Another excerpt from the book I am writing on homeschooling called Almost Unschooling Grama. I'm making progress! I need a graphic artist to design a book cover and an editor. Contact me if you are interested!
When I was a kid, my folks took me for swimming lessons every year. I could never get past the “guppy” class because there was a particular move that was required before they would pass you into the class where you actually learned to swim. I could not, for the life of me, do this move, year after year. My dad finally got disgusted with it. He demonstrated to me how to do the butterfly stroke and the dog paddle and explained to me that I needed to kick my feet. Then he put me in a row boat, took me out to a place in the lake that was over my head and told me to get out. I did and I swam! The “school” my parents sent me to actually held me back and kept me from achieving the purpose for which I had been sent there.
The “grade” structure of a typical school often does the same thing. They focus on weaknesses instead of building on strengths. As a result, many kids come out of the system convinced that they are failures and unable to function well in society.
The beauty of homeschooling is that each child can work at their own pace in every area. It is very common for homeschooled children to be reading at a “5th grade level” while working on math at a “2nd grade level” and visa-verso. With the method of homeschooling that I am going to show you in this book, the bright 7 year old isn't limited to the 2nd grade curriculum and the 10 year old who is still learning her multiplication tables isn't forced into doing fractions.
Another problem with the typical school is the A, B, C, D, F grading system. This grading system was setup to give parents and students an idea about how the student was preforming in any given subject, but it is very limited. It doesn't actually give any details about what the child has learned. Different school systems have different things that are taught in different grades so an A in one school system will mean something entirely different in another system.
Grading even varies from one teacher to another or from one grade level to another. Some teachers and schools recognize that children cannot excel in all subjects at a certain age, so they grade according to ability. This is noble, but when the child gets into a competitive setting they fail and the parents can't understand why. I've had several parents come to me and say, “My child was getting As in ______ until she got into 7th grade and now all of a sudden she's flunking.” When I would sit down with the child, I would find they were way behind in basic skills for that subject.
Grading encourages mediocrity and contributes to low self-esteem. People in general are driven to conformity. This tendency is even more pronounced in children. If a child is talented when it comes to book smarts, he will be taunted by the others as “too smart”. The temptation will be to just skim by with a B or a C. If children are not as capable in an area, they come to believe they are worthless or defective in some way.
Mastery learning is a much better practice. Children should be encouraged to practice what they are learning until they are able to do it with excellence. You can get by in life with “B” or “C” work, but you will never truly succeed. When kids have a chance to work at something until they master it without being compared to everyone else they learn about what it takes to be excellent.
They also learn about their strengths and weaknesses without being shamed. Mastery learning focuses on building strengths instead of fixing weaknesses. That's not to say that weaknesses never need to be dealt with, but often times it's just not necessary for the child to grow up to be a successful adult. There are multiple ways to accomplish and learn. If a child is having difficulty grasping something, (like the move required in my "guppy" class) there are other ways you can help the child master an area in spite of her weakness. History can be learned through documentaries if a child is not a proficient reader. And how many adults do you know who use a calculator for basic math calculations? My youngest son will probably never be an excellent reader, but driving trucks and tractors doesn't require that. He is able to back a semi into a space 6 inches wider than the trailer without hitting anything. That is excellence. Mastery learning encourages children to become excellent in the areas they are capable of being excellent.
Homeschooling parents are able to encourage their children to do this because they are there. They know what the child is learning and what she is capable of and they can tailor the child's “curriculum” to fit that child exactly.
What do you think about grading systems?
Have you experienced mastery learning?
I'd love to hear your experiences and opinions!
God Bless You All!