staunch believer in that school and education should be done for the desire to learn, to be present in one's life, to help foster a sense of societal responsibility, and to propel ones interest to knowledge and experience. How can you put a letter or number on that???
On the other hand, since we have moved in to our current situation, there is so much focus on grades. My own husband and I have even gotten caught up in it. I mean, what else can a parent or guardian of a public school child know regarding their kids' education without a grade? It's not like you can talk to the teachers and check in on your child. Oh wait, you can. This is what leads to my own frustration. When I try to talk to the teachers, they invariably refer back to the grade that the student was given. A few teachers have been willing to work with us, seeing that we were interested in helping our nephew to succeed, but most of them simply said that our nephew wasn't doing the work well enough or at all. It is all foreign and I feel like I am walking around the in the dark. I'm the blind leading the blind. Truth is, I am ill-equipped to help a kid get good grades in school, especially since I think that their rubrics are so silly. At the root, I am biased.
Watching these two students struggle with their learning, my bias also leads me to see the difference in learning. My nephew doesn't much care for school. He doesn't really seem to give a hoot whether he gets n A or a D. I have asked him how he feels about class and if he needs help, but he'll tell you himself that he is going through the motions. I have brought up homeschooling with him and he has no interest. He wants to be with his friends. I am sure this is the teenaged angst of a high schooler talking. Still, I am not in the market to push him into doing something that he doesn't want to do. That still leaves me with the quandary... how do I get him to take his schooling seriously.
I wonder if there is a way to unleash that joy of learning that I see with many homeschoolers and instill it in a publicly schooled child? Can I make it so grades are less important? Society feels that those public school grades are important. Colleges are going to refer back to those grades. Nope, I don't think I can wipe that slate. So I wonder again, how can I change this up?
I mean, I don't not grade my own children, I just do it differently. I don't know how I would even begin to apply it to a child that is not homeschooled. I come to think that perhaps this is a good life lesson on my own grading skills. One day my own son will have to prove his worth to a college if he chooses to go. I know how to set up his portfolio for college and we work on SAT and ACT testing skills, even at the age of 12, so that some day he is going to know how to do it. I tend to like the atmosphere of the house without fear of the dreaded report card. Finding a balance between this has to be possible, but I have yet to find out how. For the mean time, I am going to trust that each boy knows his own path and that they are old enough to be responsible for their education. You can't make anyone learn who doesn't want to and berating for lack of trying or poor grades has never gotten anyone anywhere. I just keep telling myself that as I bang my own psyche on the proverbial brick wall.
Man, I've got a headache!